Charles Barkley announces he will retire from broadcasting after 2024-25 season

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 06: TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley on air before the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the North Carolina State Wolfpack at State Farm Stadium on April 06, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Charles Barkley isn't going to cover basketball anywhere but TNT. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Longtime TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley dropped a stunning announcement after Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, revealing that he plans to retire from television after the 2024-25 NBA season.

Barkley made the announcement with little warning and plenty of emotion, explaining that he has discussed leaving TNT for other networks due to Warner Bros. Discovery's likely loss of NBA rights after next year, but ultimately decided he was ready to give up the microphone after one last season.

Barkley's explanation:

"There's been a lot of noise around our network the last few months. I just want to say, I talked to all the other networks, but I ain't going nowhere other than TNT. But I have made the decision myself, no matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television.

"I just want to say thank you to my NBA family. You guys have been great to me, my heart is full with joy and gratitude, but I'm going to pass the baton at the end of next year. I hope the NBA stays with TNT ... I'm not going to another network, but I'm going to pass the baton to Jamal Crawford or Vince Carter or you Steve [Smith], but next year, I'm just going to retire after 25 years."

TNT issued a response the next morning, saying it was still planning to discuss the future with Barkley.

"Charles is a Hall of Famer and broadcasting icon who is and will always be a beloved member of the TNT Sports Family.

"We're looking forward to another fantastic "NBA on TNT" season and further discussion of our future plans with him."

It's probably worth noting this Barkley has flirted with retirement multiple times over the past several years, but circumstances are very different this time around.

Next season was already set to be the end of an era at TNT, with the network still on the verge of losing its NBA package to NBC. TNT could still theoretically try to match NBC's bid or negotiate a smaller deal with the league, but there have been indications from WBD head David Zaslav that the network will instead pursue cheaper deals in other sports, such as college football and tennis.

Barkley has been unhappy with the entire process and has made his displeasure known, describing his company's leaders as "clowns" and decrying what the change will mean for his "Inside the NBA" show. He reportedly had the right to opt out of his deal with TNT should the network lose its NBA rights and has gone as far as suggesting his production company could take over "Inside the NBA."

Instead, he has decided to retire, ending a broadcasting career that has earned him just as many, if not more, fans than his Hall of Fame playing career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.

Barkley's career at TNT goes back to 2000, the season after he retired as a player. His run as a broadcaster included four Sports Emmys and no shortage of appearances elsewhere, most notably with his ill-fated "King Charles" show on CNN alongside Gayle King.

In the constantly shifting landscape of sports media, Barkley is a unique figure. Above all, he is known for his blunt honesty. If a player plays badly, he says he played badly. If he doesn't like a coach's decision, he says he didn't like the decision. If he is bothered by current events, he speaks out. There is no massaging of the truth, no attempt to save egos.

Sometimes that bluntness got Barkley in trouble, but it often made him one of the most entertaining personalities on television, further elevated by the chemistry with "Inside the NBA" co-hosts Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal. The quartet often created a feeling you were just watching four knowledgable friends trading jokes about basketball (and each other), and they were beloved as a result.

Barkley said he wants to pass the baton, but there's no way a person can replicate what he does on television. There may be someone out there who can draw in the amount of viewers Barkley attracted in some other way, but there is only one Charles Barkley.

On the bright side, he could soon have more time to further improve his golf game.