It should not have surprised anyone that the Thursday cable ratings were once again dominated by the NBA playoffs. TNT held sway over the premier slots of the chart, starting out with the Toronto Raptors playing the Milwaukee Bucks for a 2.3 rating in adults 18-49. This was a good deal lower than the 2.9 from last week’s top game, when the Portland Trail Blazers battled the Golden State Warriors.
Kenny Smith hasn’t shown up to an “Inside the N.B.A.” production meeting in almost 20 years. “What’s going to happen in a basketball game that I haven’t seen, heard, been part of, or know someone that’s been part of it?” Smith said as he walked through the hallways of Scotiabank Arena before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
But Smith said that executives at TNT had not given the hosts a talking-to about content since his early days on the set. “It’s gotten to the point where the powers that be — how do I put this — they’re afraid to talk to us,” Smith said. “Because when you talk to us, we take it to the other extreme. And we will keep doing it to an extreme that makes everyone uncomfortable.” (Through a TNT spokeswoman, Smith later clarified that “afraid” had not been his intended word choice. According to the spokeswoman, Smith emphasized that the leadership team gave the stars freedom to express themselves and that that authenticity added to the show.)
That’s how much “Inside the N.B.A.” has advanced. It has essentially become, in a way, too big to fail. Executives don’t meddle. There is minimal scripting. It’s Smith, Barkley and O’Neal being themselves at their own pace. It’s virtually unheard-of for a studio show to become more important than the games it is covering. Just this week, TNT won four Sports Emmys because of “Inside the N.B.A.”
Adam Wexler: If you’re wondering who voted for the All-NBA teams – here’s the list of the 100 media voters, including one based in Houston, @Kelly Iko of @TheAthleticHOU. ESPN had 23 voters, @TheAthletic had 11. pic.twitter.com/Nol4RfGCjh