The Inside the NBA crew has been more or less the same for a little more than a decade. Ever since Shaquille O’Neal joined the crew in 2011, the show’s primary personalities have been Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaq with Ernie Johnson running the show. There have been a number of other folks who have spent time behind the desk, but those four have been the show’s pillars.
It seems a foregone conclusion that Draymond Green will slide into a role on the desk once his NBA career ends — he’s a regular contributor and has already signed a deal with Turner to do other things, including contributing to Inside — but as it turns out, there was a plan in place to get another gigantic name on the show. Barkley appeared on Green’s podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” and dropped a bombshell that “probably only 10 people in the world know.”
“Kobe Bryant signed a contract to join the NBA on TNT crew after his retirement.” – Charles Barkley pic.twitter.com/EOsBwQMP8f
— 𝙎𝙝𝙪𝙗𝙝 ⁶𓅓 (@OVOLakeShow) March 2, 2022
“We actually hired Kobe Bryant,” Barkley said.
“At Turner?” Green asked.
“At Turner,” Barkley confirmed. “But he didn’t wanna do all the other bullsh*t.”
As Barkley explained, Bryant did not want to have to do all the other stuff that was asked of him beyond appearing on Inside the NBA, saying that things like contractually-obligated radio appearances and other TV cameos to “promote the show” did not interest him.
“He had signed with us — David Levy, my old boss, had signed him to a deal — and we were excited, we were really excited,” Barkley said. “And then he called me back, like, a week to 10 days later, somewhere in that timeframe, like, ‘Yeah, Kobe’s not gonna come.’ We’re like, why? ‘Cause he don’t wanna do all the PR stuff, he don’t wanna go on radio shows and talk about basketball.’ And I’m like, well, that’s part of the gig.”
Bryant, of course, went on to do some pretty great things prior to his passing in early 2020 in the media world, as he was behind ESPN’s Detail series and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for his film, Dear Basketball. Still, it’s not hard to imagine how much fun it would have been if he got the chance to riff with the Inside crew every Thursday night.