Ernie Johnson Rumors

TNT will look ahead to the NBA’s restart with a series of one-hour special editions of the Sports Emmy Award-winningInside the NBA presented by Kia and new NBA on TNT Tuesday Night studio shows starting Tuesday, July 7, at 8 p.m. ET. Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will be featured on Thursday nights, while Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker, O’Neal and Adam Lefkoe will appear on Tuesday nights. TNT’s Chris Haynes will report from Orlando.
NBA TV, operated by Turner Sports, has adopted a three-pronged approach to entertaining basketball fans at home as it awaits the return of live games. The network’s content strategy during the coronavirus pandemic has relied heavily on original programming, classic games, and a new Twitter talk show. That show, called “#NBATogether,” aims to connect with digital consumers. It features TNT’s “Inside The NBA” host Ernie Johnson interviewing guests from around the league. Participants so far have included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri.
Johnson then told the audience, having no idea if he even had one, that he wanted to do something for high school and college kids interested in journalism. He let people know his own broadcasting background. Then an amazing thing happened — the numbers kept creeping up until he had 23,000 people tuning in for the broadcast. Johnson told some of his story and answered questions about his colleagues and many other subjects. The video was as low tech as it gets but that’s what made it work: Johnson’s best attribute as a Hall of Fame studio host has always been his authenticity. By the end of last Tuesday, more than 100,000 people had tuned into “EJ’s Journalism School.”
“I had no idea how many people would be interested,” Johnson said. “I’m pleasantly surprised because you know what’s going on around the world with everybody in their corner right now. I just know as somebody who sat in that classroom years ago how much that used to mean to me, to have my professors bring in a CBS News correspondent who happened to be in town. Suddenly, you walk into the classroom and here’s this guy you’ve seen on the network news and he’s standing in front of you saying, ‘I’ve got an hour and a half. Let me know what you want to know.’ We would just pepper the guest with questions about all those things that were kind of a mystery to us at that point. How are we going to get the first job? Do you get nervous when you’re on? How do you deal with making mistakes?
Ernie Johnson and the rest of the “Inside the NBA” crew will be honored at this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductions as recipients of the new Curt Gowdy Transformative Media Award. Some of their shows have been more difficult than others. Two days after Kobe Bryant and eight others died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Dwyane Wade broadcast for an hour from inside an empty Staples Center to discuss Bryant’s life and death. “I’ve never been involved, in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, with a show like that, just where the raw emotions of the evening were just laid out there,” Johnson said Friday.
Beadle’s reps at CAA are trying to figure out their client’s next move. She could try to do something smaller, centered around a podcast, or she may try to dive back in. They have reached out to Turner about its NBA coverage, according to sources, but there doesn’t appear to be a match. Turner is set on Thursdays with Ernie Johnson hosting, but is trying to spruce up Tuesdays. At the moment, though, Beadle is not a top choice.
The NBA on TNT crew — ex-players Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and sportscaster Ernie Johnson — also weighed in on the topic during a segment on Sunday. “First of all, that’s unprofessional,” Barkley said. “Part of our job is to talk to the press. We don’t make $30-40 million just to play basketball. People are gonna interrupt you when you have dinner. You have to sign autographs. You have to take pictures. Some of the other stuff is talking to the press. Russ has got to do better. Russ is a great dude. And just because a reporter says something bad about you, you don’t get the right to just say ‘next question.’ “
O’Neal took a different stance. “I’m gonna disagree with both of y’all, because I was Russell Westbrook — sensitive, and if I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t have to talk to you,” O’Neal said. “Our job is to talk to the media. I don’t have to talk to one particular guy. Media is media members like four or five. … A lot of guys (in the media) try to get personal and try to be cute and try to get their followers … so if you’re sticking to the facts, ‘Hack-a-Shaq, he can’t shoot,’ I ain’t got no problem. But once you try to get personal and start doing that, man to man, I don’t have to talk to you as a man if I don’t want to talk to you.”
Ernie Johnson will have to miss baseball’s postseason for TBS due to blood clots in both his legs, he announced in an emotional message on Instagram. Johnson was scheduled to do play-by-play for the Indians-Astros ALDS and will be replaced by former Red Sox play-by-play man Don Orsillo. “It’s a great time of year, and unfortunately I am not going to be a part of it at TBS,” Johnson said. “I went to the doctor the other day and had a physical, and they discovered blood clots in both my legs. They advised me against flying and put me on blood thinners. … The best course of action is to just stay grounded at this point, not fly.
The NBA on TNT crew spent time joking around about the latest Google glitch that listed Shaquille O’Neal as a member *NSYNC before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night. TNT showed reaction tweets from the real members of the boy band. Then, Ernie Johnson asked Shaq if he had anything to do with the glitch, and Shaq’s response had Ernie, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith impressed. “When they were young, they recorded their first album at my house, at the studio at my house — *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys,” Shaq said. “True story.”
Ernie Johnson wants you to know: It’s all real. The back-and-forths between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, the laughs and wisecracks and the real-time reactions to NBA player quotes? That’s what makes Inside the NBA must-watch television – all of that natural spontaneity. “You’d be amazed standing in our studio,” he told For The Win on Tuesday at the CBS Sports and Turner March Madness Media Day. “There’s one minute to air. I’m sitting there, then (Barkley, O’Neal and Kenny Smith) wander out just in time to come on the air. And that’s how we want it.”
But that means Johnson has to be the engine that keeps the show moving and on the rails. He’s heard all kinds of descriptions for his role: Ringmaster, point guard, traffic cop. The best one he’s heard? Someone came up with an apt comparison. “You’re the dad who turns around and says, ‘If I hear anymore I’m going to stop this car and turn it around,” he said.
“The reactions you get are genuine and heartfelt,” he said. “If there’s a mistake made, if someone is so in the dark on something and isn’t ready, then we all make fun of him. That’s the deal! That’s what makes it fun to be in the middle of it. Because you’ve gotta be alert and alive and it keeps it on your toes.” “We live for seeing Charles spilling something on his tie!” he added. “It’s all this stuff they said you’re not supposed to do on TV. It’s not a place to be if you’re thin skinned.”
Turner Sports says its “Inside the NBA” studio team will call a Christmas night game in Los Angeles along with its other usual duties. Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson will be at Staples Center for the Lakers’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. They will call the nightcap of the league’s five-game holiday schedule in addition to their regular pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
On an intense moment with Charles Barkley on set during commercial: Ernie Johnson: We’re in the playoffs and we had taken the show on the road and what I have instead of carrying a big old format of the show in front of me with the computer print out, I just kind of jot down a roadmap for the show on these 5 by 7 cards and break into first segment, second segment, third segment and then if we have to make changes – Tim Kiely who’s the producer can say hey we’re going to switch that highlight from segment two to segment three and we have some sound of Gregg Popovich on segment four so I’m jotting this stuff down so I know when we get to it what the traffic is.
Ernie Johnson: In between the third and the fourth segment, Kenny’s just like Charles I dare you to rip those cards in half. This is in a commercial break. Charles is like ‘you really think I should?’ and I said ‘Charles, this is my preparation for the show this is important to me this is my roadmap for where we’re going next. I need this stuff.’ He reaches over and rips it in half. Then we’re like 30 seconds from coming back on the air and he knew I was ticked off. I told him I said, ‘man if you do that again this hot coffee is going all over you.’ Kenny’s like ‘Man, I ain’t ever seen Ernie this hot Charles.’ We come back on the show and I just iced him out. I didn’t talk to Charles that segment. I wasn’t going to ask him a question, I was going to Kenny and Shaq with everything. Charles finally was like ‘hey, hey, hey’ I said ‘look I ain’t talking to you we had something going on here and if you want to take part in the show you won’t do that anymore.’
Did Shaq go too far with JaVale McGee? Ernie Johnson: The JaVale thing became a problem when this Twitter back and forth started. I texted Shaq in the middle of that and apparently I texted him after his mother had already texted him. I told him I said look man you’re in the Hall of Fame you don’t need to be doing this stuff. Twitter to me can be a great thing. If you use it in a positive way I think you can encourage people with that. But when it’s used for something like that it came down to it was two grown men acting like kids. Thankfully we’re able to put it behind us. Hopefully that’s all done.
Storyline: O'Neal-McGee Beef
The NBA made the first All-Star weekend since Craig Sager’s passing a memorable affair, expertly helmed as always by TNT’s Ernie Johnson. Sager, the longtime sideline reporter from Turner Sports who succumbed to cancer late in 2016, was the inspiration behind a slightly impromptu 3-point, half-court and eventual layup-shooting benefit at Saturday night’s All-Star festivities in New Orleans. A layup hit by Sager’s son Ryan marked a $500,000 donation made from the league and its sponsorship partners to the Sager Strong charity.
Through Sunday, according to Turner Sports PR, the clip, between the NBA on TNT’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, had 95 million social media impressions and 16 million video views. That’s the most social engagement any NBA on TNT segment has ever had. “I didn’t do this with the intention of getting response on social media,” Johnson said in an interview on Friday. “All we were doing was what everyone in this country was doing, processing this election. And the way I processed this election, because it is who I am, I had to include my spiritual take on this. That’s what’s given me perspective on this. I believe whoever is in the White House, God is in charge. That’s me. And I voiced that on TV.”
“I could have taken a safe way and said I did not like the choices and that maybe there will be a difference from Campaign Trump and the President Trump,” Johnson said. “But that’s not the only way I processed the election. I processed it by, no matter who is the President of the United States, I serve the God on the throne, and that’s me. If I am not bold enough at that point to say what I said, then I have failed. I realize we have a basketball show but in this case it was more than a basketball show. It was one of the biggest events we will ever see and this is how I processed it. Did I think if I went down this road, some people will be mad? Yes. That is the way it is. I was just being me.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.