Charles Barkley jokes about Jussie Smollett during TNT halftime segment

NBA Basketball

Charles Barkley had his TNT "Inside the NBA" teammates gasping for air, shaking their heads and averting their eyes as he joked about the legal issues surrounding actor-musician Jussie Smollett.

Barkley's remarks about Smollett, checks, MAGA hats and, eventually, Liam Neeson flustered Ernie Johnson and reduced Shaquille O'Neal to a coughing mess.

"I can't believe you, Chuck," Johnson said

, shaking his head, during the early portion of the two-minute segment at halftime of the network's broadcast of Thursday's Rockets-Lakers game.

The off-camera production staff also sounded shocked by Barkley's comments. 

MORE: Barkley explains why he interviewed white supremacist

Smollett's case, which has received national attention, took a major turn Thursday.

Chicago police charged Smollett with filing a false police report after they investigated his claim that two men wearing "Make America Great" hats assaulted him and put a rope around his neck in a racially motivated attack. Prosecutors now allege Smollett staged the attack with the help of two friends, whom he paid $3,500 by check, in a ploy to pressure the producers of the Fox series "Empire" into giving him a raise. Smollett, a member of the show's cast, has denied those allegations.

Barkley's comment about Neeson was a reference to the actor's recent claims that he stalked African-Americans neighborhoods in England decades ago seeking retribution after a female friend told him she had been raped by a black person.

UPDATE: Oh, there was more from the Chuckster: