NBA on TNT
Current logo, with the new NBA and TNT marks respectively, used since the 2017–18 NBA season
GenreNBA game telecasts
Presented by
Country of originUnited States
Production
Running time150 minutes or until game ends
Production companyTNT Sports
Original release
Network
  • TNT (1989–present)
  • Max (2023–present)
ReleaseNovember 4, 1989 (1989-11-04) –
present (present)

NBA on TNT is an American presentation of National Basketball Association (NBA) games, produced by TNT Sports (formerly known as Turner Sports and later Warner Bros. Discovery Sports). In the United States, the TNT cable network has held the rights to broadcast NBA games since 1989, and its telecasts have been streamed on its Max platform since 2023. TNT's NBA coverage includes the Inside the NBA studio show, weekly doubleheaders throughout the regular season on Tuesdays and Thursdays (the latter of which starts in the winter to avoid clashing with the National Football League's Thursday Night Football), a majority of games during the first two rounds of the playoffs, and one conference finals series.

Coverage

Overview

TNT airs many of the NBA's marquee games, including the NBA All-Star Game, Opening Night games, and games on Martin Luther King Day. During the playoffs, TNT splits its games with ESPN and airs a full Conference Final. During the regular season, TNT airs games on Tuesday nights and Thursday nights. To avoid competition with the NFL's Thursday Night Football, regular season games during the first half of the season air exclusively on Tuesday nights.[1]

The NBA on TNT logo used from 1994 to 2001

In the summer of 1987, the Turner Broadcasting System signed a new joint broadcast contract between TBS and TNT effective with the 1988–89 NBA season; beginning that season, TBS and TNT split broadcast rights to televise NBA games. TNT held rights to broadcast the NBA Draft and most NBA regular season and playoff games, while TBS only aired single games or double-headers once a week.[2][3]

NBA on TNT logo 2005–2008

The 2001–2002 season would ultimately mark TBS's final year of NBA coverage. Turner Sports signed a new NBA television contract in which TNT would assume rights to the company's NBA package, while TBS would discontinue game coverage altogether; ESPN assumed TBS's half of the league's cable television rights. As part of the deal, TNT acquired the rights to the NBA All-Star game, which was moved to a cable television network for the first time.[4]

Variation of previous NBA on TNT logo with glossy finish, 2008 until 2015

In 2008, TNT broadcast on Christmas Day for the first time as Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Craig Sager broadcast the game between the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Quicken Loans Arena and Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller broadcast the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers in Rose Garden. TNT broadcast on Christmas Day again in 2011, when it broadcast the game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the very first game of the 2011–12 season, as a result of a lockout. Albert (himself a former Knicks broadcaster) and Steve Kerr called the game. TNT normally aired NBA Christmas Day games only if it falls on a Thursday (except during the 2011–12 season). However, the network announced that they would air a Christmas Day game on December 25, 2017 (a Monday) featuring the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers. It also marked the first time that the Inside the NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal called an NBA regular-season game together.[5]

On May 11, 2011, Turner Sports (this includes TBS) broadcast its 1,000th playoff telecast.[6]

For the 2015–16 season, the NBA and Turner Sports partnered with NextVR to stream the Warriors vs. Pelicans, the first-ever game to be broadcast live in virtual reality.[7]

The previous NBA on TNT logo, before TNT's network logo change, used until 2016

For the 2016–17 season, TNT announced that it would air a new series of Monday-night doubleheaders during the later half of the season, beginning on January 16, 2017. Monday night games from February 27 to March 27 were branded as Players Only broadcasts, featuring only former NBA players and without a traditional play-by-play announcer. Additionally, TNT announced that it would hold a "Road Show" tour in various cities throughout the season, which would feature fan experiences and festivities, and a live broadcast of Inside the NBA on-location. The tour began in Cleveland outside the Quicken Loans Arena, host of TNT's opening night game featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers.[8][9]

Longtime lead play-by-play voice Marv Albert announced his retirement at the end of the 2021 NBA playoffs. Albert's final assignment with TNT took place in the 2021 Eastern Conference finals.[10] During the course of the 2021–22 NBA season, TNT anointed Kevin Harlan as its new lead play-by-play voice, assigning him to call the 2022 NBA All-Star Game and the Western Conference finals.[11][12]

In the 2023–24 season, the NBA introduced its in-season tournament, with round-robin playdates on Tuesdays and Fridays during November. TNT broadcast Tuesday games during the tournament, followed by the quarterfinal games on December 4 and 5, and one semifinal game on December 7.[13][14] In the semifinal games, both ESPN and TNT collaborated on each other's coverage, with Reggie Miller joining ESPN's broadcast, and Doc Rivers (a former commentator with TNT from 1995 to 1999) joining TNT's broadcast. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon also appeared on Inside the NBA.[14]

Studio coverage

Main article: Inside the NBA

Ernie Johnson has been TNT's NBA studio host since the 1990–1991 season. Currently, Johnson is joined by Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley. The NBA postgame show which features the four, Inside the NBA, has gained popularity in recent years for the chemistry and banter they have. Occasionally, Johnson, O'Neal, Smith and Barkley are joined by Draymond Green.

Normally the studio crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley would stay in the TNT Atlanta studios for all of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, in the 2010-11 NBA season the studio crew started taking their pre-game, halftime and Inside the NBA shows on the road in the regular season, specifically select games involving the Miami Heat on TNT, due to the heightened media coverage surrounding the Heat's acquisitions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The substitute studio hosts will also be on hand for Inside the NBA and the other game's pre-game and halftime presentations; the "backup" crew at the time consisted of Matt Winer, Chris Webber and Kevin McHale.

For the 2019–20 season, TNT announced plans to reformat its Tuesday games. The pre-game and halftime shows will have a larger focus on social media interaction, "culture", and "style", while Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker, Shaquille O'Neal, and Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe will serve as panelists. The new studio panel was originally intended to premiere with a doubleheader on January 28, 2020. However, due to the death of Kobe Bryant the previous Sunday (which led to the postponement of a Clippers-Lakers game scheduled to be televised as part of the doubleheader), the premiere was delayed to February 4, and the remaining game was instead preceded by a special edition of Inside the NBA from Staples Center, covering the aftermath of Bryant's death.[15][16][17] The Tuesday postgame shows initially carried the Inside the NBA brand, but the 2020–21 season saw the program rebrand simply as the NBA on TNT Postgame Show.

Playoff coverage

TNT's playoff coverage is nicknamed 40 Games in 40 Nights. During the first round, TNT airs games from Sunday to Thursday nights, with occasional broadcasts on Saturdays. In the second round, TNT airs playoff games from Sunday to Wednesday nights.

In previous years, TNT and TBS aired doubleheaders opposite each other on each night of the first round of the playoffs, with one network airing a doubleheader at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and the other network airing a doubleheader at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). Starting in 2000, the NBA spread out playoff series so that only two series would play per day (so as to avoid TNT and TBS competing for ratings). TNT would air doubleheaders on most weekdays, while TBS would air one doubleheader per week (in 2002, TBS aired doubleheaders every Tuesday night of the playoffs until the conference finals).

With the advent of the new NBA television deal in 2003 (which ended TBS's coverage), TNT has aired playoff games alone, including (in 2003 only) some weekday tripleheaders. The tripleheaders, which were criticized by both fans and many in the media, consisted of one game at 6:00 p.m., another at 8:30 p.m., and a final game at 11:00 p.m. After 2003, the NBA and TNT discontinued the tripleheaders, instead settling for a doubleheader on TNT and a single game on NBA TV simultaneously. However, when Turner Sports acquired NBA TV in 2008, the network abandoned airing the lone non-national Thursday game, instead leaving it up to the local sports networks. However, TBS may still air the start of the second game in case the ongoing first game on TNT extends beyond the tip-off time of the second game.

TNT also carries exclusive coverage of one NBA Conference Final. Since the 2004 NBA playoffs, TNT has aired the Eastern Conference finals in odd-number years and the Western Conference finals in even-number years, a pattern which will continue until the expiration of its television contract. ESPN airs the other Conference Final, with weekend coverage of the ESPN-covered series and the Finals being broadcast on ABC.

For the first round, TNT's coverage of the playoffs is not exclusive; regional sports networks can still carry a local call and presentation of their team's games. After the first round, only national coverage from TNT or ESPN/ABC is produced.

Canadian coverage

NBA on TNT games are regularly simulcast on the NBA's Canadian TV partners: TSN, Sportsnet, and NBA TV Canada. However, if the Toronto Raptors are featured, then the Canadian broadcast of the game is shown.

Game commentary

Main article: List of NBA on TNT commentators

Mike Fratello, Reggie Miller and Marv Albert, along with TNT production staff, during an NBA on TNT broadcast

The current NBA on TNT commentating roster includes Kevin Harlan, Brian Anderson, Ian Eagle, and Spero Dedes for play-by-play. Harlan and Anderson normally calls Thursday games, while the latter also usually works Tuesday games with Eagle. Dedes usually fills in occasionally for both Tuesday and Thursday games, but mainly call games for TNT during the NBA playoffs.

Reggie Miller is the main color commentator, and is assigned to work Thursday games along with Stan Van Gundy. Jim Jackson and Grant Hill contribute as the main game analysts for Tuesday games.

As of the 2021-22 season, the sideline reporter role is rotated between Allie LaForce, Stephanie Ready, Jared Greenberg, and Chris Haynes. Rebecca Haarlow, Nabil Karim, Dennis Scott, and Matt Winer join the rotation for the NBA playoffs.

Ernie Johnson controls the main studio hosting duties on Thursdays, with Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe serving that role on Tuesdays. Occasionally, whenever Johnson is away for other assignments, most notably March Madness, or personal reasons, Lefkoe or Kevin Frazier will fill in for Johnson, and vice versa for Lefkoe. Studio coverage is usually contributed by Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley on Thursdays, with O'Neal, Candace Parker, and Jamal Crawford contributing on Tuesdays. Parker and Crawford, along with Draymond Green and other analysts will contribute to the studio show at times.

Prior to his death on December 15, 2016, Craig Sager served a variety of roles on TNT, most prominently as a sideline reporter. Sager was usually paired with Cheryl Miller on most doubleheaders from 1997 to 2013.

Before he was hired as head coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2014, Steve Kerr was the primary game analyst on TNT. Kerr served that role from 2003 to 2006, and again from 2010 to 2014; in between he served as general manager of the Phoenix Suns.

Prior to leaving Turner before the 2021 NBA playoffs, Hall of Fame forward Chris Webber had been tapped as a co-lead analyst, and fill-in studio analyst from 2008-2021. Webber and Turner had parted ways without any contract renewal negotiations. A contributing factor may have been the fact that Turner bosses were angered with Webber, after he let them know very late that he wanted to opt out of working the 2021 NCAA tournament, which Turner has shared rights to with CBS Sports. Because of that, Turner and CBS did not have the announcements of its broadcast teams during their press conference to preview the NCAA Tournament like they usually did in years past.

Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade was part of the Tuesday studio team for three seasons beginning in 2019, but left to pursue other business ventures.

Doug Collins used to be the secondary analyst on TNT; he was also the lead analyst in his first stint with the network from 1989 to 1995, pairing with the likes of Bob Neal, Ron Thulin and Pete Van Wieren. In his second stint from 2003 to 2010, he was usually paired with Harlan during the regular season, but was also paired with Albert during the NBA All-Star Game and the Conference finals.

The original voice of the NBA on TNT was Bob Neal, who worked with the network from 1989 to 1995; he was also the original voice of the NBA on TBS. Other announcers who worked for TNT include Rick Barry, Hubie Brown, Dick Stockton, Verne Lundquist, Chuck Daly, Danny Ainge, Reggie Theus, Rex Chapman, John Thompson, Jeff Van Gundy, P. J. Carlesimo, Gary Bender, Matt Devlin, Joel Meyers and Kevin Calabro.

Several prominent NBA analysts have chosen TNT over ABC or ESPN, such as Collins and Charles Barkley (Barkley was not only approached by ABC about an NBA studio job in 2002, but as also rumored to have been approached for a job on Monday Night Football). Reggie Miller was also sought out by ABC and ESPN, only to go to TNT.

The biggest acquisition TNT made, once sought out by ABC and ESPN, was Marv Albert. After the 2002 NBA Finals, Albert, along with Bob Costas, essentially a free agent, was a candidate for the lead spot on The NBA on ABC (which ultimately went to Brad Nessler). As Costas elected to remain with NBC, Albert, hired by TNT in 1999, decided to stay with the network.[18] Some[who?] attributed this to TNT having given Albert his first chance to be on national television after the sex scandal that led to his firing at NBC. Albert and Mike Fratello—both of whom worked as a team in the NBA on NBC's early years—would ultimately reunite on TNT.

Currently, Hubie Brown is the only former TNT announcer working for ESPN/ABC. Brown, whose role on TNT was going to be significantly reduced starting with the 2002–03 season, left in 2002 to coach the Memphis Grizzlies. After two seasons of coaching, he left Memphis in early 2004 (leading to the departure from TNT of lead analyst Mike Fratello, who replaced him in Memphis) and was quickly picked up by ABC. Jeff Van Gundy, who was fired by the Houston Rockets after they lost in the first round, was also a game analyst for TNT, but left and joined ESPN/ABC at the beginning of the Western Conference Finals. Doug Collins, who resigned from TNT to become the Philadelphia 76ers head coach in 2010, joined ESPN after resigning from the 76ers three years later and left ESPN in 2017 to work with the Chicago Bulls. Part-time TNT broadcaster Mike Breen is now the lead broadcaster for ABC and one-time TNT analyst Doc Rivers worked for ABC in 2004. Rivers, alongside ESPN/ABC analyst Doris Burke, joined Breen in the lead commentary team full-time before 2023–24 NBA season, replacing former TNT analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, both of which who were laid off by ESPN in 2023. Meanwhile, Pam Oliver, the then-lead sideline reporter for Fox NFL, joined Turner Sports in 2004 as she would only be on during the NBA playoffs, a role she fulfilled until 2009.

Music

Main article: National Basketball Association music § TNT.2FTBS

TNT's current NBA game theme[19] was written by composer Trevor Rabin.[20] Previous themes for TNT were composed by Edd Kalehoff,[21] Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,[22] Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.[23]

Contract history

Seasons Contract amount[24]
1988–89 to 1989–90 $50 million/2 years
1990–91 to 1993–94 $275 million/4 years
1994–95 to 1997–98 $397 million/4 years
1998–99 to 2001–02 $840 million/4 years
2002–03 to 2007–08 $2.2 billion/6 years
2008–09 to 2015–16 8 years
2016–17 to 2024–25 9 years

The NBA on TNT is the network's longest-running regular program and sporting event, dating back to only a year after TNT's October 3, 1988 launch, with TNT also being the current longest-running NBA coverage partner. On October 6, 2014, Turner Sports and the NBA renewed their television and digital rights agreements through 2025.[25][26]

In media

In the video game NBA 07, made by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 consoles, graphics for TNT's NBA games are seen when playing an exhibition, playoff, preseason, or seasonal game.

A direct copy of TNT's graphics can also be seen on Cartoon Network's weekly basketball program, Run It Back, a program similar to Inside Stuff.

See also

References

  1. ^ "NBA on TNT schedule includes Bulls-Grizzlies and Bucks-Hawks MLK Jr. Day doubleheader, Tuesday fall games, 65 total games". Awful Announcing. 2021-08-20. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Jerry (Jul 16, 1988). "Turner Is Hopeful on New Cable Network". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Turner Is Hopeful on New Cable Network". The Atlanta Journal. September 13, 1988. p. E/1.
  4. ^ "Garnett Outduels Jordan in All-Star Classic". NBA.com. February 9, 2003. Archived from the original on February 18, 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  5. ^ "Inside the NBA crew to call Los Angeles Lakers-Minnesota Timberwolves Christmas game". National Basketball Association. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  6. ^ Fang, Ken (9 May 2011). "TNT To Air Turner Sports' 1,000th NBA Playoff Game on Wednesday". Fang's Bites. Wordpress. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Why Turner is tipping off the NBA Season with NextVR". Fortune.com. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  8. ^ "TNT to Present Expanded 64-Game NBA Regular Season Schedule Featuring New Monday Night Series". Turner. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  9. ^ "NBA Tip-off 2016: Inside the NBA Hits the Road as Part of New 'NBA on TNT Roadshow'". Sports Video Group. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  10. ^ Brassil, Gillian (May 17, 2021). "Marv Albert, Hall of Fame N.B.A. Sportscaster, Is Retiring". New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  11. ^ "'Inside the NBA' crew will do broadcast during All-Star Game". National Basketball Association. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  12. ^ "TNT to Exclusively Present the 2022 NBA Western Conference finals presented by AT&T 5G – Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors – with Game 1 Set for Wednesday, May 18, at 9 p.m. ET". www.wbd.com (Press release). Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. May 16, 2022.
  13. ^ "TNT to Tip Off 2023–24 NBA Regular Season with Blockbuster Opening Night". Warner Bros. Discovery (Press release). August 17, 2023. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  14. ^ a b "TNT Sports to Showcase Inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Rounds with Three Nights of Coverage Next Week Across TNT, truTV & Max". Warner Bros. Discovery (Press release). November 28, 2023. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  15. ^ "TNT to air hour-long pregame show focused on tributes to Kobe Bryant". Awful Announcing. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  16. ^ Steinberg, Brian (2019-11-07). "Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe to Join 'NBA on TNT' Tuesday Coverage". Variety. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  17. ^ "NBA on TNT Tuesday Night: "The best content is formed around chemistry"". Awful Announcing. 2020-01-23. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  18. ^ "USATODAY.com - Albert follows bouncing NBA from NBC to TNT". USA Today. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  19. ^ NBA on TNT Theme Song Extended (Edited) (HQ) on YouTube
  20. ^ "Notes From the Edge - Conversation with Trevor Rabin [NFTE #270]". Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  21. ^ TV Music Museum
  22. ^ NBA on TNT Theme (99-2000) on YouTube
  23. ^ NBA on TNT Theme: "Excellence" on YouTube
  24. ^ "InsideHoops - NBA TV Contracts - NBA Television Contracts". Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  25. ^ "NBA extends partnership with Turner Broadcasting, Disney" (Press release). National Basketball Association. October 6, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  26. ^ "Turner Broadcasting and the National Basketball Association Reach Nine-Year Media Rights Extension" (Press release). Turner Sports. October 6, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2015.