What Can Businesses Learn From Inside the NBA?

While the Phoenix Suns have been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, most games are still must-see TV for me thanks to Inside the NBA.

Considered by many as the most dynamic, ever-fresh, entertaining sports television show for decades, it succeeds for a number of reasons, each of which brand leadership in most industries should take note of and try to emulate in their own organization.

Here is how:

  • Be authentic: Above all else, hosts Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal are empowered to be their honest, real-life selves on every broadcast, which is the biggest reason the show succeeds. They make space for each other’s quirks, charisma, and egos without forcing fake niceties or scripted conversations.
  • Listen to each other: Chemistry does not happen in a vacuum, and it never happens if each member of a team is just waiting for his/her/their chance to talk. Every member of a team is smart to listen to each other, as much to play off of each other and genuinely connect as to be a thoughtful human. At Inside the NBA, the behind-the-scenes team does not just produce a show and expect the hosts to be talking heads. They listen, react, and then find ways to enhance what is happening in the moment. Same with the on-air hosts. There is not a night when Chuck doesn’t rib Shaq or Kenny, and not a night when Ernie can’t stop himself from laughing to whatever hijinks are happening on set, as well as to whatever he already knows the talented production staff has coming for the other guys.
  • Be prepared: Of course, listening is only part of the equation. There is no way to act or react in the moment if not prepared. Everyone on the team needs to do their homework, and work toward being on their A-game at all times.
  • Use technology where it makes sense: Just because we are living in the most digitized, automated time in history does not mean we have to use it as a crutch. Inside the NBA certainly incorporates technology – Kenny’s Big Board, Gone Fishin’ Memes, and Tweets of the Night come to mind – but in a way that makes sense for the hosts, who range in age from 51 to 66.
  • Create a vibe: In 2022, Inside the NBA unveiled a new set with more bells and whistles than every ref in the NBA combined. The set was made to make its hosts and staff comfortable (the hosts range in height from 6’1’’ to 7’1), put everything they need at their fingertips, and to wow audiences at home. They have invested so well and thoughtfully versus designing it this way that perhaps they wanted or envisioned themselves that the set is its own character on the show many nights.
  • Appreciate each other: Yes, there is a lot of ribbing and pranks on the show, but one would be hard-pressed to find a night when one or more of the fellas does not thank the production crew – often by name – or each other in a meaningful way.
  • Invest in the team: When googling Inside the NBA, there will likely be stories that come up about the on-air team’s salaries. And yes, they are high. And yes, they deserve it. Have a super star core team? Do what it takes to keep them together. They are worth it. To give perspective, Ernie has been with the show since 1990, Kenny “The Jet” since 1998, and Chuck since 2000. This means the core three (Shaq was still playing in the NBA until 2011; he joined months after retiring so is the newbie at 12 years on board) have stayed together 23 years!
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at May 19, 2023

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