Marv Albert has no peer in play-by-play work. But even when he and his broadcast partner, the excellent analyst Steve Kerr, have the night off, there is a very good reason to tune in.
For a basketball fan, it is a pleasure to watch the panel broadcast in the studio at halftime and before and after a game. It features the moderator Ernie Johnson and the terrific team of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal, who joined after he concluded his playing career. The three take the art of basketball analysis to a new level. The trio is not shy about expressing opinions -- especially Sir Charles. But they aren't overbearing, like a lot of sports broadcasters.
On the contrary, as a fan, I WANT to know what's on their minds. They know their stuff. They enjoy one another's company and they have a lot of fun. They make it enjoyable for me as a viewer watching at home.
Take their performance on May 1 during halftime of the Knicks-Celtics playoff game. Charles blasted the Knicks players and fans for yapping so much before the team had failed to accomplish anything in the postseason. Kenny Smith told a funny anecdote about how Knicks super fan Spike Lee had called him before game five (with the Knicks trailing the best-of-seven series, 3-1) to say he wanted a photo of the Celtics "goin' fishin.'"
(When a team is eliminated from the playoffs, it is a Kenny Smith ritual to show the players in a fishing boat, with the caption of "Goin' Fishin.'" The upshot, Smith said in a convivial way, was that Spike didn't engage Smith in a conversation -- he simply delivered his message and then promptly hung up. "I can't root for this team!" Barkley moaned in a good-natured way).
Shaq shows why he won four NBA rings. He was a very tough, unflinching player -- and is the same as a broadcaster. When a player complains about an injury, Shaq won't hear of it. If a player acts like an immature jerk, Shaq calls him out on the air and he names names. You can see why Shaq was a great player -- not only because of his size. He is a winner.
What makes the show so unique is that a viewer has the feeling that he or she is inside a huddle or a locker room. There is a sense of inside basketball when the guys begin bantering with one another.
It's always fun and funny whenever Shaq puts Barkley in his place. He gives Barkley a sharp reminder about how many rings he won in his career, compared with Barkley (zero). Happily, Barkley enjoys the chatter as much as anyone.He usually breaks up laughing at Shaq's friendly rebukes.
Insight + wit + humor + expertise = the best sports show on TV.
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