Charles Barkley

The legacy of Charles Barkley is present in Sixers' quest for title

The legacy of Charles Barkley is present in Sixers' quest for title

CAMDEN, N.J. —  With Charles Barkley having a statue unveiled on Legends Walk at the team’s practice facility Friday, there were plenty of living legends in attendance.

Former teammates like 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Jones and the ever-present World B. Free were there. Barkley’s first NBA coach and Hall of Fame player Billy Cunningham was on hand to say a few words. 

The craziest may have been a story about Barkley almost not even being a Sixer.

When we were getting ready to draft, it was probably the best draft I can ever remember," Cunningham said. "It was Michael Jordan, [Hakeem] Olajuwon, Sam Perkins, etc. And [then-Sixers owner] Harold [Katz] loved Charles Barkley. But the story before that was we had the No. 1 pick from the Clippers and a week or 10 days before that — Bill Fitch was the coach of Houston and the reason you have the lottery today is because of this — they dumped every game, which allowed them to get Olajuwon. So Charles, you might not have been sitting here if they didn't dump those games. We might have had Olajuwon or Michael Jordan here.

The next person to speak was current Sixers head coach Brett Brown, who has plenty of experience with … well ...

I can't believe that Coach Fitch dumped games to get high draft picks. Can you believe that, somebody, to get high draft picks, dumping games? I don't know what you're talking about.

After the laughter quieted down, Brown spoke frankly about Barkley’s legacy. Brown mentioned Barkley’s impact on his current team as it came out the other side of The Process.

While the idea of the Sixers getting to draft Jordan or Olajuwon would’ve been incredible, who knows if their careers would’ve wound up the same. Barkley landed in Philly and there may not have been a better place for him or a better player for the city of Philadelphia.

Barkley was fearless, both on and off the court. He never backed down from a challenge on the floor and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind off it. 

Fierce competitor — the attitude he played with, the hustle, it screamed out Philly. It is Philly,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. “And your DNA is still currently in this team today. When I'm thinking of team building, I'm thinking of heart. Players that don't back down, that are fierce. A player that's going to be selfless and try to win. So when I pursue a championship this season, you're still here — your DNA is still in this organization and in this current team.

Paul Hudrick

Brand, like Barkley, was considered undersized for the power forward position at 6-foot-8. All Brand did was get drafted No. 1 overall, win Rookie of the Year, become a two-time All-Star and have a 17-year career. At 6-foot-6, Barkley became a Hall of Famer and was one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game.

All of that started for Barkley in Philly as he played alongside Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Barkley credits Malone with helping mentor him and forcing the man affectionately known as the Round Mound of Rebound to lose weight. 

Barkley’s hope is that the Sixers are doing that now with holding Joel Embiid accountable for his health. He also hopes that people in the organization are doing that for Ben Simmons, who Barkley said is "going to be one of the best to ever do it" if he improves his shot the way he saw Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did.

Barkley still loves his former team and believes they’re a legitimate championship contender with their two young All-Stars leading the way.

The Sixers have everything. I put a lot of faith in Ben and Joel. Listen, let's be realistic, and you guys know this — the Sixers were probably a bounce of the basketball from being the champs last year. … Now, they're on everybody's radar. Joel was crying after the game, which let me know, hey, we all cry after games like that. But now I gotta get better. I love the addition of Al Horford. I love the addition of Josh Richardson. The Sixers got everything in place. Everything in place.

Part of the foundation Brand and Brown have built is based on the rich history of the franchise. Sure, other teams may have more titles but what the Sixers have is nothing to gloss over. This is the franchise of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Cunningham, Dr. J, Moses, Maurice Cheeks, Jones, Barkley and Allen Iverson.

None of that is lost on Brown.

The statues that you see, I use often with our players to have a look at what you pass as you enter our practice facility. To be able to come into our practice facility and look up and see the banners that this organization has had the privilege of calling a 76er is truly breathtaking for me. Some of the people in the room — Doc's not here, Wilt has passed, A.I. — you can keep going. You go to many programs and you're just not having that history right in front of you. We appreciate, maybe more than you know, your legacy and what your brought to this organization.

Barkley talked about how all of the coaches and players that helped him from the projects in Leeds, Alabama, all the way to Houston, deserve credit.

Your life isn't just about you. Every player, coach from Leeds High School, Auburn, eight years with the 76ers, four years with Phoenix, four years in Houston — every coach and player I've ever played with gets a little piece of this sculpture.

And with Barkley’s legacy still present with the Sixers, a piece of a championship would be his as well.

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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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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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