SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley are part of maybe the most entertaining broadcast crew in any sport in Inside the NBA on TNT. They, along with Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson will be on the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows during All-Star Weekend.
Shaq and Barkley were both here 30 years ago, as All-Star Game players for the Western Conference at the Delta Center, and they’re excited to have the game back in Salt Lake City.
“It’s a great city,” said Barkley, a 11-time NBA All-Star. “I’ve been coming here for a long time. Great fans, always had a great team, so it’s a really wonderful city. The fans are great. They definitely love their team.”
“This has always been a great city, and it’s going to be a great event,” O’Neal said.
As for playing in the All-Star Game here back in 1993, Barkley says it’s a little fuzzy.
“I don’t remember much about it to be honest with you,” he said. “30 years ago? I don’t remember what I did two weeks ago.”
Shaq remembers since it was his very first All-Star Game.
“I remember they froze me out,” he said. “But that’s just some things you have to go through as a rookie.”
“Shaq always thinks he’s frozen out, just for the record,” Barkley countered. “He’s a ball hog. If he doesn’t get the ball every time up and down the court, he thinks he’s being frozen out.”
“Chuck, you’re a liar!” Shaq yelled across the room.
So what has changed since ’93 All-Star Game?
“The only thing that’s changed is I feel sorry for the fans who want to see a real dunk contest,” O’Neal said. “I can remember growing up and you’ve got legends in the dunk contest.”
As for the Jazz lone All-Star, Lauri Markkanen, both both say it is well deserved.
“He has the skills, and right now he’s like a baby Dirk Nowitzki,” Shaq said. “He went overseas, and I don’t know who talked to him, but whoever talked to him, he’s playing like an animal right now.”
“He’s been fabulous,” added Barkley. “I thought he was going to be a perennial all-star. I’m trying to figure out why he keeps getting traded.”
With Markkanen leading the way, Barkley likes what the future holds for the Jazz.
“Y’all got a 102 draft picks,” Barkley said with a laugh, referring to Utah’s 15 first round picks through 2029. “So you’ve just got to hit on your draft picks.
“You put two or three guys around Mr. Markkanen, and I think the future is very bright,” O’Neal said.