Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal joined former president Barack Obama on an NBC special Sunday night to encourage Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines.
The former NBA players — who have remained highly visible through their roles as analysts for “Inside the NBA” on TNT — exchanged humorous barbs and briefly spoke with O’Neal’s mother before Obama joined them.
“So I’m playing Kenny the Jet,” Obama joked when he joined the duo, in reference to Kenny Smith, who is an analyst alongside Barkley and O’Neal on “Inside the NBA.”
There was also joking about Barkley’s infamous golf game.
“Has this improved your golf game, brother?” Obama asked regarding Barkley’s time in quarantine.
“I’m playing great right now. I’m almost back to normal,” Barkley replied.
Cracked O’Neal: “Chuck, you know it’s a federal offense to lie to the president.”
They soon settled down to business of encouraging people to get the vaccine.
“I appreciate you guys doing this. Part of our goal here is to make sure that everybody who’s been going through so much in COVID understands the need and the urgency of our communities getting vaccinated,” Obama said.
“Now, as the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones — African American, Latino — as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal,” Obama added. “The sooner we get more people vaccinated the better off we’re going to be.”
Barkley said he’s on the verge of getting his second vaccine shot, and O’Neal said he’s been vaccinated, along with family members with underlying conditions.
“But I’m not worried about me or my family. I’m worried about the average mom and dad,” O’Neal said.
“I think it’s important for us to keep talking about the vaccine,” Barkley said. Barkley also said he’s encouraged his friends to get the vaccine and to not worry about past medical transgressions against the Black community — such as the Tuskegee Experiment, which Obama discussed in greater depth later in the segment.
Obama said underlying health conditions are particularly prevalent in minority communities, making them especially susceptible to the coronavirus, and said new COVID-19 variants are impacting young people in greater ways than seen previously.
“Part of the reason to get vaccinated is because it makes everybody safer,” Obama said.