Last week, TNT announced it had renewed its contracts with the entire Inside The NBA crew — Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. In news that should surprise nobody, getting Charles back on board proved to be the toughest. It required a visit to Scottsdale by four network big wigs, some very expensive red wine and tequila, Italian food and a round of golf:
The plan to retain Barkley included an in-home pitch last January by Turner executives when Turner Broadcasting System president David Levy and four of his key management staffers—Tara August, Craig Barry, Lenny Daniels and Tim Kiely—traveled to Barkley’s home in Scottsdale to convince him to stay in broadcasting beyond next year.
Prior to the in-person meeting, a six-hour Italian feast featuring two magnums of 2009 Bond Estates St Eden Napa Valley Red, two bottles of 1942 Don Julio tequila and plates of pasta and meatballs – the Turner management group had gathered to determine a game plan on how to keep the Inside the NBA crew for the long-term…
…“My agent never got involved,” Barkley said. “That’s how much respect I have for David. David bought two bottles of wine, two bottles of tequila and we killed them.
For those of you keeping score at home, a magnum of St. Eden’s at — for example — Michael Mina’s Strip Steak at the MGM Grand goes for a hair more than $1800. A bottle of Don Julio 1942 retails (at BevMo) for $135, so you can do your own math on a restaurant markup. The wining and dining certainly helped, but Turner’s pitch was also aided by the fact no team in its right mind was willing to offer Chuck a general manager position.
“Number one, I didn’t get the [NBA] GM job opportunity that I was hoping for,” Barkley said. “I’ve always said I have a great job. But I’ve also always said I wanted to be a GM but that did not happen. So when these guys re-signed, I didn’t want to be an awkward situation have them worried about what they will do next year. They told me they were all coming back and that kind of put me under the gun a bit. As much as love working for Turner, that would have been a very unfair for me to do. So now I get to criticize GMs on television.”
You can read the rest of how Turner re-signed its Emmy-winning quartet over at Sports Illustrated.