In the 2020-21 season, there are no sideline reporters on NBA broadcasts which means postgame interviews are handled by either the announcers in the booth or, in the case of TNT games, the studio crew.
There are basically two options for interviews when they are with the Inside the NBA crew: fun or disastrous. The best example of the fun option came in the Bubble when they talked with Boban Marjanovic. The examples of disastrous ones are, well, unfortunately far more prevalent, including with Kevin Durant, Christian Wood, Nikola Jokic, and, most recently, Donovan Mitchell on Thursday night after Utah came back from 16 down to runaway from the Pelicans for their seventh straight win.
After Ernie Johnson started things off, they turned to Shaq who was critical of Mitchell at the half, noting he doesn’t believe he can be the best player on a championship team. That isn’t exactly a startling revelation, as at any given time in league history there are usually only a handful of players that fit that description, but given Mitchell’s sensational 36-point night in the win it was weird timing for that critique. What made it weirder was Shaq, who has been recently trying to beef with Rudy Gobert, bringing it up in the interview with Mitchell and noting that he hoped it would serve as motivation and Mitchell not having any of it.
“I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year.”
Spida responds to Shaq’s criticism. pic.twitter.com/F5pkBGCMdA
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 22, 2021
So, yeah, it’s really awkward! Poor Kenny Smith has to follow that, and by that point they’d lost Donovan who was simply ready to take the headset off and leave. Mitchell didn’t want to hear about how it was somehow thanks to Shaq that he stepped his game up on Thursday, and Shaq’s insistence on trying to pick fights with current players has been a constant of his tenure with TNT and it seems, just as a whole, the league has had enough of it.
On one hand, at least Shaq doesn’t try to hide from what he says on air when they welcome players in, but at the same time, his approach to these interviews just simply isn’t working and for a show that thrives on being fun, it puts a real damper on the show’s entire vibe.