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Barkley Has Double Vision

June 06, 2002|LARRY STEWART

Things weren't looking good for NBC early on. After the Lakers made nine straight baskets to take a 25-10 lead, one NBC executive, watching the game in a production trailer at Staples Center, quipped, "This is not the way we drew it up."

As the Lakers continued to dominate the first half, it was apparent that something was needed to save the show. Until the New Jersey Nets came back to make things interesting for a while in second half, that something was an entertaining halftime show--starring none other than Charles Barkley.

Barkley must have gotten Los Angeles viewers' attention when he proclaimed the Nets, who were down by 12 at the time, were going to win the series in seven games.

He was part of an all-star cast. NBC's Bob Costas and Tom Tolbert were joined by Barkley and TNT partners Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.

Barkley, Johnson and Smith were on hand to do a one-hour pregame special for their network, a show that also included special guest analyst and new Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

About a week and a half ago, the NBC brass and the TNT brass decided it might be a kick if they pooled their resources for a special halftime show.

Dick Ebersol, NBC Sports chairman, also decided the plan should be kept a secret.

The first hint of what was up came near the end of the first half.

"You never know who might show up at a Laker game," Costas informed viewers.

Suddenly there were Barkley, Johnson and Smith on NBC.

Barkley said the Nets had "that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look."

Johnson said the Lakers had taken their own crowd out of the game by taking the big early lead.

Smith talked about how the Nets needed to go to a pick-and-roll to get Shaquille O'Neal away from the basket.

Said Bill Walton to Marv Albert, "I can't believe that group. Are there enough microphones? Is there enough time? Who's in charge up there?"

When the halftime show began and Barkley announced he was picking the Nets, Costas said to Ernie Johnson, the host of TNT's "Inside the NBA":

"Ernie, this is the kind of thing you deal with on a regular basis.

"In the paper Charles picks the Lakers in seven. On the air tonight before the game, he picks the Nets in seven."

Johnson: "The best way to describe his prognostication ability, he just wants to cover every base. In fact in the first half of this game, he flip-flopped five times and in fact once went back and picked Sacramento to win this series. It was stunning."

Barkley: "I picked the Lakers in seven games. After going over some more research this afternoon, I changed my pick before the game. I like New Jersey to win the series.

"I said Keith Van Horn was gonna be a star. He played terrible. New Jersey is all right. They came out real nervous like we did [with Phoenix] in '93 in the finals. They've never been in this situation before. This Lakers' team is not as good as that Bulls' team. I still like New Jersey to win."

Barkley said he'll stick with that pick.

Costas, referring to the TNT guys switching networks, wrapped up the halftime show by saying, "Later this week I'll be doing a poetry reading on C-SPAN. You won't want to miss it."


On the TNT pregame show, Magic Johnson talked about how great it was being named to the Basketball Hall of Fame but expressed sadness over teammate James Worthy not making it.

"It is a sad day in terms of that...." he said. "He always came and did his job ... and did it on such a high level."


NBA Commissioner David Stern, who appeared on the TNT show, had this to say about Ralph Nader saying that the NBA should review the officiating in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals:

"I think it is fair to respond in two ways. No. 1, we monitor every game more than you know. We work with our officials and by and large they have a tough job and they are exceptionally good. Ralph Nader notwithstanding ... we have the best officials in sports.

"No. 2, I am glad that he is finished with the presidency and moved himself up."

Barkley chimed in with this about Nader: "He is an idiot."

Stern: "A little respect please."

Stern on the issue of whether or not the NBA is going to have instant replay next year: "Yes. It is up to the owners, but if you ask me, yes. I can't take it anymore."

Said Barkley: "You're the boss aren't you? I thought the only vote that mattered was the boss'."

Leave it to Barkley to sum up things perfectly.

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