TNT is launching the new Tuesday edition of Inside the NBA tonight featuring three basketball stars and a Philly guy.
The new studio show, which replaces last year’s Players Only broadcasts, boasts some serious star power, staffed with NBA superstars Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and WNBA star Candace Parker. But hosting the new show will be Adam Lefkoe, a Philadelphia native known mostly for podcasts and social media videos, like a recent prank on “Ditch the Playbook” pulled on Eagles center Jason Kelce.
Lefkoe was hired by Turner-owned Bleacher Report back in 2014, after a few of his popular culture-laced local sportscasts in Louisville, Ky., went viral. In one, Lefkoe crammed 41 Seinfeld references in a broadcast focused on Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino’s Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2013.
“Coach Pitino’s banner, like something out of a J. Peterman catalogue. All weekend you could tell he and his wife were out there and loving every minute of it,” Lefkoe said. “So Pitino had his celebration. Now it’s a Festivus for the rest of us.”
Since then, Lefkoe has been a rising star, doing everything from NBA videos on Twitter to co-hosting NFL shows alongside Chris Simms. He hosts The Lefkoe Show podcast (often alongside former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook) and voices some characters on Bleacher Report’s popular Gridiron Heights cartoon. But hosting TNT’s flagship primetime NBA show is easily the biggest opportunity of Lefkoe’s broadcasting career, and one that caught him by surprise.
Lefkoe found out about the new job months before the show was announced, but was sworn to secrecy. He took his promise not to leak anything seriously — he didn’t even tell his own mother or his agent.
Born in the Northeast and raised in Bucks County, Lefkoe knew while attending Abington Friends School he wanted a career in sports, either on television or working as a sports agent. At the time, he was working for Keystone Refrigeration, the company his father Bruce still runs out of Bristol, Pa.
“He had me cleaning ice machines in the Eagles stadium when I was like 15-years old,” Lefkoe said. “He got Lincoln Financial Field when it first opened. We were going nuts — it was like the biggest thing for our family ever.”
In a conversation with the Inquirer, Lefkoe talked about his new show and how he got to know Shaq. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
The bones at its base are very, very similar. We are going to have a Steve Nash segment where he does some really cool features and sit downs with players. We have some things planned with internet influencers that are popular on NBA Instagram and Twitter… if King Josiah or LaJethro Jenkins has a great reaction to a dunk, we might have to put that on... .
So I’m going to be watching all the games, but I’m also going to have Tweetdeck up… Inside the NBA and NBA on TNT Tuesdays are the shows of record of the NBA that night. And I think now integrating that digital discussion is just as important as the what’s wrong with Team A.
It’s such a cool environment. There are four seats right in front. That’s where Kenny [Smith], Charles, and Shaq sit. All the games are on and they’re just debating and yelling, and everyone’s eating food. And the thing I love is even though the seats are in the front, there is no separation between talent and everybody else. The security guards could argue, an 18-year-old production assistant might make a good point.
The green room is really where I got to know Shaq. I was in the makeup chair to do a Twitter show when I told him we were going to be doing the show together. And Shaq goes, “Oh, really?” And Ernie [Johnson] was sitting there, too, and said, “Shaq, you’re in great hands.” I’m excited to show a different side of Shaq.
My belief is that the people who claim they’re not biased are truly the ones that are biased. I openly talk about being a Philadelphia fan all the time. And when the Sixers are on the broadcast, I’m going to talk about it... And as we all know, Philadelphia fans are harder on their teams than any national pundit. We’re the ones questioning [Sixers head coach] Brett Brown more than the national guys.