The 2013 NBA Finals will air on ABC, which means the Miami Heat's Game 7 win over the Indiana Pacers was the final game that TNT will broadcast in this 2012-13 NBA season. That means we had to say farewell to the "Inside the NBA" crew — Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Shaquille O'Neal — for the summer. And that's noteworthy, whether it makes you sad because you think "Inside" is still great television worth watching for the interplay among Ernie, Charles and Kenny, makes you happy because you kind of feel like the addition of Shaq last season has basically ruined a once-awesome show, or makes you feel somewhere in between.
Well, wherever your sympathies lie, the gang gave you something to remember them by on Monday. Before the game, there was Charles' assessment of whether LeBron James should look to get then-struggling teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh more involved in Miami's offense, which afforded Barkley an opportunity to jab at one of his favorite targets:
The relevant quote again, repeatedly, via Vine:
At halftime, after the Heat had cranked up their offensive execution and defensive pressure in the second quarter to take a 15-point lead into intermission, the crew broke down what had and hadn't worked for Miami and Indiana in the first half. That, too, ended in a goof!
O'Neal opened by saying that in a high-pressure situation like a Game 7, it's critical for coaches and players to avoid over-adjusting.
"There's an old saying in the NBA — do what got you here," Shaq said.
"Yeah, that's great analogy," Barkley replied sarcastically.
"It's not analogy. It's a saying," Shaq answered, which was completely correct. "Buttface."
("Grown-Ups 2," starring Shaquille O'Neal, in theaters July 12.)
Then, after the Heat had finished off a 99-76 beatdown of the Pacers to move on to the NBA Finals for the third straight year, Shaq relayed something the great Michael Jordan said to him about the importance of failure in a player's learning curve after M.J.'s veteran Chicago Bulls swept O'Neal's young Orlando Magic in the 1996 playoffs ... and Charles just couldn't help himself:
"Kazaam" jokes. Always a goldmine.
(Barkley also made fun of the women of San Antonio again, which was less charming.)
And finally, it was time for the "Inside the NBA" crew to do to themselves what they've done to so many eliminated NBA teams over the years — send them up and send them home with Photoshops and jokes in the beloved "Gone Fishin'" segment. E.J. donned a captain's hat, Charles opted for a more Gilliganesque chapeau, and Shaq snapped on a swimming cap and grabbed a fishing pole. Apparently, he hooked a big one:
Did Shaq actually accidentally fall over on live TV? Did he intentionally do it with all that shaking and rollicking to give the show a capper and a parting joke? Who knows? The important thing is, everyone loves physical comedy, especially as performed by Shaquille O'Neal. (Really, the more important thing is that there were folks on hand to prevent Shaq from getting any closer to a railing.)
So that's the way the season ended for "Inside the NBA" — and as Sports Illustrated media critic Richard Deitsch shared Tuesday morning, it was a really successful ending:
TNT's Inside the NBA had its highest overnight rating for the show last night since May 26, 2011.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) June 4, 2013
So I guess we can get ready for more of the same next year. Buttface ahoy!