It was Nov. 16, just three weeks into Chris Webber’s rookie season, and his Warriors were facing the West’s defending champs, the Phoenix Suns. With Golden State up 41-34 in the second quarter, Latrell Sprewell stole a Danny Ainge pass and heaved it to Webber in the backcourt.
And that’s when time stood still.
The only men back on the break were Webber, 20, the first man picked in the draft, and Charles Barkley, 30, the league’s reigning MVP. As the crowd drew it’s breath in anticipation, Webber exploded to the hoop, with Barkley playing tight D. Just as Barkley reached in, Webber took the ball behind his back, leapt into the air and slammed on Sir Charles, knocking him on his butt and picking up the foul in the process. Webber screamed in ecstasy then nailed the free thrown just to rub it in.
The hometown crowd lost it. One the bench the Warriors’ Chris Mullin laughed in amazement. Not even the Suns were offended at his post slam celebration. “Didn’t bother me at all,” said Suns coach Paul Westphal. “If you just came out of college and made a play like that over Charles Barkley, you’d be happy too.”
Webber insists that he wasn’t showing off. “I went behind my back so I could have a better angle,” said Webber. “I’m not as fast going to my left as I am going to my right, and I saw Charles coming. I wasn’t showboating, but, y’know, you’ve got to keep the crowd pumped. I’ll have to call all my friends and make sure they watch SportsCenter tonight.
“What can I say,” said a miffed Barkley, who was more impressed with his teams eventual 116-104 victory. “It was just a bad play on my part. I’m supposed to make plays like that.”
It’ll be a long season, but the man-child with the $74.4 million dollar contract proved to be worth every penny that night. “He’s making a lot of money,” said Westphal. “But the way he played tonight, he’d better renegotiate. He needs a raise.”