I wanted to include a quote from Charles Barkley as one of this months “Aphorisms”. Problem was, he said so many funny, cool, wise, obnoxious, opinionated and crazed things that I couldn’t just stop at one. Solution? Create an entire story about the wit and wisdom of Charles Wade Barkley.
One of the best!
Charles Barkley, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, was not your run of the mill basketball playing hero. His bio pieces always listed him as being 6’ 6” but checking out any picture of him standing next to Mike Jordan, who was genuinely 6’ 6”, demonstrates that his official stats were exaggerated. He’s probably one of the shortest blokes to ever play at power forward in the NBA. On top of that, Charles, known to his mates as “Chuck”, and to his enemies as the “Round Mound of Rebound”, was chunky. A talent scout watching him play at Auburn University once asked who the fat bloke who moved like the wind was. His official NBA playing weight was usually listed as 114 kg but throughout his career his weight ranged between 114 and 125 kg.
Even though Barkley often found himself marking players who were six inches, and more, taller than he was he became known as one of the greatest rebounders of all time. And he wasn’t just a rebounder. He was a scorer, a play-maker, a defender, a dribbler and shooter as well. Like some other playing greats such as Magic Johnson, Barkley could not be defined by his role in a specific position. He wasn’t just a “power forward”. He was an all-round basketballer. Barkley was one of the few players in NBA history who could use pure bullying strength to pull down a defensive rebound then dribble the entire length of the floor and finish with a mighty two-handed dunk all in the one play.
“Somebody hits me, I’m going to hit him back!”
Barkley was selected to play in eleven consecutive All Star Games. He was selected as NBA Most Valuable Player once. He won numerous selections in All NBA first and second teams. He won two Olympic Gold medals in successive U.S. Dream Teams and topped the team scoring in both.
The fact that Charles belted and bullied people who were much bigger (and smaller) than he was both on and off the basketball court indicates that he was prone to physicality. He was well known for his “never back down – no matter what the circumstances” approach in both his playing and professional life. After landing himself in trouble for thumping an Angolan player during an Olympics game Charles responded, “Somebody hits me, I’m going to hit him back. Even if it does look like he hasn’t eaten in a couple weeks.”
In recent years Charles has argued that many modern players would have struggled to be as successful in the eighties and nineties. He believes that the modern NBA is a “watered-down” version where body-checking and hand-checking are not allowed. Clearly, Charles thinks that he is tough. Do doubt he is, by basketball standards, but he would be unlikely to last five seconds packing down against an All Black scrum. Charles Barkley might be hard-core in comparison to Shane Heal… but he has never met Richard Loe or Sean Fitzpatrick. Debates about Charles toughness aside, one thing cannot be denied. Barkley is one of the great thinkers of sport… and that’s why I love him!
Not just talented. Funny!
Sportsocratic doesn’t often feature stories about famous professional athletes. It’s not really our thing. But Charles Barkley is just a bit different. He warrants special attention. His uniqueness is not just about his being a short, chunky and uber-talented athlete… it’s about how funny and clever he was – or, should I say, is.
Here are just a few of Charles’ most memorable contributions to the world of sporting philosophy. As a thinker, he leaves me and my fellow philosophers for dead.
Seven of “Chuck’s” best lines
When the “hard-nut” of U.S. figure skating, Tonya Harding, described herself as the Charles Barkley of her sport Charles was, at first, offended and then had second thoughts. He said.
“My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.”
A few years back Barkley decided that the world was going just a little crazy. He said.
“You know it’s going to hell (the world) when the best rapper out there is white and the best golfer is black.”
Barkley’s views on the value of white people in the game of basketball led to the following comment.
“We don’t need refs, but I guess white guys need something to do.”
Above all. Charles Barkley sees himself as a realist. He believes that he tells things just as they are.
“These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.”
“When basketball super-star “Magic” Johnson tested positive to HIV the press went just a little overboard with the its concern for basketball players who might be risking their lives in having to play against him. Charles saw their concerns as unnecessary sooking and made the following comment.
“We’re just playing basketball. It’s not like we’re going out to have unprotected sex with Magic.”
In what just might be his funniest and truest comment ever, Chuck was unimpressed when the court-side cameras showed video of a spectator being taken from the bleaches on a stretcher after his head was on the receiving end of ball tossed by a frustrated and recalcitrant Kevin Garnett. The suffering gentleman was being escorted from the stadium by his tearful daughter. Charles commented.
“You know why that little girl’s crying? It’s because she’s thinking ‘my daddy’s a wussy'”.
Charles was again unimpressed, this time at the form of power-house NCAA basketball university North Carolina when they were beaten by Georgetown after missing their last twenty-two out of twenty-three shots at basket. Charles made the observation.
“Stevie Wonder could make one of 23 shots.”