NBA 75 Series: #25 Charles Barkley
Coming in at #25 on my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time https://www.djssportsshow.com/post/nba-75-greatest-players-of-all-time is one of the greatest power forwards, ferocious rebounders, and colorful, outspoken personalities in NBA history, Charles Barkley. Barkley was born on February 20th, 1963, in Leeds, Alabama, to his mother Charcey Glenn, and father, Frank Barkley. His parents divorced after his father abandoned the family, with his mother later getting remarried and having another son, Rennie, who sadly died as an infant.
Barkley’s stepfather was killed in an accident when he was just 11 years old, making the young man have to grow up quickly to be the man of the house for his mother. He would go on to attend Leads High School, and he didn’t look the part of a basketball star, standing at just 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds as a junior, looking more like an NFL prospect then a NBA one.
He would fail to make the varsity team, mostly due to his stature. However, Barkley would have a growth spurt of six inches to push him to 6-foot-4 to help him make the varsity team where he would average 19.1 points and 17.9 rebounds to lead his team to a 26-3 record en route to a state semi-final appearance.
Despite his improvement, Barkley didn’t receive any attention from college scouts until the state semi-final game where he would be recruited by Auburn’s assistant head coach at the time in Sonny Smith, who described Barkley as a “fat guy who can play like the wind.”
Barkey would enroll to play his college basketball for the Auburn Tigers in the fall of 1981. Barkley would have trouble controlling his weight during his college years, something that followed him early into his NBA career as well until he got into better shape. Despite his conditioning issues, Barkley still showed the college world that he was a force to be reckoned with as an undersized power forward, leading the SEC (Southeast Conference) in rebounding each year , while also becoming a fan favorite with his vicious posters and blocked shots, which was baffling to see someone at that size do at his position.
He was so unique that he became one of the first big guys to be able to grab a rebound and take it coast to coast and finish at the rim with a slam or draw a foul. Barkley would be listed as 6-foot-6 in college where he played center most of the time. He would lead the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament in the program's history in 1984 where he finished with 23 points on 80% field goal shooting, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Barkley would conclude his college career with averages of 14.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game while receiving a numerous amount of accolades such as SEC Player of the Year (1984), and three-time All-SEC selection, just to name a few.
Ultimately, Barkley would become known as “Sir Charles” or the “Mound Round of Rebound.” He became the standard of a former legendary athlete to transition to broadcasting, becoming an iconic, colorful personality on Inside the NBA. But, he also was one hell of a ball player. Coming into the league in the legendary 1984 NBA Draft that had Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, himself, and John Stockton, Barkley would go fifth to the Sixers that had legends Moses Malone and Julius Erving (Dr.J) to help guide him and give him veteran advice. Barkley has always stated Malone changed his life by stating, “your fat and your lazy,” which changed his whole perception of the game.
Barkley was an anomaly being listed at 6-6 but actually closer to 6-foot-4, he played power forward as well as anyone in the history of the NBA, often dominating players half a foot taller. He is one of only six players in NBA history to have compiled at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. All those guys are 6’10 or taller with the exception of Malone. He was a tenacious rebounder, skilled scorer, great passer, and a nice handle for his size.
He would spend the first eight seasons of his career with the Sixers and transition to the Suns in 1992-93 after the gold medal he obtained from the Dream Team. He would go on to win the 1993 MVP, leading the Suns to a magical season in his first year there, finishing with league’s best record of 62-20 and a berth in the 1993 NBA Finals, where the Suns lost to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in a memorable six-game series. He unfortunately would never get back to the Finals, losing in the semifinals in 1994 and 1995 to Olajuwon’s Rockets.
Barkley would join Olajuwon and Scottie Pippen to win a championship in his twilight years but it didn’t work out. Barkley would retire in 2000 after a 16 year NBA career and would go into broadcasting, something he still does to this day. Aside from his MVP he is a 11-time NBA-All Star, 11-time All-NBA Selection, All-Star Game MVP (1991), All-Rookie First Team (1985), and led the league in rebounding (1988).
Barkley was a bruising and among the most brashful, colorful, and exuberant personalities in NBA History.