Et Tu, Sir Charles?
Round Mounds want love, too.
Charles, or Mr. Barkley, if you prefer,
I’m writing you for fairly obvious reasons, but it’s around mid-late February, so you know what time it is, since you’re a 47-year-old man now (gettin’ up there, Chuck!). It’s coming a little late, but I figured you might not mind too much. To be honest, the only reason I’m able to remember your birthday is because I memorized all of my basketball cards when I was super young, and realized your best friend is three days older than you, which I’ll admit, is kind of the reason I even got the idea to get this out.
Let me first say “congratulations” for making it to see another year and for being alive and well. You’re still relevant in the game you love, you’re still outrageous, and you’re still a point of gravity to a whole lot of people. Before Tim Duncan got established as the game’s greatest power forward in history (and one of the game’s best hybrid big man in general, counting his ability to play center with the same ease), I felt you were the game’s best power forward for a short time. I know I’ll get complaints about my virtual lack of acknowledgment of Kevin McHale, but I didn’t see him play (although you’ve just said on “Inside The NBA” that he was the best power forward you ever played against); Karl Malone was in your same space and he might’ve had better overall numbers in totality, and today, Moses Malone would for sure be a power forward, but you were my favorite frontcourt pivotman. You were a freak of nature, and I don’t have to go into the details about that…but I will to indulge you.
You were short like a tall point guard, but big and wide like a plus-size version of the already stocky George Costanza (pre-All-Star breaks)–bald like him, too. You ran the court like a small forward and had considerable range on your jumper (that is when you felt like spotting up for about five seconds, haha). You somehow were able to run up and down the court for 16 seasons, take off for months at a time and then play your way into game shape just in time for your time to really take off in the playoffs (imagine what you could’ve been had you committed yourself to summer training…but I understand, Sir). You’re an anomaly in the way LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain have been physically, and I say that because I don’t know of any like-sized dudes having that sort of ability you and those other gentlemen have or had.
I’ll admit it–I didn’t buy your shoes, and it’s not because I didn’t dig ‘em; it’s because your boy’s shoes were just a little better and even though your Air Maxes had flair, they didn’t quite have the same allure like Air Jordans, so I had to pass (and they were a little more expensive, too). I still haven’t gotten the retros of your old stuff, but you don’t mind, I’m sure, because you’re not playing anymore anyway.
I’ve respected you for many things, principally, because you have an inner strength and constitution that is unmatched when it comes to your beliefs. You admit when you’re wrong, and even you know when you’re wrong a lot of times, and you keep it 100. Never once did I feel like pro athletes were actually role models and that you said so also is something else we agree on (although I’ll say I’ve been fortunate enough to have two parents and a full extended family to rear me–a lot of my peers don’t, sadly). With that said, I think it’s safe to say I can’t get on with you having spit on people or thrown grown men through glass windows, although the idea of throwing a grown-A man through a full-sized window is still hilarious. Obviously, receiving oral sex while you’re driving drunk is probably not going to win you any more fans these days, either (besides the incredulous humor in that as well), but you’re not about winning fans, and you’ve owned up to your mistakes and gone forth, so that’s that.
The point of this, really, is to let you know you’re appreciated in some way. You know who you are, and in a time where celebrities hide behind their money and corporate sponsorships, you, Sir Charles, have been unafraid to be a voice and to speak out when you’ve felt cause enough to do so, despite the fact you have no other backing or gain in voicing your opinions, thoughts and feelings. For a guy who came up in Leeds, AL in the 60s, you’ve said yourself that you’re pretty lucky.
In all, here’s to letting you know you’re appreciated, and not because of your being a goofball every week on TNT, but because underneath the silliness and all the jokes and your upbeat disposition, you’re a man I respect. I don’t know if I’d want my future kids to emulate you exactly, but of all that you are, your honesty and commitment to being a better you is something I think everyone can take away from you (even though you did take some nights off in the ‘A, hahaha).
Cheers, Sir Charles.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Twitter and Associated Content.