Charles Barkley is arguably the most well-known broadcaster in sports, willing to say just about anything in his role headlining TNT’s popular Inside the NBA pregame show.
But Barkley, who will work his ninth straight March Madness tournament as a studio analyst starting next week, said he’s thinking more and more about walking away from the cameras.
“I think about it every year. I’m not going to work [expletive] forever. I can promise you that,” the former 76ers star told reporters Tuesday at a March Madness media event in New York.
Barkley joined TNT in 2000 after retiring from the NBA, and has contemplated retiring many times. But his comments carry more weight this time around due to the departure of TNT president David Levy, who stepped down as part of the merger between parent company Time Warner and AT&T.
Back in 2015, it was Levy — who has become close friends with Barkley during his 19 years at TNT — who helped convince the Hall of Famer to re-sign with TNT through the 2024-25 season (after a round of golf and $1,700 worth of worth of wine and tequila). But now, with Levy out of the picture, Barkley envisions leaving his role before his contract runs out.
Barkley, 56, said he had thought about retiring next year, after his 20th year as a broadcaster, but is aiming to make it until age 60, which would put his exit after the 2023 season.
“At some point you’re going to be too old to have fun and enjoy life … I don’t think you can say, ‘Let me just work my butt off and then when I turn 70 I can enjoy life.’ I don’t think you got a lot of [expletive] left after 70,” Barkley said.
In the meantime, Barkley will be busy over the next few months as a studio analyst for CBS Sports and Turner Sports during the March Madness tournament. Barkley said the men’s NCAA basketball tournament rivals the Olympics as one of the best events in sports. But, he said, it also requires a lot of work to keep up to speed on dozens of teams and hundreds of young players.
“Now I have to do my own homework, instead of like when I was in college and they did it for me,” Barkley joked.
Barkley said he’s watched more than 100 men’s basketball games since January to prepare for his role, and had a message for critics who complain every year about NBA analysts coming in to cover NCAA games.
“We’ve given them a billion dollars for this tournament,” Barkley said, referencing the $8.8 billion CBS and Turner agreed to pay to broadcast the March Madness tournament for the next eight years, through 2032. “I don’t worry about no criticism. … They should just say ‘thank you’ and shut up.”
During a roundtable with reporters, Barkley touched on several subjects, including college athletes being paid and rumors that NBA superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant could end up playing with the New York Knicks.
On Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant possibly signing with the Knicks:
I don’t think Durant or Kyrie are tough enough to play in New York. Kyrie’s a very good player. Kevin’s a great, great player. But I’m not sure they have the mental make up to play in New York. Those guys are complaining about the media asking questions. Maybe New York isn’t for them.
On Irving apologizing for complaining about the media:
I don’t know if I had anything to do with it with what I said last week, but I’m glad somebody said, ‘Yo, man. Shut the hell up.’ You’re one of the luckiest people in the world — enjoy this thing. Everybody else has got a nine-to-five. You’ve got a great life and somebody’s getting ready to give you $200 million. What are you complaining about?
On paying college athletes:
I’m pro-player. I want the players to get as much as possible. But somebody’s got to explain to me how we’re going to pay these players … We pay the basketball team, the football team, then we’ve got to pay all the sports … some colleges have bowling teams.