Shaquille O’Neal’s Absence From Inside The NBA Raises Concern

Shaquille ONeal, NBA
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal was notably absent from the Inside the NBA set during the crucial Game 7 matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

His unexpected absence saw NBA legend Vince Carter stepping in alongside Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Charles Barkley. Shaq did not explain his absence and did not appear on the show.

Vince Carter, who serves as a part-time analyst for Brooklyn Nets games and has made multiple appearances on NBA on TNT, took Shaq’s place for the pregame show. Despite Carter’s presence, fans were left wondering about Shaq’s whereabouts.

There is no word on whether Shaq will return to Inside the NBA for the Conference Finals.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley Updates

In the NBA playoff series updates, the Celtics clinched their series against the Cavaliers 4-1 despite multiple injuries. The Pacers closed out the Knicks in a Game 7 victory at Madison Square Garden and will face the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In the Western Conference, the Mavericks defeated the Thunder in six games, and the Timberwolves shocked the defending champion Nuggets in seven games to advance to the conference finals. The Mavericks and Timberwolves will compete in the Western Conference Finals.

O’Neal’s sudden absence came amidst growing concerns about TNT’s future with the NBA, possibly indicating contractual uncertainties.

Charles Barkley, a longtime analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA, expressed his concerns about the network’s future on an ESPN Chicago radio show. Barkley mentioned he is “100 percent” worried about TNT’s ongoing negotiations for the NBA’s next TV rights deal. TNT Sports is currently competing with NBC for the final piece of this deal, while Amazon Prime Video and ESPN/ABC have already secured their contracts, expected to last at least a decade. TNT’s existing contract with the NBA is set to expire after the 2024-25 season.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley Updates

When asked about the future of Inside the NBA, Barkley, who has been a part of the show since 2000, admitted that the team has no clear idea of what lies ahead. “We might lose it. I feel so bad for the people I work with. It is brutal,” Barkley told ESPN Chicago’s Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman. “Everybody’s scared to death.”

Inside the NBA first aired in 1989 and has become a cornerstone of NBA broadcast coverage. The current studio crew, including Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal, has been together since O’Neal joined in 2011. Johnson has hosted the show since 1990, while Smith came on board in 1998.

TNT Sports has been broadcasting NBA games for nearly four decades. Any new deal for TNT or NBC is expected to include a conference final every other year, compared to TNT’s current arrangement of every season. Both networks are also anticipated to retain the yearly All-Star Game broadcast, with a reported asking price of $2.5 billion per season.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley Updates

Barkley believes there’s a “50-50” chance that TNT might lose its share of the media rights deal to NBC, though he hopes TNT’s long-standing partnership with the NBA will work in their favor. “You would think if it was close in a bidding war we would get the benefit of the doubt,” he said, “but clearly that’s not happening.”

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