Charles Barkley, like most people, thinks it’s pretty much a certainty that either ESPN or TNT will offer Shaquille O’Neal a studio job. And why wouldn’t they? Shaq is one of sports’ most immediately recognizable people, and his charisma is well documented.
But both ESPN and TNT’s studio shows are already pretty full (like, physically full of people). So if one of them were to hire Shaq, they might have to make room for him at the table by getting rid of someone else.
Or, as Barkley put it:
“Somebody is gonna be fired whether it’s at TNT or ESPN. He’s gonna get a TV job if he wants it. Somebody is getting their final walking papers as we speak because he’s going to have his choice of where he wants to go.”
But must someone be sacrificed so Shaq can bring his Shaqness to TV? Maybe not.
TNT already has a sort of mix and match policy when it comes to the last guy on Inside the NBA, borrowing either Chris Webber or Kevin McHale from NBA TV to appear as a fourth wheel alongside the Barkley-Smith-Johnson triumvirate (sidenote: Shaq or not, TNT isn’t firing anyone in that core three). McHale is now coaching the Rockets, so maybe Inside the NBA becomes a permanent four man operation, and Webber stays on NBA TV.
Or maybe TNT decides it doesn’t want to mess with something good, so they create a new role specifically for Shaq; a sort of Craig Sagerish, roving reporter type deal with less salmon. But if you’re TNT, do you pay Shaq the considerable sum that he’ll probably ask for just so he can do stuff like this? Probably not.
The Worldwide Leader offers similarly tricky scenarios. For ESPN/ABC’s playoff coverage, you had a four-man team consisting of Stuart Scott, Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson and Jon Barry, and adding O’Neal’s 325 pounds (expect that number to go up post-retirement) to the set would present the most cluttered mass of humanity on any pregame show, ever. So, you either create one of the aforementioned Shaqjobs, or you get rid of someone.
Apparently, ESPN is prepared to do one of those things to get the biggest fish in the sports media sea. On Tout, the social media website he has equity in, Shaq says they already offered him a job, and the network confirmed they’re interested. The Big Bristolite? It sounds like it could happen.