Inside the NBA on TNT is one of the easiest shows to recommend, whether it’s to a fan of basketball or not. It’s a pop culture phenomenon, mixing in-depth basketball analysis with sports entertainment. By that I mean that the show’s crew, Ernie Johnson, Shaq, Charles Barkley, and Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith, find a way to not just incorporate basketball into other parts of the wider culture but also to open its doors to it. It was through those doors that The Batman movie came in recently with a few basketball riddles for the crew to decipher.
Chuck, Shaq, Kenny, and Ernie became the latest victim’s of The Riddler’s signature riddles in one of the last legs of The Batman’s promotional campaign, ahead of its March 4th release. The crew was subjected to a series of image association conundrums that, after being put together, would form a basketball phrase or rule.
One riddle included a cat, the letter ‘I’, a parking meter, and a car with its fender being highlighted. It took them a bit, but once the basketball ideas started floating around they got their solution: Perimeter Defense.
The other riddles followed suit, with Chuck taking the time between them to express how excited he is to watch The Batman. The segment went on for some 3-4 minutes and it was accompanied by ominous music and a change in lighting in the studio to reflect the movie’s dark red color palette.
It was a clever bit of promotion that went the extra mile to incorporate the sport in a way that caters to the type of viewers the show pulls in. It’s the kind of promotional material we need more of. It embraces the show’s identity and it plays to its strengths. The Inside Guys took full advantage of it.
All the riddles were solved with relative ease being that each one of the Inside Guys is a basketball master that eats, breathes, drinks, and lives the sport, but that didn’t stop the segment from being a smartly implemented and just plain fun bit of entertainment (something that Inside knows how to do quite well).
This isn’t the first time Inside the NBA has reached across entertainment lines to feature new things on the show. Fans of wrestling promotion AEW will remember Shaq appeared on their program and stepped into the ring (which resulted in being put through a table by Cody Rhodes in the process) in March of last year. The short storyline culminated in a match where Shaq and Jade Cargill faced Rhodes and Red Velvet.
The experience played out like an exchange program of sorts as wrestling legend Chris Jericho would then join the Inside Guys for a bit of wrestling fun at the show’s Atlanta studio. Shaq even threw it down with Chuck in a wrestling ring that was put up in the studio before going back to basketball analysis.
In fact, go back a few years to the time when Zack Snyder’s DC Universe was trying to get off the ground, all the way back to 2016, and you’ll find the Inside Guys interviewing Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Affleck and Cavill spoke on the superhuman nature of the dunk contest while also attempting to settle whether Shaq should still be considered basketball’s own Superman, a title that Kenny once awarded to the then Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard during the 2008 Dunk Contest.
Howard donned the Man of Steel’s shirt and red cape as he made one of the most powerful dunks in the competition’s history, leading Kenny to famously say “Superman is in the building” after he made the dunk.
The debate concerning Shaq’s Superman status continues to this day and it’s still one of the funniest debates on Inside. It’s also indicative of the show’s interest in being a part of the larger culture, especially when it comes to big events that the Inside Guys think deserve to share in basketball’s spotlight.
As a basketball fan myself, one of the things I appreciate the most from Ernie, Kenny, Shaq, and Chuck is their willingness to be as accommodating as possible to all kinds of interest, never ridiculing any type of fan or expression. This has been especially true when it comes to the comic book community, and not just on the movie side of it.
Inside the NBA has a history of partnering with DC Comics for special edition NBA All-Star weekend comics, called The Justice League Go Inside the NBA, in which the Inside Guys face a team of heroes from the Justice League in competitions that would sometimes contain a wink or two to longstanding fans of the Inside Guy’s exploits. In one of the comics, the League and the Inside Guys go on a race from the Brooklyn Nets’ home at the Barclays Center to the New York Knicks’ home court at Madison Square Garden.
In another edition of the comic, the Guys face off against Superman, Steel, Green Lantern, and Flash in a pickup game, powers muted. This one’s interesting due to Shaq’s history with Steel, having played the character in the 1997 movie of the same name. The program’s signature approach to humor makes it into the comic intact and it proves to be so adaptable that the Justice League feel as if they’ve always been a part of the Inside the NBA experience.
Again, Inside the NBA is the easiest show to recommend to anyone looking for a good time that celebrates not just their favorite sport but other aspects of culture that don’t always get their due respect outside their communities. In doing that, they’ve been a particularly strong supporter of comics and its different expressions.
Because of this, the crew at Inside—which now includes other superstars such as Dwayne Wade, Candace Parker from the Chicago Sky, Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors, and Jamal Crawford, along with host Adam Lefkoe taking over the Tuesday edition of the show—would obviously prove to be too smart for the Riddler. They’ve just been in the superhero game for far too long.