76ers

Whether calling out Sixers or poking fun at himself, Charles Barkley is always candid

Whether calling out Sixers or poking fun at himself, Charles Barkley is always candid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Charles Barkley had listened to current and past members of the Sixers organization praise his career and character early Friday afternoon, given a gracious speech, smiled and posed alongside the new statue of himself on Legends Walk at the team’s practice facility. He’d then stepped aside to take questions from the media for 10 minutes or so, at which point a Sixers public relations official said Barkley was answering his last question of the day. 

“Go ahead, guys. Couple more questions,” Barkley said. “No rush.”

He kept talking — about his career, his legacy, the statue — for about 20 more minutes.

Barkley, a Hall of Famer who made six All-Star teams and averaged 23.3 points and 11.6 rebounds during his eight seasons in Philadelphia, does not favor diplomatic answers. With how candid he is, you have little doubt his praise, when he gives it, is genuine. Take, for instance, what he said about his statue.


Listen, man, let me tell you something — that guy [Chad Fisher] is very talented. Very talented. I got no complaints with that statue — it looks amazing. I got a statue at [Auburn] a couple years ago and my first response was, ‘What the f--- is that?’ I was like, ‘What the f--- is that?’ It’s a true story. This was the preliminary. And I was like, ‘Yo, dude, that don’t look nothing like me. It’s awful.’ … Shout out to the sculptor, it’s fantastic.

Though Barkley did his best to answer every question posed to him, he sometimes went off the rails a bit, straying to whatever was near the top of his mind. He marveled often at the fact that he was “paid millions of dollars to play a stupid game of basketball,” observing that he’d never had a “real job … and I’m not looking for one.”

“I’m one of the luckiest people in the world,” Barkley said. “I look at these guys on the 76ers right now, they’re the luckiest people in the world. They get to play basketball, they get to travel the country, they get to travel the world, they make a ton of money. They should always be in a good mood. I was in a good mood making what I was making. I’d be in an ecstatic mood if I played today.” 

Barkley had plenty of praise for his former coaches and teammates — Hall of Famers Billy Cunningham and Bobby Jones were among those in attendance — but he wasn’t bashful about criticizing the organization. 

He didn’t back away from his claim that the Sixers were the “stupidest organization in the history of sports” for having Joel Embiid play through a back injury in January, and he called the team’s decision not to select Brad Daugherty first overall in the 1986 NBA Draft “the biggest mistake the Sixers ever made."

While he’s not hesitant to call out others, Barkley has a charming knack for self-deprecation. He recounted Friday that the late Moses Malone, whose statue is next to Barkley’s, was right to call him “fat and lazy” as a rookie. Barkley also acknowledged he was “a little crazy” up until a 1991 incident in which he was suspended a game and fined for spitting at a fan in the stands and using abusive language.

I was mad at everybody, to be honest with you. I was mad at every critic who said that I was too short, and I was trying to stick it to them. I was mad at my dad for not being in my life. I was mad at Ms. Gomez for flunking me in Spanish. And then the best thing that happened to me was probably the spitting incident … because I was suspended and I was sitting in that hotel room. I was like, ‘You need to calm down and just play basketball.’ Your dad wasn’t there — let that go. Ms. Gomez didn’t flunk you in Spanish — you flunked Spanish. You don’t have to stick it to Ms. Gomez or your dad. Just play good basketball.

Barkley’s time as a player with the Sixers wasn’t often neat and tidy. He had the greatest team success of his career after being traded to the Phoenix Suns, winning the MVP award and making the NBA Finals in his first season outside of Philadelphia.

He said Friday he’d still have preferred to play his career in one city. Barkley, who spends his summers in Philadelphia, knows that its sports fans are passionate and not hesitant to share their opinions. 

It’s a quality Barkley understands well.

“This is not an easy city,” he said, “but it’s an amazing city to play in because if you bust your hump, they’re giving to give you nothing but love. Now, if you don’t bust your hump, you’re going to think, ‘Charles Barkley, you suck.’ You’re going to think that’s your middle name.”

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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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