Gregarious, opinionated, and larger-than-life, Charles Barkley has been one of the NBA’s most dominant media personalities since he retired from playing in 2000. This isn’t surprising given that during his playing days, Sir Charles was also one of the NBA’s most dominant personalities.
Oh, and he was a hell of a basketball player too.
Generously listed at 6’6″, the rotund Barkley in actuality barely edged 6’4″ in height. What he lacked in vertical stature, he made up with boundless energy and strength. He’s the shortest player to ever lead the NBA in rebounds per game for a season. He could sky high for spectacular blocked shots. His tremendous power in the post allowed him to mercilessly back-down defenders. The dexterous Barkley was also a remarkable passer able to whip wrap-around and behind-the-back passes with ease.
Most excitingly, Barkley was an absolute freight train on the break. Not a soul alive would plant their feet firmly in the paint to take a charge from the Barkley locomotive.
Best known for his days in Phoenix where captured the 1993 MVP award and led the Suns to the NBA Finals, but Barkley’s beginning was in Philadelphia. He broke into the league alongside sage veterans like Andrew Toney, Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Julius Erving, and most importantly for Barkley, Moses Malone. A ferocious rebounder himself, Moses helped show Barkley the ropes of being a big man in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Charles, he caught these sage vets toward the end of their careers. Erving and Jones retired soon after his arrival. Toney succumbed to injuries. Moses was prematurely traded to the Washington Bullets. Philly went from the Eastern Conference Finals in 1985 (Barkley’s rookie year) to the Eastern Semis in ’86 to the 1st Round in ’87 to out of the playoffs in ’88.
The slide reversed in 1989 as Charles loaded the Sixers on his back and carried them to three-straight postseasons, but ultimately the effort proved fruitless. By 1992, Charles successfully demanded a trade from Philly to Phoenix.
While in the Valley of the Sun, Charles submitted some truly amazing games. Just in the 1993 postseason, he tortured San Antonio with a 28-point, 21-rebound effort including a series-winning jumper in Game 6. Against the Seattle SuperSonics, he had a 43/15/10 performance in Game 5 and 44 points and 24 rebounds in the decisive Game 7 to send Phoenix to the Finals. The next year, Barkley eviscerated the Golden State Warriors with 56 points in Game 3 of their opening round series.
However, the good times in Phoenix slowly crumbled too. In back-to-back seasons the Suns lost tough 7-game series against the Houston Rockets in the Western Semis. After a trade to the Rockets, Barkley again enjoyed immediate team success, a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 1997. Thereafter, the Rockets slowly succumbed to age and injury as Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler trudged to the end of their careers.
Unlike Olajuwon and Drexler, Barkley may never have won a title, but his 16-year career was still a tremendous success by any reasonable measure. 11 times an all-star, an MVP, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and a never-ending stream of monstrous rebounding and scoring games.
Simply put, Charles Barkley has always been and always will be irrepressible.
Seasons Played: 1985 – 2000
5x All-NBA 1st Team (1988-’91, 1993)
5x All-NBA 2nd Team (1986-’87, 1992, 1994-’95)
All-NBA 3rd Team (1996)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1983)
11x All-Star (1987-’97), All-Star Game MVP (1991)
NBA - 1073 Games
22.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 54.1% FG, 73.5% FT
RPG Leader (1987)
12th All-Time in Free Throws Made, 18th All-Time in Rebounds, 21st All-Time in Steals, 23rd All-Time in Points
19th All-Time in RPG, 21st All-Time in FG%, 26th All-Time in PPG