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Original Issue

Q&A Ernie Johnson

The host of TNT's Inside the NBA, 50, returned to work last week after treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

SI: You've had six rounds of chemotherapy. What's next?

Johnson: I am in remission, and chemo is over.

SI: You were diagnosed on your 21st wedding anniversary—August 21, 2003—but you didn't tell your coworkers you were sick until the swelling on your neck became noticeable.

Johnson: Last November I started getting self-conscious. It really hit home when I was on with Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley], and I could see their eyes go somewhere. I'd be thinking, Are they looking at this?

SI: People say that on the show you're a traffic cop. Agree?

Johnson: That's an insult to traffic cops. Those guys don't want people to get rear-ended or broadsided at an intersection. In my job I like to wave Kenny (right, with Johnson) right into Charles and have a fender bender.

SI: How good would the show be if Charles didn't have to work under FCC guidelines?

Johnson: I don't know how much different it would be.

SI: Is there someone you have always wanted on the show?

Johnson: It would be fun to get Michael Jordan, because of his relationship with Charles. Perhaps Michael has seen the show—and that's why he has politely declined.

SI: The Inside the NBA crew put together a tape of NBA stars welcoming you back. In honor of your new bald pate, Kobe Bryant said, "Welcome to the land of the brothers." That must be particularly nice given that Charles has frequently called you the whitest man in America.

Johnson: And the token white guy. It's like Charles always says to me, "Ernie, the only reason you're here is because you're the white guy."

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