Nightly, this time of year, as the NBA playoffs rage on, both in packed arenas across the U.S. and on flickering television screens in millions of American homes, there are few constants, and few steady mainstays, amid the whirlwind of twists, turns, excitement and energy that come with every broadcast of pro basketball’s postseason.
One of those mainstays usually wears a bowtie — and there are plenty of stories to be told from behind it.
The instantly recognizable Ernie Johnson, the veteran anchor of Inside the NBA on TNT, who is often caught between the raucous antics of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith during their Emmy-winning halftime and post-game shows, is set to speak in Midland this August as part of the annual summer fundraiser for Centers for Children and Families.
An Evening with Ernie Johnson is scheduled for Aug. 16 at the Midland County Horseshoe Pavilion, and tables, individual tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available for a night featuring Johnson’s keynote, dinner, entertainment, live and silent auctions and more.
The organization’s series of “An Evening with…” events have run annually for well over a decade, with various sports personalities often making their way to the Permian Basin to speak, like Kurt Warner and Archie Manning, before Demarcus Ware last year.
Johnson is a bit different from those, in that he covers the action instead of bounding in the middle of it, but once his name came across organizers’ desks, event chairman Leslie Whitehead said she found Johnson to be a perfect match for Centers and its mission.
Johnson and his wife have six children, four of them adopted and one with special needs, making his experiences especially valuable to Centers, which offers counseling, education and support programs to families throughout the Permian Basin and further.
The event raises money for Centers and its services.
“I feel like he couldn’t have been a better fit,” Whitehead said of Johnson. “He’s going to resonate with a lot of people, which I’m excited about.
“Once you see his picture, you go, ‘Oh, I know that guy,’” she added with a laugh.
Johnson is also a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“We felt like he would really resonate with many different populations in this area, between foster parents, and adoptive parents, and special needs parents, and cancer survivors — and then, just sports fans, who just like to watch the NBA or like to watch basketball and think he’s funny,” Whitehead said.
Johnson has won three Sports Emmys as an individual. He’s a central figure for Turner Sports, working play-by-play for TBS’s baseball coverage and previously serving on TNT’s PGA golf broadcasts, but he’s likely best known as the grounding force on Inside the NBA, steering the show as Shaq, Barkley and Smith bounce around him with prop fishing rods and the in-studio hoop.
Johnson’s 2017 memoir, Unscripted, recounts his experiences battling cancer and raising a family with adopted children.
“With Centers, with our post-adoption, and all the programs we have that focus on family — we have parenting classes — we have so many different things that that really resonates with,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead said Centers’ fundraising event is as important as ever this year, after the organization opened a new building on Andrews Highway in Midland, and with that has come more visibility, and an increased caseload and an increase in referrals.
Those interested in the event can buy tickets or tables at CentersTX.org.
- What: An Evening with Ernie Johnson, benefitting Centers for Children and Families
- When: 7 p.m. August 16
- Where: Midland County Horseshoe Pavilion
- Tickets: CentersTX.org.