Q+A: Charles Barkley

by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport

Charles Barkley just turned 50. Let that sink in for a moment. The man who defied the role model image in one of Nike’s most successful campaigns, elbowed all comers domestically and internationally (did dude from Angola ever recover?) and joined Kareem, Wilt and the Mailman as one of only four players in NBA history to compile at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists, is now taking a victory lap for being perhaps the best power forward—especially under 6-10—to ever to play the game.

During All-Star weekend in Houston, the good folks at TNT invited SLAM to come hang with Sir Charles and the guys from its highest rated show, Inside the NBA, for its live broadcast at the Shark Bar. It’s no secret that H-Town’s basketball faithful love the Round Mound of Rebound from his days with the Houston Rockets. But ever since the ’93 MVP left the game that plucked him from small town Leeds, AL, and took him to the 1992 Olympics and ultimately, all the way to the Basketball Hall of Fame, his star has been on the rise with hilarious turns on everything from David Letterman to Saturday Night Live. Recently, Sports Illustrated asked 124 NBA players to pick their favorite announcer and the Chuckster ran away with the title.

Known for telling it like it is with no apologies, Barkley was his usual loquacious self, diving headfirst into TNT’s nonstop coverage of the L’s most celebrated weekend of the year. In between the doubleheader between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the best basketball mag on the planet asked Chuck a few questions and, lucky for us, he had a few answers.

SLAM: Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Charles Barkley: Thanks, I appreciate it my brother.

SLAM: You just turned 50. Looking back, what’s your proudest moment?

CB: I don’t have one proud moment, man, I’ve just had an amazing life. I mean, you grow up in the projects in Leeds, Alabama, you don’t think you’re gonna have the life that I’ve had. I don’t think you can pick out one moment.

SLAM: What about your life as a whole?

CB: It’s been great, it’s been amazing the life I’ve lived, you know. Just the basketball part, playing in the NBA against Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and then you go into television, I been doing this a long time. I can’t even put it into words how amazing my life’s been.

SLAM: The All Star Game was in Houston. You played there. What did that mean to you?

CB: I always look forward to the All-Star Game. The NBA does a fantastic job of celebrating the game. It’s nonstop action, it’s a great weekend.

SLAM: Are you tired of all the LeBron James vs Michael Jordan comparisons?

CB: Well, I’m not tired; LeBron’s a great, great, great…I mean he’s unbelievable. But I think before we can put him in the same class as Michael Jordan he’s got to win four or five championships. I mean he’s bigger, stronger, but I don’t think you can try to compare the two until LeBron wins more than one championship. He’s got to win four or five championships but he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen in my life.

SLAM: Before LeBron left for Miami, you said it was a mistake and you didn’t like it. Now that he’s won a Championship, do you feel the same way?

CB: I do. I do ‘cause I think if he won a championship in Cleveland it would mean more to those people than it does to those people in Miami. You have to try to build your own legacy. He was a two-time MVP, if I were a two-time MVP and I was playing in my hometown I wouldn’t leave to go anywhere. People would have to come and join me.

SLAM: What do you make of people voting on who would win one-on-one between MJ and LBJ?

CB: Michael Jordan is 50 years old, man. That’s just silly.

SLAM: You played in MJ’s era. Did you guys ever play one-on-one?

CB: No, no, no. I like my chances against anybody. I don’t think anybody can guard Michael and I don’t think anybody can guard me.

SLAM: Will you be running for governor of Alabama?

CB: I haven’t decided, man, the political process is so skewed right now. I’m not sure it’ll be fun for me to do that to be honest with you.

SLAM: People love your commentary. Does that come natural for you?

CB: Sometimes I have to criticize guys to try to make it fun, I mean, I’m out there trying to bust other people. I want all these guys to do well, but when they do something stupid or don’t play well, I try not to kill ‘em, I try to make ‘em laugh a little bit.

SLAM: Do the players ever get mad at you for putting them on blast?

CB: I talk to those guys all the time. They know that I’ma be fair, I’ma be honest, I think they respect that I don’t have a standard. I don’t treat stars worse than I treat regular players, I try to treat everybody fair.

SLAM: How’s Shaq doing on the show?

CB: Shaq’s doing a good job. We’re having a lot of fun working together. It’s a whole team, though, man, me, Kenny, Ernie and Shaq got the easiest part of the whole deal.

SLAM: Are you ever going to get on Twitter? You would be great on Twitter.

CB: No, I’m never gonna do the Twitter. I don’t feel the need to voice my opinion on everything and argue with these idiots, so I’m never gonna do that.

SLAM: So that’s why? You don’t want to get into it with followers?

CB: Sure, I don’t need that. One thing you have to learn when you’re in the limelight, no matter what you say, half the people like it and half the people gonna dislike it. So I choose not to get involved in that.

SLAM: How will you celebrate your birthday?

CB: I’ll probably just chill out with some friends. I’m not gonna do anything crazy.