Jim O'Donnell: Charles Barkley to CNN? Please hold all pundits

  • Charles Barkley arrives for the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Mass., in 2022. Jim O'Donnell says CNN's audience numbers have been dropping. Is it possible they'd add Barkley to boost ratings?

    Charles Barkley arrives for the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Mass., in 2022. Jim O'Donnell says CNN's audience numbers have been dropping. Is it possible they'd add Barkley to boost ratings? Associated Press

Updated 2/25/2023 11:57 PM

ON THE SEA OF VACUITY that passes for much of contemporary sports media, give Charles Barkley credit:

The Round Mound remains "box office."


That's why credible reports that Barkley is in talks to emerge as some kind of prime time presence on CNN are guaranteed to engage.

Or enrage -- at least those grist-challenged Alexa dependents who still think of the droopy cable outlet as some kind of Last Chance Salon for serious TV journalism.

CNN isn't. Outlet windmills spend 90 percent of their professional existences talking while waiting for the next election week or The Next Big Thing on the American newscape.

The network is also notorious for putting too many people on live panels. That assures the most aggressive are heard and the more selectively nuanced get lost in the yammering stampede.

IF CABALLERO DON LEMON can degrade modern women everywhere -- as he recently did with his slap at White House hopeful Nikki Haley ("isn't in her prime" -- Barkley could wind up looking like a more hip-hoppy Edward R. Murrow.

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The full background is that CNN audience numbers have been dropping. Fresh CEO Chris Licht wants to flip that -- by whatever means necessary.

Barkley would mean necessary. His Turner/NBA deal -- for a reported 10-years, $145M -- is under the charge of the sports division of Warner Bros. Discovery, the media conglomerate that also owns CNN.

Licht values Barkley. His dream team would reportedly be Sir Charles and Gayle King.

Barkley has acknowledged that there have been conversations. He has also said that he doesn't want to do a nightly show.

Of the stagnancy at CNN, he also scored a direct hit with: "Obviously I just want to help (Warner Bros.) because it's a (expletive) show right now."

WBD'S CURRENT CONTRACT with the NBA ends in 2025.

A whole lot of sea leaves are lining up.

Barkley to CNN and next thing you know, there could be an actor in the White House.



ILLINOIS AND NORTHWESTERN played a tremendously entertaining game on the Big Ten Network Thursday night.

NU, behind Boo Buie's 22 points, led 37-19 at the half. The one-man show finished with a career-high 35 and ran out of gas in the contest's final eight minutes.

Terrence Shannon Jr. came out of concussion protocol and off the bench to score 26 of his 28 in the final 20 minutes. His host Illini won, 66-62.

Moaning after:

• Both teams are going to have to catch some breaks to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Northwestern is too thin. Illinois is subject to all of the annual tensions and diminishments that go with playing for Brad Underwood in March;

• Chris Collins is being far too self-limiting if he isn't getting daily updates on his market value away from Evanston. At age 48, his window for winning big with a more facile D-I program is closing. If he opts for more work-life balance on the North Shore, he risks hitting the dreaded wall when class and above-median integrity isn't enough on the Enchanted Lakefront;

• The quick and assertive Buie could be an exciting fresh prince at PG for the Bulls. And a swift wipe-away from prissy self-pampering of Lonzo Ball.


From that musky crate marked "Reframing Futility," WMVP-AM (1000) plans to roll out its magic-free carpet this week to mark new status as flagship station of the Bears. That's like a Family Video store billboarding a new Ashton Kutcher release. (Hopefully David "Chatty" Kaplan will be on a word count.) ...

Looming Q. for Mayor Tom Hayes and associates at the village hall in Arlington Heights: Is the municipality ever going to commission an independent, credible measurement regarding how many of its taxpayers want any public money or tax concessions to go toward a new Bears stadium? (The over / under is 22½ percent.) ...

In lock-skate with the faltering franchise, Blackhawks telecasts have devolved into puck rot. Does NBCSCH's Kevin Cross and staff ever review director decisions? And rushing Chris Vosters and Colby Cohen into major-market NHL TV is a disservice to both. ...

CW-26 ("The U") will be live Monday night when Michigan-bound Katy Eidle and streaking Hersey tipoff vs Ava Blagojevich and Maine South in the Fremd supersectional (7 p.m.) Eidle and mates including Natalie Alesia and Kate Donovan are waking up Sweet 16 echoes of Dave Corzine and Clyde Glass. ...

No surprise, Turner's presentation of the 2023 NBA All-Star Game drew less than 5M viewers, the event's lowest audience ever. "Sky Cave" video from Aaron Rodgers' darkness retreat probably would have attracted more eyeballs. ...

And Dan Varol, on a more theatrical way for MLB to introduce its new "pitch clock": "As soon as the ball is back on the mound, start playing the theme from 'Final Jeopardy!'"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com. All communications may be considered for publication.

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