Ten days after his son’s death and a week after his studio mates paid tribute in his absence, Ernie Johnson returned to the “NBA on TNT” set on Tuesday.
Johnson’s son Michael Johnson died on October 29 at the age of 33 after a lifelong battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal shared their memories of Michael on last week’s broadcast and welcomed Johnson back to the studio on Tuesday ahead of TNT’s broadcast of a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
Johnson opened the broadcast, thanking his Turner teammates and his audience for their support.
“It’s been 10 tough days,” Johnson said. “I listened to whatever you guys said last week. Kenny, you said it’s time I leaned on you, and my family did just that — leaning on Turner’s family, friends, or faith. Because we lost our son Michael on October 29.
“To all of you out there,” Johnson continued, looking into the camera “let me thank you for all the texts, the phone calls, to all of you who have been using social media in the kindest and most compassionate way possible. It’s just overwhelming for our family. So thank you so much for that.”
Johnson then quickly switched to NBA reporting as he stated, “It’s good to come back here and spend the nights hooping with you guys.”
And that’s exactly what they did, diving in discussions about Ben Simmons and the story of the day in the NBA — the simmering beef between the Morris twins and the Jokic brothers.
Less than two weeks after a family tragedy, Johnson felt right at home in his old chair running the show and sparring with his old studio mates.