The above image, featuring “C-Webb’s Keys to the Game” for last night’s Heat-Hawks game, has been making the rounds today, and with good reason. Most “Keys to the Game” double as vapid statements (Play Your Game) or are statistical platitudes (Win the Rebounding Battle) with no explanation as to why they’re key this game and not every game. It was also more accurate than most of its ilk. Ten and two against the Hawks since LeBron came aboard, the Heat were pretty assured of a win as long as LeBron James managed to make it to the arena. “Keys to the Game” continue to exist solely so that some analysts can look smart breaking down the game.
C-Webb’s sassiness up a larger point: why isn’t Chris Webber a permanent studio analyst, or a lead color commentator for a national or local network? His current role—he is a studio analyst for the Tuesday night “Fan Night” game on NBA TV (only in about 60% as many homes as TNT)—basically has him on the Turner Sports B-Team.
When TNT hired Shaq, some were worried that the network would kick Webber to the curb. While that didn’t happen, it does seem like the big fellow is bumbling about in a role that Webber would thrive in. Indeed, Webber did great Inside the NBA work in 2009 when he temporarily replaced Charles Barkley in light of Chuck’s DUI arrest.
I say, with no exaggeration, that Webber is one of the finest NBA analysts working today, whether working a game or sitting in the studio. He would slot home perfectly as a local analyst—he could credibly cover the Wizards, Kings, Warriors or 76ers—an ideal proposition for the greedy fan (me) that would like to hear him broadcast 82 times a year.
Travelling and broadcasting so much probably isn’t ideal for Webber, who is working on an autobiography and runs an investment company that focuses on a variety of projects. Too much time commitment. Through working with NBA TV (a Turner property, just like TNT) he is already committed to working one day a week, so why not promote him to the A-Team on TNT’s Thursday night basketball lineup?
The obvious spot for Webber is on TNT’s second announcing team, paired with Kevin Harlan. Currently occupying that spot is Reggie Miller, whose announcing ability is tidily summed up by the results of googling “Reggie Miller announcer”. His voice is also very annoying, though I admit that is probably just personal preference. There’s literally no reason for TNT not to do this.
The other spot where I think Webber would shine, and I realize I’m risking heresy here, is as either a full-time replacement for Shaq on Inside the NBA, or even as a replacement for Kenny Smith or Charles Barkley. Inside the NBA is still the pre-eminent NBA studio show, but considering that there’s only like four NBA studio shows, that isn’t exactly an honor I would hang my hat on. More importantly, the introduction of Shaq to Inside has been a failure. He is markedly better than he was last year, and perhaps in a few years he might even grow into a good analyst, but he isn’t there yet, and Webber is phenomenal right now. Beyond the Shaq problem though, I feel that Inside has gotten a bit stale.
Ernie Johnson has been hosting TNT’s studio show since it debuted in 1988, and Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley have been with the network since 1998 and 2000 respectively. Recently, Chuck’s overbearing, ignorant and out-of-touch criticisms of Dwight Howard have been grating, and whether because of Shaq’s presence or some other reason, Kenny Smith doesn’t seem as engaged with and vital to the show as he used to. Getting rid of Shaq is the obvious change, but perhaps other parts of the show need to be rethought as well. Whatever problems it does or does not have, Chris Webber is a solution to them all.
Tomorrow night, when you watch Bulls-Nuggets and throw your remote at the TV because of Reggie Miller’s banality or Shaq advocating that Joakim Noah sit in the lane for ten seconds, remember that you could be listening to Chris Webber instead.