Charles Barkley: Value
of kids' futures a slam-dunk
call him Sir Charles.
In the Xs and Os of the National
Basketball Association, Charles Barkley reigns over the Os: outspoken, outlandish,
outstanding. In a league dominated by giants, the 6-foot, 4-inch Leeds, Ala.-native
managed to outrebound, outscore, outhustle, outsmart and outtrash-talk players
twice his size and half his age.
Only three other players
in NBA history -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone -- managed
to compile 20,000 career points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. His accomplishment
seems all the more amazing considering his competition included the likes of Larry
Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
was a hardworking junior out of Auburn University when the Philadelphia 76ers
made him the fifth pick in the 1984 draft. Nicknamed "The Round Mound of
Rebound," Barkley's rebound-oriented game soon expanded under the tutelage
of two superstar teammates, Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone.
The veteran stars quickly set their young charge straight about basketball, money
His irreverent sense of
humor and love for the game made Barkley a media and fan favorite through his
16 seasons. Although he never won the coveted championship, he became one of the
most popular perennial All Stars. He was named league MVP in 1993 and one of the
50 greatest NBA players in 1996.
times, Barkley's larger-than-life persona, fueled by over-the-top TV commercials,
overshadowed his accomplishments on the hardwood. For instance, everyone remembers
the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball squad, the first "Dream Team" that
included Jordan, Bird and Magic, but few recall that it was Barkley who led that
stellar lineup in scoring at 18 points per game.
NBA has always been a platform for Barkley, whose strong opinions on African-American
leadership, spoiled professional athletes, poverty and prejudice make him a popular
pundit. His repartee with Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, his broadcast cohorts
at the NBA on TNT, makes it the one halftime show worth skipping a trip to the
Bankrate caught up with Sir
Charles by phone in New York City, where he was promoting his latest book, "Who's
Afraid of a Large Black Man?" The title may seem humorous, but the content
is dead serious, as Charles goes one-on-one with 13 personal heroes on a subject
close to his heart: racism.
You have often said there is little difference between the problem of racism and
the problem of poverty.
No question. I think that's really important. America has always been divided
by race, but man, really now it's economics. Poor white people and poor black
people have been taught not to like each other, and they're in the same boat.
Until they get together and say, you know what, we're going to respect each other,
treat each other better, fix our school system, make our neighborhood safer, it's
never going to change. Because rich people don't live in the same neighborhood
and they don't go to the same schools. Poor white people and poor black people
are so afraid of each other for some ungodly stupid reason that they have made
the problem much, much worse.