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Why Charles Barkley is as Philly as it gets

Why Charles Barkley is as Philly as it gets

Charles Barkley wasn’t born here, but he’s as Philadelphia as it gets.

The Hall of Famer, former Sixer and current analyst spent Thursday hanging out at 97.5 The Fanatic’s studios in Bala Cynwyd. He co-hosted with Mike Missanelli for the entire four-hour show.

He talked about his love for the fans, the city, the Sixers and all things Philly … except cheesesteaks (He had one when he was drafted in 1984 and hasn’t been back for one since.)

There was never a dull moment during the entire Mike Missanelli Show Thursday.

Ben and Jo's accountability

Of course the hottest topic for Barkley was the Sixers and his thoughts on the teams two young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Barkley lavished the pair with praise, saying he thought they were the most talented duo since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. 

Him and Ben together, could be the new Shaq and Kobe,” Barkley said. “Now, Ben’s not on Kobe’s level and Joel’s not on Shaq’s level, but I think it’s fair to say … I’ll say this: I think Ben Simmons, in his third year, I think you can say — people forget, Kobe is one of the five or six greatest players ever, but he struggled early in his career. I think you can say Ben is at least — and I’m not saying he’s going to be greater than Kobe, don’t mix up my words — but he’s got potential to be one of the best to ever do it. And Joel, ain’t nothing he can’t do if he stays off that three-point line.

Barkley believes in both young players, but also acknowledged that both players are flawed and need to be held accountable. Embiid’s issues have been his health and fitness — something Barkley can relate to from early in his career.

Sir Charles was glad to see that Embiid cried and felt the pain of losing that Game 7 in Toronto, but wants someone with the Sixers to do what Moses Malone and Billy Cunningham did for a young Barkley.

I’ve told this story before, the most important person in my life was Moses Malone,” Barkley said. “I remember talking to him one day and I said, ‘Moses, why am I not getting to play?’ He said ‘You’re fat and you’re lazy.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You’re fat and you’re lazy.’ He said, ‘Charles, you can’t play in the NBA at 300 pounds. … I know you led your conference in rebounding all three years, but you’re not going to be in good enough shape and you can’t work hard enough to play in the NBA.’ And this guy, who I called ‘dad,’ met me every day before practice, after practice. He made me lose 10 pounds — 290, 280, 270, 260, 250. I actually got to 240 but I had no strength or energy and he said, ‘250 is your playing weight.’

Barkley recalled that then-owner Harold Katz traded away Marc Iavaroni to free up playing time. Cunningham, the Sixers' coach at that time, told Barkley bluntly, “Your fat a— ain’t playing because you don’t work hard enough.”

The rest, as they, is history.

As for Simmons, Barkley said he’s done with the shooting videos against “waiters and bartenders.” He’s ready for Simmons to shoot in an actual NBA game. 

But he’s bullish on the Sixers as a whole. He believes Tobias Harris will be better with Jimmy Butler gone and he loves the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. He’s already made his bet on the NBA Finals. 

“I’m already out on the limb, brother,” Barkley said to Missanelli. “World champions.”


‘They sent me to war with a BB gun’

Barkley was unceremoniously traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992 for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. There are several reasons why the return wasn’t great.

One of which is that Barkley wanted out after a couple dismal seasons. Another is that the Sixers’ front office at the time “didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” according to Barkley.

[Sixers owner] Harold [Katz] comes in, wants to know what’s going on, why we stink so bad. Everybody lies — ‘Well, we’re not playing good enough defense. … We need to get some better outside shooters. … We got to do a better job on the boards.’ Like seven, eight bogus excuses. And I’m steaming at this point and all the sudden Harold turns to me, ‘Charles, you don’t have anything to say?’ I said, ‘You don’t want to hear what I got to say.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah, you’re the captain, I want to hear what you got to say.’ I said, ‘The reason we no good because that guy right there and that guy right there suck at basketball. Them two suck, right there.’ And they stand up and I stand up and grab my stool and I said, ‘If you come over here I’m going to break this damn stool across your damn head.’

One of “them two” was Charles Shackleford. Barkley recalled when Katz initially told him the team acquired Shackleford.

I remember I was having dinner with Harold Katz and he says, ‘We got Charles Shackleford.’ And I’m like, ‘From N.C. State?’ He says, ‘Yeah, he led the Italian league in rebounding.’ I said, ‘Dude, if I want Italian, I’ll have pasta or something. I’m not looking for no basketball players. No disrespect to Italians, but I want some Italian food, I ain’t looking for no basketball players over in Italy.’

Barkley said it had gotten so bad that Shackleford would purposely pick up fouls early in games because the Philly crowd was too rough on him. 

AP Images

Man of the people

Speaking of people not being able to handle the Philly crowd, Barkley weighed in on the recent entitled comments made by Phillies utilityman Sean Rodriguez.

“Listen, Mr. Rodriguez: Stay off that grenade. Leave the fans alone.”

Barkley remembers hearing about Sixers first-round pick Shawn Bradley’s wife getting into it with fans. He also referenced Simmons’ comments during the playoffs last season. Though he said the fans never booed him, he told all players to expect it and not take it personally.

If there is anyone that understands the Philadelphia fan, it’s Barkley. He still feels the love whenever he’s in the city.

A big part of that is probably the way he treats people. He was gracious with every single person he came across and grateful for every caller with a story of how they met him at a nightclub back in the day or just how much he meant to the city. He saw a woman with cleaning supplies picking up around the studio. He asked her how she was doing, asked her for her name and said, “Hi, I’m Charles.”

As he left the studio, a few fans were waiting outside hoping to snag an autograph and a picture.

Paul Hudrick

Barkley yelled out affectionately, “Oh, you mother f—ers!”

He then proceeded to sign all their autographs and take pictures.

As Philadelphia as it gets.

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The 10 best trades in Sixers history

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Getty Images/AP Images

The 10 best trades in Sixers history

The Sixers have been on the losing end of quite a few trades, both in recent and distant history. They’ve also pulled off some bargains and successful blockbusters, too. 

We ranked the top 10 in Sixers history:

10. Toni Kukoč, Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff and Pepe Sánchez to the Atlanta Hawks for Roshown McLeod and Dikembe Mutombo 
Ratliff was the NBA’s leader in blocks per game for the 2000-01 season and made the only All-Star Game of his career. But when he hurt his wrist, the Sixers decided to swap centers and picked up Mutombo. The Hall of Famer won his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award and was vital in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bucks, averaging 16.6 points, 15.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

9. Johnny "Red" Kerr to the Baltimore Bullets for Wali Jones 
The Sixers got a bit of good fortune in this deal. After averaging 11 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Bullets in the 1965-66 season, Kerr was selected by the Bulls in the expansion draft. Instead of playing, however, he retired and took over as the team’s first head coach. Meanwhile, Jones spent seven seasons in Philadelphia and started at point guard for the 1966-67 NBA champions. 

8. Fred Carter to the Milwaukee Bucks for a 1977 second-round pick (Wilson Washington) and a 1978 second-round pick (Maurice Cheeks)
A Philadelphia native who later coached the Sixers, Carter was near the end of a playing career that had peaked with him scoring over 20 points per game. He only played 47 games for Milwaukee before retiring, while Cheeks played 853 games in Philadelphia and became a Hall of Fame floor general. GM Pat Williams also deserves credit for later turning Washington into three draft picks and spending one of those on 1979 second-round selection Clint Richardson, a key bench piece on the 1983 championship team. 

7. $125,000 the New Jersey Nets for the rights to the 51st pick (Kyle Korver) 
The Nets had to use the $125,000 for summer league expenses and a new copy machine after a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance, according to Zach Lowe. Korver has the fourth-most made three-pointers in NBA history, is 10th in three-point percentage and has earned about $77 million in his career. 

6. George McGinnis and a 1978 first-round pick (Mike Evans) to the Denver Nuggets for Bobby Jones, Ralph Simpson and a 1984 first-round pick (Leon Wood)
The Sixers’ timing on this trade was nearly perfect. While McGinnis was an All-Star the year after leaving Philadelphia, his production soon dropped off and he was done with professional basketball by 1982. Jones spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career with the Sixers and won the NBA’s inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983.

5. Luka Mitrović, Artūras Gudaitis and a 2017 first-round pick (De’Aaron Fox) to the Sacramento Kings for Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, the right to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 and a 2019 first-round pick (Later traded — Celtics took Romeo Langford) 
We have this deal among our top 10 not because of the final results, but as an appreciation for the value Sam Hinkie often extracted. In this trade, the Sixers essentially moved up from No. 5 and No. 3 in the 2017 draft and took the No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft. In exchange, they gave up Mitrović and Gudaitis, neither of whom has played in the NBA. Though the fruits of the deal were ultimately squandered when Bryan Colangelo traded up to take Markelle Fultz, that’s an impressive haul.

4. World B. Free to the San Diego Clippers for a 1984 first-round pick (Charles Barkley) 
The Sixers had to patiently wait for this trade to pay off after making it in 1978. Free, now an always-jovial and charming team ambassador, was a heck of a scorer. He posted over 30 points per game in the 1979-80 season and averaged nearly 25 over an eight-season stretch. Still, parting with Free was obviously a price worth paying for the chance to draft Barkley, one of the best players in Sixers history.

3. Mel Bennett to the Indiana Pacers for a 1980 first-round pick (Andrew Toney) 
Much like the trade above, the Sixers were generously rewarded for playing the long game. They traded Bennett in 1976, then watched from afar as he posted a modest 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest in 129 career NBA games. The eighth pick in 1980, Toney was a two-time All-Star, an NBA champion in 1983 and, of course, “The Boston Strangler.” 

2. Caldwell Jones and a 1983 first-round pick (Rodney McCray) to the Houston Rockets for Moses Malone 
To upgrade a team that had won 58 games and lost to the Lakers in the Finals for the second time in three years, Williams landed the reigning MVP. While Jones stuck around until he was 39 years old and McCray played 10 professional seasons, Malone’s services should have been much more expensive, in hindsight. He won another MVP award in 1983 as his new team came just one game short of fulfilling his famous “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’” prediction. 

1. Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash to the San Francisco Warriors for Wilt Chamberlain 
Shaffer retired shortly after the trade, while Dierking and Neumann both had some solid NBA years left. Neither player, however, was in Chamberlain’s stratosphere. Chamberlain averaged 27.6 points, 23.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists in three-plus seasons as a Sixer, winning the championship in 1967. He probably shouldn’t have been dealt for anything less than multiple All-Stars — or perhaps an All-Star and a heap of first-round picks — but the Warriors were struggling financially and gave up a player who’d led the league in scoring for five consecutive seasons. 

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The 10 best draft picks in Sixers history

The 10 best draft picks in Sixers history

In sports, we often talk about building through the draft. 

Sure, a shrewd trade or free agent signing can help put a team over the top, but generally a decent core has to be in place. Good draft selections helped usher in some of the best eras of Sixers basketball.

With that in mind, we take a look at the 10 best draft picks in Sixers history. 

10. Andrew Toney, 1980, first round (8th overall)
Toney was a two-time All-Star and big part of the Sixers’ last title in 1983. Drafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette, “The Boston Strangler” averaged 15.9 points a game in his eight-year career. There are many who believe Toney was on a Hall of Fame path before a foot injury forced him into retirement at the age of 30. If only Toney’s career wasn’t cut short, he’d likely be much higher on this list.

9. Doug Collins, 1973, first round (1st overall)
While our freshest memories of Collins are as the Sixers’ head coach, he had a productive NBA career after coming out of Illinois State. Collins averaged 17.9 points a game and helped usher in arguably the greatest era of Sixers basketball. Unfortunately, Collins also succumbed to foot and knee injuries. He retired in 1981, just before the 1983 championship, at the age of 29.

In a draft that didn’t boast much talent, the Sixers did well in 1973. After taking Collins, they selected George McGinnis — who spent four years in the ABA before two All-Star seasons with the Sixers — and Caldwell Jones in the second round.

8. Ben Simmons, 2016, first round (1st overall)
Sure, this is a little bit of a projection, but it’s hard to argue with the returns on Simmons so far. In his third NBA season, he made his second All-Star appearance and appears well on his way to All-Defensive Team honors. Though it’s early in Simmons’ career, he is the franchise leader in assists per game and assist percentage. The team also won 50 games in both of his first two seasons and was on track to be at or near that mark again before this season was suspended.

7. Joel Embiid, 2014, first round (3rd overall)
Much like Simmons, there’s a bit of projection, but Embiid’s first four NBA seasons have been dominant. His 24.1 points a game trail only Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson. He also has the highest usage rate and rebounding percentage in team history. He’s a three-time All-Star and has been named Second Team All-Defense and All-NBA in each of the last two seasons.

While Embiid was supremely talented coming out of Kansas, it took some guts to take him given his injury history. Injuries have haunted him in his young NBA career, but he is on an extremely special trajectory. After seeing what’s become of the careers of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, this pick looks even better.

6. Allen Iverson, 1996, first round (1st overall)
While there may be better players and better value draft picks on this list, there is nobody more beloved than A.I. Iverson is all over the Sixers’ record books. He’s the franchise leader in threes made and steals per game. He’s second in points — both total and per game — minutes, steals and usage rate. He also led an improbable and memorable run to the Finals in 2001. Though it may have been a no-brainer to take the 6-foot guard from Georgetown, Iverson’s Hall of Fame career gets him on this list.

5. Charles Barkley, 1984, first round (5th overall)
“The Round Mound of Rebound” struggled to get on the floor his rookie year coming out of Auburn because he was “fat and lazy.” But once Barkley’s career took off, he became a perennial All-Star and bona fide superstar. Sir Charles was a six-time All-Star and is third in franchise history in rebounds and fifth in points. Unfortunately, the Sixers failed to surround Barkley with enough talent and he was traded to Phoenix in 1992 before finishing his Hall of Fame career in Houston. 

4. Maurice Cheeks, 1978, second round (36th overall)
If you’re going off sheer value, you could make an argument for Cheeks in the top spot. Easily the greatest NBA player to ever come out of West Texas A&M, Cheeks was a five-time All-Defensive team pick, a four-time All-Star and a world champion in 1983. Cheeks has the most steals and assists in franchise history. Getting a Hall of Famer at 36th overall? Not too shabby.

3. Chet Walker, 1962, second round (12th overall)
Selected by the Syracuse Nationals — who became the Sixers the following season — Walker had an excellent career. Only John Havlicek scored more points in the 1962 draft class. The Bradley product was a three-time All-Star with the Sixers and helped the team win its first title in 1967. Unfortunately, Walker was traded to the Bulls during his prime and went on to make four more All-Star teams in his Hall of Fame career. 

2. Billy Cunningham, 1965, first round (5th overall)
Cunningham is the only person on this list to be involved in both Sixers championships. After a stellar career at UNC, “The Kangaroo Kid” joined Walker, Hal Greer and Wilt Chamberlain and helped form one of the best starting fives in NBA history that won it all in 1967. Cunningham is in the top 10 in just about every stat in team history and was a four-time All-Star in Philadelphia during his Hall of Fame playing career.

It’s fair to note that if the Sixers never draft Cunningham, they don’t get the best coach in their history. Cunningham coached and won the most games in team history. His .698 winning percentage and 66 playoff wins are also franchise-best marks. He took the team to the Finals three times, winning it in 1983.

1. Hal Greer, 1958, second round (13th overall)
Greer’s resume speaks for itself. The Marshall product, who was also selected by the Nationals, went on to become the franchise leader in points, field goals made, games and minutes. He was a key cog on that 1967 championship team. He made 10 All-Star teams during his 15-year career, all spent with the Sixers/Nats.

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