Charles Barkley Planned for Being in Other Networks' Plans

NBA rights negotiations are heating up and its biggest TV star could hit the market.
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The battle for future NBA media rights continues as the sports media world stands at rapt attention while tweeting out clips of the Roundball Rock song. One eventual possibility is that Turner Sports is left out of the new deal, which would mean Inside the NBA, widely recognized as the best sports show on television, would need a new home and its superstar cast would be incredibly attractive targets for the new rightsholders. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports spun that story forward today by flagging that Charles Barkley, who confirmed that he has an escape clause in his current contract that would allow him to seek greener pastures should TNT lose the NBA.

“I just signed a 10-year deal two years ago,” Barkley said in an interview with ESPN Cleveland on Wednesday, “but one of the things I did was I put an opt-out after a couple years because I wanted to cover my ass when it comes to this situation.”

McCarthy's sources tell him that Barkley could command $18-$20 million on such an open market. ESPN, Amazon and NBC are all vying for future hoops broadcasts and all would conceivably be interested in Barkley and his other castmates if possible. At least on paper.

But it does seem like the general public, or at least the niche section interest in media movings and shakings, is overestimating just how seamless and easy a plug-and-play situation would be. For one, networks have tended to want to create their own thing when they get a shiny new toy and put their own stamp on it. Barkley is also 61 and hasn't been shy about dreaming about an eventual retirement. Then there's the price tag and, dare I even say it, the possibility that Barkley works best and is most impactful because he plays off a set with unrivaled chemistry. Just having him, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal parachute into new digs seems like a complete pipe dream and if there's any combination of that, it'll be great television but decidedly not quite the same.

Obviously Turner could be part of the next package. There's plenty of moves on the chessboard before networks even begin the process of putting pens to paper. But that's kind of the point. That there's a lot to be determined, which is why just assuming Barkley is going to easily be transferred to whomever has the NBA may be a bit of a premature assumption.

Time will tell. As it always does.