After the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to beat the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” broadcast featured its customary blend of post-game analysis, looks ahead to the NBA Finals and, of course, intra-squad roasting over the number of NBA championships each panelist had won.
Charles Barkley, you might remember, didn’t win any during his career, and made only one appearance in the NBA Finals. Shaquille O’Neal, on the other hand, won four in six title-round trips! Kenny Smith went 2-for-2 with the mid-1990s Houston Rockets, but that is mostly beside the televised point, because Shaq And Charles Are Beefin’, Y’all!
In discussing whether or not Game 5 was a “must-win” game for a Cavaliers team that heads back to Boston with a 3-1 lead, just one win away from a third straight trip to the Finals to take on the Western Conference champions (and their now-bitter rival) Golden State Warriors, O’Neal made the point that it would be in Cleveland’s best interests not to “mess around,” lay another egg and give the Celtics new life. A reasonable point!
And then, the bit:
“Chuck, you have no idea what we’re talking about, because you’ve only been to the Finals once,” said O’Neal, noting that Barkley only played for a championship once, when his Phoenix Suns fell to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals.
“I wasn’t riding on Dwyane Wade’s and Kobe’s coattails,” Barkley barked back, giving Shaq short shrift for his contributions on the Los Angeles Lakers teams that three-peated from 2000 through 2002, and the Miami Heat squad that won it all in 2006.
“Doesn’t matter, Chuck,” O’Neal said. “I got the same thing you got, and I passed you up 10 years ago.”
“I’m just letting you know,” Barkley said, as O’Neal repeated “Anyway” in an unsuccessful attempt to get the last word. “If I had been riding on Kobe’s coattails, and Dwyane Wade’s … and [Heat center] Alonzo Mourning’s, too, I forgot about him. And [Lakers forward] Rick Fox. Derek Fisher.”
“People question why you’re in the Hall of Fame anyway,” Shaq replied. “Bum.”
The two began smiling and laughing as Smith attempted to step in. Host Ernie Johnson, who had taken the opportunity to eat some macaroni and cheese while his two bookend big men squabbled, retook the reins and asked why the back-and-forth had gotten so personal so quickly.
“Because Chuck’s always interrupting,” Shaq said. “Don’t interrupt me, Chuck. I’m going to punch you right in your face one time, I’m telling you.”
Barkley responded by saying he’d “throw one of these chicken wings at [Shaq’s] fat ass.” Things then got back to normal — well, as normal as things get when you’re dealing with threats of hurled chicken wings, and jokes about barbecue-sauce-colored suits — before Shaq offered one more reminder that Barkley had only been to the Finals once.
The segment moved on. Whether the kidding-around-but-maybe-cutting-a-little-too-close-to-the-bone dynamic between the two Hall of Famers will ever follow suit, though, remains to be seen.
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