Not content with disrupting the global golf industry, LIV Golf could break up the most successful studio show in the history of sports TV: “Inside the NBA.”
Charles Barkley might be unable to continue at Turner Sports’ TNT if he joins LIV Golf as a commentator, according to speculation on the “Pat McAfee Show.”
As with most top sports TV talents, Barkley has a clause in his contract that makes him exclusive to TNT, said sources. His current deal expires at the end of the NBA’s 2024-2025 season. That coincides with the end of Turner’s $1.2 billion annual rights deal with the NBA.
Barkley’s exclusive deal with Turner could put a dagger through any talks with Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf — or at least make him wait a couple of more years.
But contracts are made to be broken.
Fox Sports recently released Joe Buck, it’s top play-by-play announcer for NFL and MLB, from his contract to join longtime NFL broadcast partner Troy Aikman at rival ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
If Barkley asked Turner to let him go early from his deal after 22 successful years, would management say no?
The 59-year Barkley confirmed he plans to meet with LIV on “The Next Round” podcast. “You’ve got to always look at every opportunity that’s available,” he said. During the NBA All-Star break, he mused about retiring from TV after the end of his current contract.
Barkley loves golf, serving as a commentator on TNT’s “The Match” exhibitions and frequently playing in celebrity pro-ams.
Still, it’s hard to see him choosing LIV over Turner. The four-time Emmy Award winner has always been happy at TNT, routinely dismissing speculation he’d jump to ESPN. Barkley’s the most popular sports TV personality in America, and his long-running “Inside the NBA” with Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson is the gold standard for studio shows, winning at least 15 Emmys and counting.
The cast and crew of TNT’s ‘Inside the NBA’ are like “family” to Barkley, said one source.
But LIV is paying between $100 million and $200 million to golfers like Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson (Barkley joked he’d “kill a relative” for that kind of money).
Landing the NBA legend as its new media face would go a long way toward dispelling LIV’s lousy brand image — not to mention landing a U.S. TV deal.
LIV just lured funnyman golf commentator David Feherty away from NBC Sports. If LIV offers Barkley anywhere near the $90 million it’s reportedly throwing at British Open champ Cameron Smith, it would be hard for him for him not to say yes — and for TNT to say no.