February 20, 1963
Charles Barkley was born in Leeds, Alabama, in 1963. A high school and college star, he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. In 1992, Barkley joined the U.S. Olympic team, helping the infamous "Dream Team" earn the gold medal. Barkley was one of the NBA's most remembered players not only for his talent but also for his personality and courtside antics.
Since retiring as a player, Barkley has had a successful career as a television NBA analyst. He works with Turner Network Television (TNT) as a studio pundit for its coverage of NBA games. In addition, Barkley has written several books and has shown an interest in politics; in October 2008, he announced that he would run for Governor of Alabama in 2014, but he changed his mind in 2010.
Born on February 20, 1963, in Leeds, Alabama, Charles Wade Barkley is widely considered one of the forwards ever to play in the NBA. Despite his size—at just 6'4" tall—Barkley was a dominant inside presence throughout his NBA career. He's one of only four players in league history to score at least 20,000 points, collect 10,000 rebounds and hand out 4,000 assists. In 1996, he was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players.
Still, Barkley was not initially on the radar screen of many college scouts. But in his senior year at Leeds High School, Barkley began to turn heads. Having grown six inches in just 12 months, Barkley averaged 19.1 points and 17.9 rebounds per game that year, and led the school to a 26-3 record.
In the conference semifinals, against Alabama's top player, Barkley wowed college scouts, by scoring 26 points.
That performance led Barkley to Auburn University in the fall of 1981. There, the Round Mound of Rebound, as he came to be called, was a force in the paint. Over the course of his three-year career at the school, Barkley earned several honors, including Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 1984 and was named All-SEC player three times. He was later named to Auburn's All Century team.
Following his junior season, Barkley declared he was ready for the pros. In the spring of 1984, the Philadelphia 76ers selected the power forward with the fifth overall selection in the NBA draft.
The 76ers were just a year removed from an NBA title and stocked with a veteran roster that included Julius Erving and Moses Malone. For Barkley there was little transition to the pros. His rookie year, he averaged 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and was named to the NBA All Rookie Team.
That year, the 76ers advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where the team lost to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
The success of that season proved to the most the club achieved during Barkley's sometimes turbulent eight years in Philadelphia. Early on, especially, Barkley was hard to play with and coach, someone who was notoriously criticized by his teammates because of inconsistent play and temper tantrums.
But he came into his own during the 1987-1988 season, when he was named to the All-NBA team for the first of four consecutive years. In 1992, Barkley joined the U.S. "Dream Team" at the Olympics. After helping the team win the gold medal, he was sent to the Phoenix Suns where he won the MVP award and led the club to the 1993 NBA finals. In the championship round, the Suns were defeated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.
Charles has become one of the NBA's most visible players due as much to his talent as to his courtside antics. He was criticized in March 1991 for "spitting" at a child, and later explained that he'd meant to hit a fan who was taunting him with racial epithets. Despite a share of negative publicity, his outgoing personality also earned him numerous commercial endorsements.
During a pre-season drill in October 1993, Barkley collapsed when his legs went numb. Though tests revealed a back injury, he announced a few days later that he would retire after the 1993-94 season. However, he decided to play after all, and in 1996, he was traded to the Houston Rockets and named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in a ceremony marking the league's 50th anniversary.
On April 19, 2000, in a home game against the Vancouver Grizzlies, Barkley scored a memorable basket on an offensive rebound and putback, a common trademark during his career. He accomplished what he set out to do after being activated from the injured list, and walked off the court to a standing ovation. He stated, "I can't explain what tonight meant. I did it for me. I've won and lost a lot of games, but the last memory I had was being carried off the court. I couldn't get over the mental block of being carried off the court. It was important psychologically to walk off the court on my own." After the basket, Barkley immediately retired and concluded his sixteen-year Hall of Fame career.
Since 2000, Barkley has served as a studio analyst for Turner Network Television (TNT). He appears on the network's NBA coverage during pre-game and halftime shows, in addition to special NBA events. He also occasionally works as an onsite game analyst. He is part of the crew on Inside the NBA, a post-game show during which Barkley, Ernie Johnson Jr., Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal recap and comment on NBA games that have occurred during the day and also on general NBA affairs. During the broadcast of a game, in which Barkley was courtside with Marv Albert, Barkley poked fun at NBA official Dick Bavetta's age. Albert replied to Barkley, "I believe Dick would beat you in a footrace." In response to that remark, Barkley went on to challenge Bavetta to a race at the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend for $5,000. The winner was to choose a charity to which the money would be donated. The NBA agreed to pitch in an additional $50,000, and TNT threw in $25,000. The pair raced for three and a half lengths of the basketball court until Barkley ultimately won. After the event, the two embraced in a show of good sportsmanship.
In 2011 and 2012, Barkley was a studio analyst for the joint coverage of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament between Turner Sports and CBS. He also served as a guest commentator for NBC's coverage of the NFL Wild Card playoffs on January 7, 2012; the same night he hosted Saturday Night Live, which is taped next door to the Football Night in America studio in Manhattan's GE Building. In April 2012, Barkley won a Sports Emmy Award for "Outstanding Studio Analyst" for his work on TNT.
Barkley announced in November 2012 that he was contemplating retirement from broadcasting. "[N]ow I'm like, 'Dude, you have been doing this for 13 years and if I make it to the end of the contract it will be 17 years.' Seventeen years is a long time. It's a lifetime in broadcasting. I personally have to figure out the next challenge for me," he said.
Barkley is known for his compulsive gambling. In an interview with ESPN's Trey Wingo, Barkley revealed that he lost approximately $10 million through gambling. In addition, he also admitted to losing $2.5 million, "in a six-hour period", while playing blackjack. Although Barkley openly admits to his problem, he claims it is not serious since he can afford to support the habit. When approached by fellow TNT broadcaster Ernie Johnson about the issue, Barkley replied, "It's not a problem. If you're a drug addict or an alcoholic, those are problems. I gamble for too much money. As long as I can continue to do it I don't think it's a problem. Do I think it's a bad habit? Yes, I think it's a bad habit. Am I going to continue to do it? Yes, I'm going to continue to do it."
Despite suffering big losses, Barkley also claims to have won on several occasions. During a trip to Las Vegas, he claims to have won $700,000 from playing blackjack and betting on the Indianapolis Colts to defeat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. He went on to state, however, "No matter how much I win it ain't a lot. It's only a lot when I lose. And you always lose. I think it's fun, I think it's exciting. I'm gonna continue to do it but I have to get to a point where I don't try to break the casino 'cause you never can."
In May 2008, the Wynn Las Vegas casino filed a civil complaint against Barkley, alleging that he had failed to pay a $400,000 debt stemming from October 2007. Barkley responded by taking blame for letting time lapse on the repayment of the debt and promptly paid the casino. After repaying his debt, Barkley stated during a pregame show on TNT, "I've got to stop gambling...I am not going to gamble anymore. For right now, the next year or two, I'm not going to gamble... Just because I can afford to lose money doesn't mean I should do it."
Barkley spoke for many years of his Republican Party affiliation. In 1995, he considered running as a Republican candidate for Alabama's governorship in the 1998 election. However, in 2006, he altered his political stance, stating "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." At a July 2006 meeting of the Southern Regional Conference of the National School Boards Association in Destin, Florida, Barkley lent credence to the idea of running for Governor of Alabama, stating:
- I'm serious. I've got to get people to realize that the government is full of it. Republicans and Democrats want to argue over stuff that's not important, like gay marriage or the war in Iraq or illegal immigration... When I run — if I run — we're going to talk about real issues like improving our schools, cleaning up our neighborhoods of drugs and crime and making Alabama a better place for all people.
In September 2006, Barkley once again reiterated his desire to run for Governor. He noted, "I can't run until 2014 ... I have to live there for seven years, so I'm looking for a house there as we speak." In July 2007, he made a video declaring his support for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. In September 2007, during a broadcast on Monday Night Football, Barkley announced that he bought a house in Alabama to satisfy residency requirements for a 2014 campaign for governor. In addition, Barkley declared himself an Independent and not a Democrat as previously reported. "The Republicans are full of it," Barkley said, "The Democrats are a little less full of it."
In February 2008, Barkley announced that he would be running for Governor of Alabama in 2014 as an Independent. On October 27, 2008, he officially announced his candidacy for Governor of Alabama in an interview with CNN, stating that he planned to run in the 2014 election cycle, but he began to back off the idea in a November 24, 2009 interview on The Jay Leno Show. In 2010, he confirmed that he was not running in 2014.
Barkley is an outspoken supporter of gay rights. In 2006, he told Fox Sports: "I'm a big advocate of gay marriage. If they want to get married, God bless them." Speaking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN two years later, he said: "Every time I hear the word 'conservative,' it makes me sick to my stomach, because they're really just fake Christians, as I call them. That's all they are. ... I think they want to be judge and jury. Like, I'm for gay marriage. It's none of my business if gay people want to get married. I'm pro-choice. And I think these Christians, first of all, they're not supposed to judge other people. But they're the most hypocritical judge of people we have in the country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like they're Christians. They're not forgiving at all." During a 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day double-header on TNT, Barkley responded to a statement by Dr. King's daughter Bernice by saying, "People try to make it about black and white. [But] he talked about equality for every man, every woman. We have a thing going on now, people discriminating against homosexuality in this country. I love the homosexuality people. God bless the gay people. They are great people."
In 2000, Barkley wrote the foreword for Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly's book The Life of Reilly. In it, Barkley quipped, "Of all the people in sports I'd like to throw through a plate glass window, Reilly's not one of them. It's a shame though, skinny white boys look real aerodynamic." In 2002, Barkley released the book I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It, which included editing and commentary by close friend Michael Wilbon. Three years later, Barkley released Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?, which is a collection of interviews with leading figures in entertainment, business, sports, and government. Michael Wilbon also contributed to this book and was present at many of the interviews.
On December 31, 2008, Barkley was pulled over in Scottsdale, Arizona, for initially running a stop sign. Officers smelled alcohol on Barkley's breath and proceeded to administer field sobriety tests, which he failed. He was arrested on drunk driving charges and had his vehicle impounded. Barkley refused to submit a breath test and was given a blood test. He was then cited and released. Gilbert police noted Barkley was cooperative and respectful during the entire incident, adding that he was treated no differently than anyone arrested on DUI charges.
The police report of the incident stated that Barkley told police he was in a hurry to receive oral sex from his female passenger when he ran through a stop sign early Wednesday. Test results released by police showed that Barkley had a blood-alcohol level at .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in Arizona. Two months after his arrest, Barkley pleaded guilty to two DUI-related counts and one count of running a red light. He was sentenced to ten days in jail and fined $2,000. The sentence was later reduced to three days after Barkley entered an alcohol treatment program.
As part of the fallout of his arrest, Barkley took a two-month hiatus from his commentating duties for TNT. During his absence, T-Mobile elected not to air previously scheduled ads that featured Barkley, stating, "Given the recent developments, for the time being, we've replaced TV ads featuring Mr. Barkley with more general-market advertising." On February 19, 2009, Barkley returned to TNT and spent the first segment of the NBA pregame show discussing the incident and his experiences. Shortly after his return, T-Mobile once again began airing ads featuring Barkley.
The Haney Project
Barkley is well known for his fondness of golf. However, his swing is often regarded as one of the most bizarre and broken swings in the sport. Barkley's swing unravels after he brings his club back. He starts to take it forward then jerks to a stop, throwing his body off balance, before wildly striking at the ball. Once a 10-handicap golfer who could break 80, Barkley can no longer break 100 and finished last at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in July 2008.
A reality series known as The Haney Project premiered on The Golf Channel starring Charles Barkley and Hank Haney, one of the world's top golf instructors. The show centers on Hank Haney attempting to use his renowned expertise and teaching methods to fix Barkley's swing. Haney believes he can help Barkley lower his handicap and notes that Barkley's short game is strong and that his putting is even stronger.
In 2011, Barkley became a spokesman for WeightWatchers, promoting their "Lose Like a Man" program and appearing in both television and online ads.
Barkley has been featured in several video games. Barkley Shut Up and Jam! was a basketball video game which was developed by Accolade. It was released for the Super NES and the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1994. An unofficial sequel to the initial game called Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden was developed and published in 2008. The game was developed by Tales of Game's Studios and was a departure from the first game in that the game was a traditional style JRPG.
Barkley married Maureen Blumhardt in 1989. The couple have a daughter together, Christiana, born the same year.
- He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Announced that he would enter the Hall as a Philadelphia 76er.
- He was voted one of the NBA's fifty greatest players of all time.
- He attended Leeds High School in Leeds, Alabama, a small suburb just outside of Birmingham.
- One of their outdoor basketball courts carries the name "Charles Barkley Court" in his honor.
- Played three seasons at Auburn University before leaving early for the NBA draft.
- Nearly made the 1984 US Olympic basketball team, but was cut on the final day by coach Bob Knight for making snide remarks about Coach Knight "wearing his granddaddy's shoes."
- Shortest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding, in 1986-1987.
- Wore number 34, his college number, for most of his career with Philadelphia and Phoenix, but switched to 32 in his last season (1991-1992) with the 76ers as a tribute to Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who was forced to retire before that season due to being HIV positive.
- Played 16 seasons in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers (1984-1985 to 1991-1992), Phoenix Suns (1992-1993 to 1995-1996), and Houston Rockets (1996-1997 to 1999-2000).
- Member of the 1992 (Dream Team) and 1996 gold medal US Basketball team.
- Only player on the original U.S. Olympic "Dream Team" of 1992 whose NBA team finished the previous season with a losing record and out of the playoffs.
- His best friend is Michael Jordan. They were born only three days apart.
- Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Ma. on September 8, 2006. Other inductees included Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars.