TNT’s award-winning broadcasting crew is made up of plenty of basketball legends. There’s Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Jamal Crawford and Candace Parker to name a few. “Inside The NBA” is one of the most successful shows in sports television, boasting seventeen Sports Emmy awards since its inception in 1989. But this success wouldn’t be possible without one of the fundamental women behind it all – Tara August.
“You know what you mean to all of us, and how you’ve taken care of us for many years. We love you,” said “Inside the NBA” host Ernie Johnson to August during the All-Star 2023.
August is the former Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and Special Projects at Warner Bros. Discovery Sports (formerly Turner Sports). In January, she announced that she would be leaving her post after 18 years – with her last day being the 2023 All-Star Game.
“To say it is a huge wave of emotion is an understatement,” August said.
“This is one of those moments in your life when you think about challenging yourself, and say ‘should I do something else?’ Being afraid of it is not a reason to not do it. I have this window to challenge myself and step out on faith, but really absorb, acknowledge and appreciate the 18 years of incredible moments and relationships here.”
To sum up what August has meant to Warner Bros. Discovery Sports: “The World,” Barkley told August during the All-Star Game.
“You never know what kind of impact you have on people until they tell you,” August said. “When I announced I was leaving, one colleague of mine reached out saying, ‘I know that can’t be true, because if you’re leaving, how could any of us keep working?’ It was incredibly kind.”
August’s love of sports began as a kid in San Diego. Growing up, she remembers always being at the baseball field with her younger brother at his Little League practices and traveling for his games.
“I realized early I could make a career out of working in sports, and marry a job with what I loved most,” August said.
Her first role in the industry was with a Sports PR program while simultaneously earning her Bachelor’s degree at San Diego State. After graduation, she experienced what she called one of her “biggest failures” when she didn’t land a dream role with her favorite team – the San Diego Chargers.
“I was devastated,” August said. “I thought, well if I can’t work for my favorite team, then I don’t want to work in sports. After feeling sorry for myself for a few days, I decided I’ll try again.”
That’s when her biggest failure moment turned into “the best thing that would ever happen.”
August applied to graduate school for sports management. A year after her graduation, she got a job at WBD Sports.
When August started at Turner 18 years ago, it was a cable company. She now calls it a “content company.” August credits her longevity at the company to remaining adaptable in an ever-changing sports landscape and making the leap from the PR side to the Talent Department.
“I thought I was going to do PR all my life,” August said. “A woman who was in the company at the time told me you can only decide what’s best for you. But if you look around the company – the leaders are people who have varied experience. That has stuck with me since.”
Prior to her departure from the company, August was a key decision-maker in hiring and maintaining talent. She jokingly described going through this process with “her committee.” In other words, everyone at Turner.
“Everybody’s got an opinion on talent. Whether it’s an executive producer or a director or a president – they’ve reached out to me saying ‘we watched this person’s interviews, they were great’ or ‘they might retire.’ Names are all always swirling,” she said.
August was never afraid to go up against anyone whenever she was told “no.”
“I usually like to have the same conversation a few times, ” August laughed. “I don’t believe anybody the first time when they tell me no or yes. We arm wrestle it out sometimes, then we walk out of a room all on the same page.”
However, she emphasizes that there is no perfect formula to hiring award-winning talent when it comes to “Inside The NBA”.
“It works because those guys are unique. It works because of the timing. It works because of how long they’ve been together. It works because of how much time they have on air. You can’t just replicate that,” August said.
Although she may be biased, August truly believes Turner has the “best talent in the world.”
“Who would’ve dreamed that I’d be the boss of Charles Barkley,” August laughed. “Inside The NBA seems fun on the air, but it’s a hundred times more fun behind the scenes. These guys really let loose and tell jokes and wrestle and act like brothers. But I also remind people, they’re just like other staff. They’ve got the same desires – they wanna be promoted, they want more money and they wanna know what opportunity lies ahead.”
Spending endless hours together on set and traveling, August and the Inside crew grew close during their downtime together. She recalled a specific moment when Shaq offered her some key advice that she still thinks of to this day.
“I’d come into the studio that day, and I was frustrated. I was having a conversation with Shaq, and he said, ‘are you okay?’ I said, ‘I’m just frustrated with X, Y, Z.’ He told me, ‘no, be mad at what you’re mad at. You’re not upset about that thing, you’re upset about something else.’ This taught me to identify really what was upsetting me instead of the surface thing, and be honest about that.”
August says she’ll miss the small interactions with the talent most.
“We’ve had so many goofy moments. There’s a moment where Kenny’s button popped off in the middle of the show, and you could hear it like rolling on the set. Kenny tried to keep talking and Charles said, ‘hey man, can you afford a new jacket?” It was hilarious,” August said.
When it comes to what she is most proud of – August noted that it was not her accomplishments working with the award-winning talent, but launching a partnership with ‘My Brothers Keeper’ – an alliance started by President Obama in 2014 to address the opportunity gaps boys and young men of color face.
Despite all her accomplishments, August still experiences imposter syndrome – a term loosely defined as doubting one’s capabilities or feeling fraudulent in one’s role. She overcomes this by ensuring she always makes her presence known in a room.
“As [a] Black woman in sports, oftentimes I’m the only woman. Oftentimes I’m the only Black person. Oftentimes, I’m both. But if you’re gonna be a unicorn, you might as well put on a show,” August said. “If they’re gonna pay attention to you, give them a reason to remember why you were there.”
Although her time at the company has come to an end, August is leaving a lasting legacy that is endless.
“I came into this place and it was already great. I hope that people will say I added to it a bit, but more than that. I hope I blew the doors open for more opportunity, especially when it comes to diversity of thought, of people, of experiences and of background,” August said. “If I could have added a little sprinkle over the 18 years of greatness, awesome. But I really hope that I opened the door for it to be done differently, and better, even on my way out.”
During her last hoorah [at the 2023 All-Star Game] August made sure to go out with a bang. Wearing a blazer that was previously owned by the legendary broadcaster and her dear friend, the late Craig Sager, she made her final television appearance alongside the Inside crew as she delivered a cake to Barkley for his 60th birthday. After Shaq led the entire crowd in a Happy Birthday song, the crew made sure to share their love and respect for August on air.
Said Kenny Smith: “Not only have you [August] been an inspiration to what we do, but women in sports. To be able to be in a position to negotiate contracts, and put things into place from a league and individual perspective. We will miss you.”
In addition to receiving her flowers from the Inside crew that final day, August also got to witness Candace Parker becoming the first female analyst for the 2023 All-Star Game.
It was the perfect ending. August sent a note following this interview saying: “When you asked if I have memorable moments from the past 18 years here – that is going to be one of my most proud moments, and what a grand finale!”
A grand finale for a grand career.