The hottest made-for-TV free agent to hit the open market since Charles Barkley retired in 2000 has apparently hooked up with his new team. The recently retired Shaquille O'Neal, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell, will be working for Turner Broadcasting -- likely sitting across the table from Sir Charles on TNT's "Inside the NBA" set.
Because of injuries and issues with his weight as a player, the post-Los Angeles career of the surefire Hall of Famer was more than a little disappointing, even considering his championship run with the Miami Heat in 2006. Still, the loquacious nature that served Shaq so well as he built up an endorsement empire upon entering the league in 1992 grew by the year. And though his deep and monotone delivery has been the source for satire for middling stand-up comics and sportswriters alike, he should have sites like these filled up with all sorts of in-season video clips as he takes to the airwaves.
Then again, as our own Eric Freeman pointed out Saturday, O'Neal's potential addition to the "Inside the NBA" set (his hiring has yet to be confirmed by Turner, to say nothing of the eventual revelation of his role in the broadcasts) could move Chris Webber away from the set, or into a diminished role on the program (halftime can only go on for so long). Webber has quickly established himself as a star analyst. He's easily the best on any of the national broadcasts of any former player, or, at the very least, tied with Steve Kerr and a country mile removed from the nearest competition. Less Chris Webber on the tube, even with his significant airtime on NBA TV, is not a good thing.
That said, as Matt Moore brought up on Saturday, Shaq could be working a few feet from Sir Charles, a man he once tussled with during Barkley's final season as a player (they've since made up, video after the jump):
We don't know Shaq's role yet, though, or even if the hiring is legit (although Rovell and his sources are usually to be trusted on matters like these). We can safely assume, as it was with Barkley's first season in 2000-01, that O'Neal will be a constant source for goofy. And we can always use more goofy in our lives.
Now we just have to figure out when Shaq's television debut will be. Hopefully sometime before the fall of 2012.
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