Any regular viewer of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” knows the show is usually filled with laughs, stats and commentary, as ringleader Ernie Johnson attempts to keep order among commentators Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Johnson was not on the show Tuesday night this week (as of this writing)…taking time off after the loss of his son Michael.
Michael Johnson passed at the young age of 33. He was born with a progressive form of muscular dystrophy that caused respiratory issues and required the use of a ventilator. He was one of four adopted children of Ernie Johnson and his wife, Cheryl, who have six children in total.
Tuesday night, the TNT crew offered their thoughts on their fellow broadcaster and his family. The outpouring of well wishes for Johnson and his family has shown that there may not be a more beloved person in sports media.
Tuesday night’s edition of Inside the NBA opened with a powerful 2019 video of Ernie talking about him and his wife, Cheryl Ann, adopting Michael, along with their relationship and their belief that there is value in every person.
On the set of the show, Johnson’s center seat was empty. The rest of the on-air crew offered thoughtful, raw and genuine words about Ernie and Michael.
Shaq: “To see a great man like this hurt, it just makes all of us hurt. Ernie, you know I love you. You know we love you. Condolences to you and your family. You know whatever you need from us, you know I’m gonna be there the rest of my life. Thank you for always being nice to me, thank you for allowing me to meet your family and hang out with your family. I know you’re hurting. Take your time coming back.”
Kenny Smith: “I always say this is a gift and a curse of us becoming brothers. When you spend 20 years with Shaq and Charles and Ernie, you’re part of every moment in their life. When Ernie wins his first Emmy, we’re there. When he has his first grandchild, we’re there. … We’re there at all the great moments. That’s the gift. But then the curse is, when you love someone and you’re part of this, you’re part of these moments. … Ernie is usually the person we lean on. So, Ernie, this is the first time you need to lean on us.“
Barkley: “I tell people, Ernie is the best dude in the world. But I wanna give Cheryl her flowers, too. She made the final decision. We do know Ernie’s a house-husband. She makes all the final decisions. To give that young man a wonderful life, I’m just proud to say I work with Ernie Johnson and Cheryl Johnson. It’s just a privilege. We’re all hurting right now because The Godfather is hurting. It just sucks. Plain and simple. But we love The Godfather and Cheryl Ann. You just gotta hang in there.”
Ernie responded to the love shown by his brothers after the segment via Twitter.