Ernie Johnson got a nice surprise while working “The Match” on Thursday night.
It came from a longtime friend and broadcast partner.
Charles Barkley paused coverage of the golfing exhibition to inform Johnson that he had been elected to the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Barkley said while making the announcement he was the only person on set aware of the news. Johnson certainly didn’t see it coming.
“This is big,” Barkley said. “I’m the only person up here that knows this. I want to be the first person — it’s an honor and a privilege to congratulate Ernie Johnson going into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.”
Johnson, rarely speechless, gathered himself for a moment after hearing the news.
“Get out of here,” he responded. “Chuckster, what are you talking about?”
Johnson then joked he was taking the rest of the day off while thanking Barkley and the voters who elected him.
“It means the world to me,” Johnson continued. “I’ve been at this for 34 years at the same place, over 40 years in broadcasting. I’m stunned.”
It was a touching moment and a well-deserved honor for one of the best-liked and most-respected professionals in sports media. Johnson has helmed the “Inside the NBA” desk since 1989. He’s spent most of that time working alongside Barkley as well as Kenny Smith and more recently Shaquille O’Neal. The show is beloved by its fans and has earned countless awards and recognitions, including 17 Sports Emmys, with Johnson at the center of it all.
It’s frankly surprising that Johnson, 66, wasn’t inducted a long time ago. Now he joins Barkley, who was inducted to the Hall in 2021. Marv Albert, Chris Berman, Joe Buck and John Madden are also among the inductees.
Smith and O’Neal are not. Not yet, at least — a fact that Barkley will surely be glad to hold over his set mates at the next on-air opportunity. In the meantime, congratulations to EJ.