Best TV 2012: Charles Barkley mocks LeBron James’s hairline.

Inside the NBA: Barkley mocks LeBron’s hairline.

TNT, Feb. 3, 1:47 a.m. ET

LeBron James vs. the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals was pretty awesome. LeBron vs. Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals was even better. But the best TV moment of the 2012 NBA season didn’t happen on the court. Early in the morning of Feb. 3 on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Shaq, C-Webb, Ernie, Kenny, and Chuck spoke truth to power. The message: “LeBron … it’s time for you to come on home.”

The segment began with an image of Tom Thibodeau that showed off the Chicago Bulls coach’s massive bald spot. This could not pass by without comment, as white male baldness is a particular expertise of Charles Barkley’s. In 2006, Sir Charles gave the following quote to Slam Magazine (emphasis mine):

I will say this, and not to sound racist, but one of the great travesties of American history is white men who are afraid to shave their heads, thinking they’re going to have an ugly head. There’s nothing wrong with their heads. But some of these hairdos, they’ve got to go, they’ve got to come on home. Shave their damn heads.

Coming on home means hastening the head’s arrival to its inevitable hairless state. And it’s not just for Caucasians. After Barkley explained that, in his expert opinion, Thibodeau will need to come on home in roughly two years, the mostly chrome-domed panel’s focus shifted to the King.

“The lower you cut it, the less drastic it looks, aka LeBron,” said Kenny Smith. The TNT crew then cut away to a goofy graphic of LeBron’s hair disappearing, reappearing, then disappearing again—a Wooly Willy-esque coming-on-home simulation. This led Barkley to model LeBron’s perpetually rising headband, inching it up his own enormous, bald noggin to the panel’s great amusement.

By contrast to the transparently fake belly laughs of other pregame and postgame shows, the guffaws on Inside the NBA are genuine. That’s because the jokes are genuinely bizarre and conspiratorial and funny (at least most of the time). A week later, Inside the NBA ran a less-riotous follow-up skit called “LeBron’s Second Decision.” Shortly after that, LeBron addressed the rising chatter on NBA TV. “Come on home is for Shaq, it’s for Kenny, and it’s for Charles,” LeBron said with a massive, Propecia-eating grin, referring to the TNT trio as “three bald-head stooges.” Stooges, yes. Also television heroes.