When Chris Webber gets impassioned about a subject on television, his eyes widen, his brows arch and he rises high in his chair. "If you challenge him on something, you'll get the full six-foot-10," says Turner Sports host Ernie Johnson, who works with Webber and Greg Anthony on NBA TV's Fan Night, on Tuesdays. "Chris has something to say, and he's not afraid to say it."
This is Webber's fourth year with Turner Sports—he appears weekly on NBA TV and serves as a game analyst with Dick Stockton for TNT on selected dates—and while Webber doesn't have the outsized personality of Charles Barkley, he's improved yearly to become one of the most interesting voices in pro basketball. Johnson says Webber has a unique ability to communicate an informed opinion in a manner NBA fans can relate to, and he's particularly good when he gets worked up about something, as he did recently when the Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni. "Ask the guys in New York; they played better when he left," Webber said. "I don't think this is about Phil Jackson; I think this is like, How the heck did he [D'Antoni] get this job?"
When Webber joined Turner in 2008 after a well-chronicled NBA and college career, "he was not fully vested in being a professional television analyst," according to one longtime Turner Sports executive. Webber disputes that characterization ("If anything, I'd say I've allowed people to better know me and to see the process of how I work, which builds trust"), but there's no arguing that Turner now considers him a budding star. He recently signed with the network for three more years and will fill in for Barkley on Inside the NBA when the Chuckster calls games on Nov. 29 and Dec. 13.
In addition to his broadcasting duties, Webber recently formed a production company that will develop documentaries focusing on African-American history. He's also working on a book and film about his life. The working (but highly unlikely final) title: The Black Forrest Gump.
While Webber enjoys the "barbershop" style of studio shows, he says his long-term goal is to work more games as an analyst. "I love to smell the sweat inside the arena," Webber says. "I don't care if it's a blowout or a close game; it's just a blessing to be around basketball."
THEY SAID IT
"I want to be my usual painstaking, cautious, slow, conservative self in analyzing it."
BUD SELIG, baseball commissioner, on the Marlins' controversial trade of stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays for a package of prospects.
BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS (SELIG)
JEREMY FREEMAN/¬© 2012 NBA TV (WEBBER)