“A fat guy… who can play like the wind”.
Charles Barkley played as Power Forward and won the NBA MVP in 1993. He played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets in his career, representing each team with distinction. Barkley used his power, skill and size to outmuscle his opponents for rebounds and points. He was an offensive machine, scoring with ease from inside and mi-range, only to expand his range to the 3-point line midway through his career. Although only listed as 6’4, Barkley had an immediate impact, guiding the 76ers throughout the 1980’s. Drafted as sixth overall in the famous 1984 draft two spots behind Michael Jordan, Barkley would soon become one of the most popular and controversial players in the league.
Always short in height as compared to his peers and players for his position, Barkley used his strength and aggressiveness to get the work done on the basketball court. In his college days, although he struggled to control his weight, he excelled as a player and led the SEC in rebounding each year. He became a popular crowd-pleaser, exciting the fans with dunks and blocked shots that belied his lack of height and overweight frame. It was not uncommon to see the hefty Barkley grab a defensive rebound and, instead of passing, dribble the entire length of the court and finish at the opposite end with a two-handed dunk. His physical size and skills ultimately earned him the nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound”.
With the 76ers, Barkley joined superstars Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, the winners of the 1983 NBA Championship. Under their tutelage, Barkley blossomed and was soon one of the best rebounders in the league. With subsequent retirements of Julius Erving and Moses Malone, Sir Charles took over the team and led the league in points and rebounds. Although he could not take the 76ers to the Finals, he would still have a distinguished career with the club, before his transfer to the Phoenix Suns.
After some controversy, he would join the Suns and lead them to the NBA Finals, only to be thwarted by the Bulls once more. Barkley and the Suns would not reach the Finals again, with Hakeem Olajuwan and the Huston Rockets eliminating the team in the Playoffs in successive seasons. Suffering from repeated injuries, it was clear Barkley was not the same powerhouse as before and was traded to the Houston Rockets for one last shot at the NBA Title.
Charles Barkley was also a member of the 1992 and 1996 Olympic US men’s basketball ‘Dream Team’ that won two gold medals. He was surprisingly left out of the 1984 squad after impressing both the players and the coaching staff. Barkley is still regarded as one of the best rebounders and blockers of the ball and is also one of the most efficient scorers. His career field goal percentage ranks right up there and he led the league in that particular category every season in the late 80’s.
Even though he was shorter than the average NBA player, such was his tenacity and agility that he could score over his taller contemporaries. He could do it all on the court much like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. He did not really play any one position or do just one thing. He did a bit of all, scoring, rebounding, passing and was also one of the better, most versatile defenders in the NBA. He was a powerful dunker and possessed a panache for finishing off fast breaks with dunks. He could score from the post and from outside. He is one of the leaders in steal for his position and was an adept blocker and athlete, one who could make the chase down blocks with ease.
Although Barkley never could win an NBA championship, he is still remembered as one of the best in the game, and a true competitor. An intense and volatile player, Barkley is now an analyst for the NBA and continues to please his legion of fans.