Just six weeks into his retirement, Shaquille O'Neal has agreed to a multi-year deal with TNT to be a member of Inside the NBA. He'll join Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and
Kenny Anderson Ernie Johnson in the cavernous studio next season, and because he is very weird — and as long as he doesn't encroach on any of the overly-established repartee — he should be a very good fit for the show.
Shaq's challenge, though, will be to develop his shtick and fit in a word on a broadcast that is known for repetitive, mildly-entertaining banter. Barkley, Smith, and Anderson have largely succeeded in their roles for TNT because they each take themselves, and the sport that they cover, just seriously enough. Their eagerness to make fun of one another — combined with the network's willingness to let them say whatever the hell they want — makes for a show that feels more like three or four guys passing the time on a high school lunch break together than on a nationally-broadcast show. We wouldn't be shocked if there's a "tell me how my ass tastes" reference within Shaq's first five minutes on air.
And Shaq's strength as a commentator, if we're going to reach for it, might just be that he is very weird. If men like Buck and McCarver have taught us anything, it is that we prefer voices with actual human characteristics in the studio, and that includes flaws. With Shaq, we'll have one of the first commentators who may actually be more eccentric than Chuck, and he was probably hired for that very reason. We're guessing his Tout video collection (including classics such as "Camoflodged in google") was the deal-breaker.