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Open Court: Shaq, Barkley & the NBA Panel Kick Off Black History Month With A Sensational Discussion

Updated on February 15, 2013

NBA Discusses Today's 'Blacks' in America With Open Court

The NBA's commentary panel consisting of Shaquille O'neil, Charles Barkley, Kenny 'The-Jet' Smith, Ernie Johnson and others set off Black History month with a sensational and even heated discussion on the African-American community, beginning with the legacy of many basketball pioneers that ever played the game.

The open forum segment was conveniently titled "Open Court" and begun with discussions and memories of triumphant basketball players that set benchmarks in the sport while also setting a legacy for themselves and others to follow.

Ernie Johnson hosted the Open Court special, while going around the panel of phenomenal athletes and getting their take on the way not only the sport of basketball has affected them, but also the way they were affected with relations to race. Charles Barkley and Kenny 'The-Jet' Smith were perhaps the most outspoken and passionate in their dialogue about their experiences, trials and tribulations within the sport. Others like Reggie Miller and Chris Webber piggy-backed on many key points of the two outstanding advocates with their own two cents as well. Shaquille O'neil was perhaps the least outspoken person within the group, as his voice was hardly heard(or understood by many), yet he still gave valuable insight whenever he did voice his opinion.

Some key moments included a topic in which Ernie Johnson brought up about his dad, Ernie Johnson Sr., and his interactions in the sport of baseball. Ernie Jr. gave insight through the remembrance of stories told by his father of the trials and tribulations faced as a player back in the '50s, including a time where the team as a whole left a restaurant because they wouldn't serve blacks, despite the fact that one of those 'blacks' was the legendary Hank Aaron. He expressed how disheartened and 'fed-up' his father was of not being able to be served solely because he and other team members were associating themselves with colored people. Ernie was so passionate about his reminisced story that he became somewhat boisterous and extremely assertive as Charles Barley attempted to interject. "wait a minute Charles....But can I finish my story?...Well, I am just trying to tell my story of what I remember my dad telling me growing up as a player for the Milwaukee Braves and playing with Hank Aaron." Barkley eventually gave Ernie the floor to complete his thoughts on the matter, as it clearly seemed that the stories of old really hit a nerve with Ernie Jr.

Throughout the program, many other topics were in discussion as the panel touched on each and every one with vigilance. Barkley even went as far as to give his take on the problem and solution to the problems of race relations in America, stating that racism still exists today. "...You have racist white people and you have racist black people, ok...." Barkley also stressed, on numerous occasions, the fact that "black people...we have to do better....we really have to do better." This hot topic even reached the thoughts of Shaquille in this particular instance as Shaq stated that he felt that as successful black people, "we have to teach these kids our secrets..." Shaq explained that beyond our charity giving and simply visiting impoverished children, that we(black successful athletes) have to also help them understand the paths to get to such a level of success. He pointed to legends such as Bill Russel and Magic Johnson as inspirations and examples of how it doesn't just stop with the game of basketball.

The Open Court discussions in its entirety, regarding topics surrounding Black History Month, are monumental and legendary, as it has open the doorway for many more 'open' discussions on matters of the heart and matters perceived as the 'elephant that is in the room'. Indeed no-one on the panel felt discouraged to voice their opinion. The topics were very intimate, deliberate and hard hitting as all panelist saw fit, in order to truly address and deal with the real situations that are still being faced in America regarding race relations as it not only ties into the game of basketball, but more importantly, the game of life.

The Open Court Forum original air date for Black History month 2013 aired Feb. 5th and can be seen every Tuesday at 11pm ET, with re-run played at 1am ET. Check local listings and NBA.com/nbatv for further details.

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