Ernie Johnson Rumors
The network announced that its hit ‘Inside the NBA on TNT’ lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith will be on the air for a long time thanks to “multi-year” extensions for the group. “We truly believe Inside the NBA is among the best studio shows of all time and a large part of its success is due to the unrivaled chemistry between Ernie, Charles, Kenny and Shaquille,” said Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports in a statement. “We’re looking forward to continuing the creativity and pioneering spirit behind the show for a very long time.”
Charles Barkley won’t be gone fishin’ just yet. After previously suggesting he might leave TNT at the end of his current contract, the Hall of Famer has agreed to a multiyear extension to remain as a studio analyst for “Inside the NBA.” The network announced Wednesday that all of the show’s stars had received new deals, so Barkley will keep trading barbs with fellow commentators Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal and host Ernie Johnson.
Ernie Johnson sure is a class act. On Tuesday night at the Sports Emmys, the TNT host gave his award for ‘Best Studio Host’ to the daughters of late ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, who lost his battle with cancer in January. TNT’s Johnson knows a thing or two about fighting cancer. In 2006, he took a leave of absence during his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He later returned as host of the Emmy-winning show “NBA on TNT” opposite Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
On “Inside,” host Ernie Johnson asked his panel: “LaMarcus Aldridge gonna stay with the Blazers?” O’Neal: “I say no. A lot of times when you ask a player a question as if you’re going to return and you really want to return, they’ll say yeah right away. When they say I’m going to think about it, I’m going to look at my options, most of the time they’re leaning to go other places.” Barkley: “He needs to stay in Portland.” O’Neal: “You know what I think? I think he’s going to end up in Dallas.” Smith: “I just think the money today is so different than free agency, meaning staying with your team is a 20 to 25 million dollar difference.”
It takes a lot to freestyle with no beat, and Minaj handled herself well. That’s what you expect from a multi-platinum rapper. Ernie Johnson was the surprise gem of the night. His rap rhymed, seemed spontaneous, and the delivery was on point. Add in the fact that he dropped the mic and he was the star of the night.
Barkley, now an “NBA on TNT” analyst, ripped Drummond’s Pistons during a break in action. “He’s a terrific player who’s playing with those other idiots up in Detroit. And they’re not going to win,” Barkley said. When the rest of the “NBA on TNT” panel, including Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, questioned that statement, Barkley continued: “They’ve got some idiots on that team. They’ve got some talented players who are not going to ever get it.”
And then there’s Barkley, the show’s lightning rod. The Hall of Famer and former league MVP is famous (and infamous) for speaking his mind, no matter the subject or the consequences. “When Charles got here, he changed our show dramatically,” Johnson says. “Kenny and I were having a good time and it was a little off the wall, but he changed the show dramatically and he changed the landscape for every show.” “Everybody felt like, ‘We have to bring someone in to be our Charles Barkley.’ But it doesn’t work that way. Charles had that equity built in, of all those years as a player being the most quotable guy in the league. He almost had that diplomatic immunity. He’ll say something outrageous and people will just say, ‘Oh, that’s Chuck being Chuck.’ Other guys try to say it, and suddenly find themselves looking for other work.”
TNT is taking its NBA pregame studio show to New York for the opening night of the season, part of a three-day celebration. Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson will broadcast live Oct. 29 from Flatiron Plaza, where there will be a basketball court, NBA 2K14 video game kiosks, and a large videoboard perched 30 feet above Broadway and Fifth Avenue for fans to watch the show, which will include live coverage of the Miami Heat’s championship ring ceremony.
In a business of huge egos, Johnson is firmly grounded. And Kiely, his longtime boss, knows the home life the Johnsons have is a major factor in that. “It’s a huge deal; that’s what keeps everything in perspective” for him, Kiely says. “We all lose perspective … when we’re under a deadline. The secret to Ernie’s cool and calm demeanor under pressure is he thinks of his family first. That’s something we all forget when we’re under a deadline — we’re always thinking about the next show, the next this or that. But that (family) is something that is an anchor in his life, because his home life is extremely busy and extremely complicated. It’s water over glass when he gets here.”
Seven long weeks of recovery followed for Michael, who developed infections along the way that required agonizing treatments. “They had to stick him in the lungs and they drained two liters of fluid out in the middle of this one infection,” Johnson recalls. “It was so painful, but when they pulled out (the needle) he looked at the doctor and said, ‘Good job — I love you, too.’ This kid is remarkable. That’s what he tells everybody, ‘Love you, too,’ even if you don’t say it to him first. “It’s very tough, but he’s a tough guy.”
About a year later, Michael was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy yet still was able to get around. But in 2001 he fell and broke a hip, which left him confined to a wheelchair. Then on Sept. 11, 2011, a couple weeks before Ernie Johnson was to begin broadcasting the baseball playoffs — including the National League championship series between the Cardinals and his hometown Milwaukee Brewers — the phone rang while he was out of town on assignment. It as Cheryl with urgent news: Michael had developed pneumonia, had been rushed to a hospital, and a doctor was seeking permission to put a tube down Michael’s throat in a life-or-death situation. “A remarkable deal,” Johnson recalls. “They had to ‘paddle’ him back (using electrical shocks) that first day.”
Cheryl, who had seen a television report about the appalling treatment of orphans in Romania, traveled there looking for a child to adopt and came across Michael at an orphanage. He was 3, couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk and had other developmental issues. But Cheryl knew he was the right person to add to their family. She said she couldn’t go through the rest of her life not knowing what happened to him. So after calling Ernie, Michael soon was on his way to his new home.
While Johnson, 57, has a very public career at which he has become a major success, his biggest accomplishments come in his home in suburban Atlanta, not far from the Turner studios. That’s where he and his wife deal with a very difficult situation, one that would divide many families. Ernie and Cheryl Johnson’s adult son, whom they adopted as a refugee from Eastern Europe when he was a young boy, lives with them and is on life support — as he has been for two long years. “He’s on a ventilator with a ‘trake’ (tracheostomy tube),” Johnson says. “We’ve all become very good nurses, everybody in the family. We know how to suction his lungs. He has overnight nursing, but during the day it’s me or my wife or my oldest daughter if she’s got a day off.”
Ernie Johnson Sr., a longtime voice for Atlanta baseball, died Friday night from complications with a long illness. He was 87. Johnson was the TBS voice of the Atlanta Braves, earning recognition in the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame. “The Braves family has suffered a great loss today,” Braves president John Schuerholz said in a statement. “Ernie was the heart and soul of the Braves for so long, first as a player and then as the voice of the team in the broadcast booth. Our hearts are heavy today and we will miss him dearly. We send our deepest condolences to his wife of 63 years, Lois, his children, Dawn, Chris and Ernie Jr., and to his grandchildren.” Johnson’s son Ernie Johnson Jr. currently heads TNT’s popular NBA coverage, winning an Emmy for his accomplishments as an announcer.