Does Inside the NBA have a Shaq problem? For two consecutive weeks, Shaquille O'Neal has made dismissive comments directly to players appearing on Inside. First by telling Houston Rockets big man Christian Wood that he wasn't familiar with him and then last night telling Donovan Mitchell he doesn't have what it takes.
What is the role of Inside the NBA? Is it a pregame-halftime-postgame show that exists to break down games broadcast on TNT and nothing else? Because it seems like it can be and often is so much more. Throughout its time on the air, it has been an irreverent show. Over recent years it hasn't steered away from larger issues. When the league shut down in March 2020 as the pandemic began they held a special episode. When players protested following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, they still had a broadcast and Kenny Smith walked off the set in solidarity.
The Shaq stuff often seems like the opposite of all that. It serves as a negative distraction from both what the show does best and the actual basketball that is being played. Inside the NBA doesn't exist so that Shaq can repeatedly remind current players and co-hosts about his greatness as a player, but that's where it often ends up.
It seems like Shaq has always held grudges and won games like Michael Jordan. Where Jordan cared only about dominating, Shaq has always fancied himself an entertainer. Jordan gambled and golfed and played baseball. Shaq made rap albums and bad movies. When he signed with TNT after he retired from basketball, it wasn't just to be on Inside the NBA. He also had a deal with the entertainment and animation divisions.
This is currently Shaq's 10th season with the show. A decade is a long time on television and his IMBD didn't exactly fill up with production credits.
Before Shaq joined TNT, Chris Webber seemed like the defacto fourth member of the Inside the NBA crew. Webber was excellent. Maybe it was the resume. Kenny Smith had rings, but was a role player. Charles Barkley was an MVP without a ring. I'm not sure if that explains it, but Webber was just a better presence on the show. How can Shaq really fit if he doesn't feel like anyone - including a fellow Hall of Famer like Barkley - is really his peer? Of course he's going to put a young big man like Christian Wood in what he feels is his place.
And that sucks for those guys. Wood gets put down by somebody who might have been a hero. Mitchell has to field questions about what Shaq said while he should be celebrating.
Is it Inside the NBA's goal to put a chip on the shoulder of each young player? Is it their purpose to remind players that if they don't win a championship they'll never be taken seriously? And then when they do, Shaq looks at a modern dynasty like the Warriors and says they wouldn't have even been contenders during his era. (Barkley is also guilty of this.)
Not that any of this matters. Shaq just signed a multi-year extension with TNT that will reportedly put him on even more programs, including some sort of expansion of the Shaqtin'-a-Fool franchise. He's a guy who can do whatever he wants and Warner clearly wants to let him do that. It would just be nice if one of the things he wanted to do was act like he wanted to cover the modern NBA.