One of the nicer perks of having the NBA's conference finals played in your hometown is the potential to cross paths with the studio show that is hosting that particular game. Each year, TNT and (sometimes) ABC/ESPN send their studio shows to the contests to perform pregame, halftime and postgame duties live from outside the arena. Fans who attended Tuesday's Miami/Chicago game didn't have the luxury of seeing the TNT crew, though, because the station has moved the set inside the arena's interior to avoid a conflict between Heat fans and TNT analyst Charles Barkley. So if you wanted to drink 12 sodas, avoid security scrutiny, and still get in a few cross words with the Chuckster, you're out of luck.
Barkley has been criticized by Heat fans and by Dwyane Wade(notes) for having the audacity to pick the Chicago Bulls (a team with home-court advantage, one that won more games than anyone else in the NBA this season, and a group that swept the Heat in the regular season) in these conference finals. When Heat players and fans whined about that pick, Barkley called them "whiners," and then when Barkley showed up to American Airlines Arena on Sunday, two middle fingers came with him.
"They were telling me I suck," he said. "They were telling me I never won a championship. Like, 'Come on, give me something better than that, dude.'
"I always laugh at that statement, 'You didn't get a ring. 'I'm like, dude, you work at McDonald's. My life's a lot better than yours. You relax.'"
So he's been sent inside. And really, it's been a lovely year for Heat fans, hasn't it?
First they barely sold out several of the team's most important regular-season and early playoff games. Then they had to be sent out embarrassing "Fan Up" placards to beg them to, I dunno, show up on time and act interested at games. Now the drunken taunts of one had the entire Chicago Bulls bench up in arms during Game 3, and their insecure ribbing got to Barkley following the same contest.
Barkley's went inside, though. Via Ethan Skolnick, here's a shot of his seat. And Heat fans will have to busy themselves with other pursuits. Like, perhaps, trivia on the names of any former Miami Heat coaches, not including Pat Riley and "the guy they have now."