Saturday, 27 July 2013
CHARLES BARKLEY Feature-THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE BARKLEY
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"We 'aint here for a long time, we here to have a good time"-Sir Charles Barkley.
Truer words have never been spoken...or have they? Somewhere in 1994, in a Southern California barbershop jokes are dropping as fast as the hair as Golden State Warriors and stars Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber-with freshly cut domes-are jawing and joking about the behind the back dime Spre dropped on Charles Barkley in a recent game. A move so jaw-dropping and a conversation so classic Nike put it in a commercial. The air was about to be taken out of the building months later however as the only sweep belonged to Barkley not the barbershop boys. C-Webb and L-Well may have chirped like a quartet, but it was all over once the 'fat boy' sang. A cut and shave above the rest, revenge was a dish best swept out of the playoffs cold, as Chuck ran power move after power move over Golden State, proving he was the real Warrior as a Sun shining bright, inflicting GSW's on Webb and Spree as they really choked. Public Enemy number one? Nah, a nation of millions couldn't hold this boy back. The round mound of rebound breathed easily and made points his bread and butter that series, as he sliced and diced to an incredible 37.3 points per game on an inspired 60% shooting. The final cut saw an imposing 56 points, as Charles regularly looked to the Webber and Sprewell down and depleted, towel draped and about to be thrown in bench and barked..."put that in a commercial".
You best believe his many exploits where put in many a commercial as well as the NBA record books and hall of fame classic moments. Arise Sir Charles, like a Phoenix or a Rocket (or an equally crazy Rodman) for every rebound. Whether as a Sun or for Houston, everyone had a problem with this bright spark...from the players to the fans, but what a fun problem he was. From his 'Shut Up & Jam' to 'Space Jam'...it could be Michael Jordan or Bill Cosby's 'Ghost Dad', Bark would go up against them all...even if some thought he ate all the pudding. Don't take the title of this article the wrong way, we aren't saying the rebound mound is ugly...even in that dress. Despite some people thinking this man was no good...he was far from bad. Even if he was the type of guy to tell his teammates wives in jest "you seem nice, what's wrong with your judgement" like Ali to Cossell. This man had a Bark...and sure he still has a bite too on his funny and entertaining T.V. slot...that he was doing a long time before many of his contemporaries. He talked the trash talk like Gary Payton and walked the walk like a Point Guard, standing at only 6,4, (an NBA listed 6,6) but he out jumped and smarted seven footers and would let everyone have it...it being everything except the ball that is. That was his.
This 'aint Gnarles Barkley...you crazy, this is the inspiration Charles Barkley ruling his game like Cee-Lo. The only man to pull rebounds and Madonna like Dennis Rodman. One of the top 50 players of all time hit a half century of age this year and whether Shaq, Magic (he wore 32 the year Magic Johnson made his HIV announcement in his honour (his "We're just playing basketball. It's not like we're going out to have unprotected sex with Magic" comments where as controversially inspired as Rodman's almost flagrant tough touch foul on Earvin)...and people didn't think he was a stand up guy), 14 or 4 jersey numbers this man is one of the best ever. Sure he may be third best Power Forward of all time, (he's still a 5 time NBA first team, alongside 11 All Star shines and one top notch as Most Valuable Player) but that is behind the legendary greats of Tim Duncan and Karl Malone and a position that he may have been well suited, but not sized for. That revolution is a legacy to lament in itself. Redefining his position and the game like Allen Iverson (albeit Chuck did his by not influencing the game without taking too many shots) after him, thanks to the tutoring of legends Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, Charles Barkley became a Philadelphia 76ers legend following in Wilt Chamberlain's stilt high board records.
He united the city of brotherly love (even being an advocate in speaking out about racism and injustice) before showing how hot he was in the dessert for Phoenix and how out of this world he was in Texas for the propelled Houston Rockets. Sure he was a nightmare to that guy he famously threw through a window, but when he was cleaning the glass the right way he was a team player and a dream to watch...just ask Barcelona in 1992 or Atlanta in the sequel of '96. His play won everyone over. Even the woman who claimed he was arrogant and selfish, who he tracked down and through into a limo, taking her and her family to a genuine, generous, courtside closer look at what Charles was really like and what his game was all about. Team and winning first, personal success and himself later. Just ask anyone...from the Doctor to the Dream, Cheeks to Pippen, or K.J. to 'The Jet' from the frontcourt to the backcourt, with small size but a big body, Barkley understood it all. That's what made his defining career classic and timeless like the Sixers, Suns and Rockets jerseys of the mid-nineties golden era of hoops. Some thought the critics may not have been wrong...but I doubt it. Just like Bill Walton said he dominated the game like Bird or Magic because he transcended the sport beyond normal player positions.
Still...we got some none believers Chuck. He had game, like Denzel and Ray Allen's Jesus alter-ego. Spike Lee was watching. Barkley may have never won a ring, but he brought changes alongside the Jordan, Ewing, Magic, Bird and many more 80's/90's revolution. During his time inside the NBA this analyst was as explosive as TNT and as influential as his middle-name...Wade (his T-Mobile co-commercial cast). Not the greatest...but one of the best even if he was in the shadow of the number one. Through it all from battling Jordan to berating LeBron, Chuck refused to lay or calm down for anybody...no matter who they are. He'd even shout "yo" to opposing players to trick them into passing to him instead of their own teammates. He could have clowned anyone from Mark Bryant to Kobe. Sure those girls beat him on the park in 'Space Jam', but he still finished his NBA time as only the fourth player ever to record 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists for the books where you'll find more feats in the pages of hoops history. They may have laughed at him eating donuts, but any team with the dunkin' Charlie had no holes in the middle. Besides Barkley went in for the gym like he went in for treats. That's why his game had everything, threes, D, plays, dribbles and a cherry on top. Now that was something to drool over.
At Auburn University he went coast to coast, blocking and dunking shots, hands together on the ball or in the stands all the way to pleasing the crowd and the SEC Player Of The Year and decade voters besides playing the centre position. Barkley was on paper too short to even play the small forward position...let alone his power forward one or out of place at the C. He reversed backward notions and rewrote the rules. Auburn University head coach Sonny Smith was quoted as saying Chuck "was a fat guy...who could play like the wind". No wonder he was drafted into the NBA with the first rounds fifth pick. No wonder his alumni retired his number 34 like Philly...this is a guy that almost run for governor and like Arnie he'll be back. Terminating the offensive glass is what brought him to the American National Basketball Association and worldwide fame. A top tier, premier league basketball career that saw him block, clutch, dunk, steal and of course rebound his way to 20 and 10 averages to go along with some big triple doubles and even bigger playoff one-up averages.
Chuck Barkley left everything on the floor...he even came back from a career ending injury to make one last bucket and walk off to a standing ovation as he refused to be carried off for his final bow to his careers curtain call. Now in his retirement (and his impending brilliant broadcasting one), aside from working on his golf swing, he may almost be getting out run by old men (albeit fit ones) like Dick Bavetta but he's shown he has the mental strength to round himself into someone who could run for political office. Just look at his comments about how Martin Luther King Jnr's dream was for everyone including the gay community...and people said this dude is controversial. This all-round good guy is extending his reach further like Jason Collins. The man that kept his arms open for every rebound is now embracing every issue of today, keeping nothing at arms length. The man that once challenged parents to be role models-saying sportsmen shouldn't be-is really showing he actually is one of the best ones around today. The mound is rounding into something bigger then basketball and a lot of opponents on the wrong end really are going to be scared of the self dubbed "big black man" now. It's a pity Sir Charles isn't British because he deserves a knighthood or at least an MBE for the MVP, but this power player will settle for a political place. Chuck B for President? Now that really is scary.