HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Shaquille O’Neal needed just seven words to sum up the scene.
“You can’t do this anywhere else,” a smiling O’Neal said as he surveyed the set where he was just minutes earlier alongside his new teammates — on Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, Steve Kerr and Chris Webber — taping the first of NBA TV’s new six-part original series “Open Court.”
“This is why I came here,” said O’Neal, the recently retired superstar center and newest member of TNT’s studio team. “You get to be yourself around here. You see how easy it is to just dive right in and talk shop with the boys. It’s just like being around family. There’s going to be some laughing, some crying and if Kenny says one more word to me, there might be some fighting, too.”
O’Neal was joking, of course. But he was right. The laughter flowed on the custom-made set at NBA TV’s Atlanta studios. The series features some hilarious stories, opinions and spot-on commentary from the best collection of NBA analysts anyone could gather in one spot and it’s all moderated by the Emmy Award-winning Johnson, the best studio host in the business.
The debut episode will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET, following NBA TV’s GameTime which airs at 7 p.m. ET, with a new episode airing weekly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
“This is like going to a reunion and telling stories with your boys and someone capturing it all on film,” Steve Smith said. “And it really is an embarrassment [of riches], to have all these guys in the same room with all this knowledge and history about not only the NBA but the game of basketball. We cross over a couple of generations, so we’ve got a few stories to tell.”
How about six hours worth? And that was just what was captured on the six episodes. There was plenty more where that came from; both Johnson and Miller served up repeated reminders to the rest of the crew to save all the good stuff for the show.
With Hall of Famers (Barkley), sure-fire future Hall of Famers (O’Neal and Miller for starters), NBA champions (Kerr, Kenny Smith, Steve Smith) and Dream Teamers there is a surplus of insight, colorful memories and gut-busting stories all delivered in a relaxed setting.
“I would have been mad if I wasn’t here,” Kenny Smith said. “This is too much fun. Look at the guys in this room. Think about all the things that have been accomplished, all of the things that we’ve seen and done. You put all of us in one room and turn us loose … that’s some serious gumbo.”
The six episodes will be titled:
• Open Court: Tallest Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: My Generation
• Open Court: Curious Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Pressurized Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Head Games and Fame
• Open Court: Curtain Calls and Loose Balls
A little sample of what you’ll see …