A lot of young people may only know Charles Barkley for his colourful role as a current NBA broadcaster. Long before he was making fun of Shaq on TV, he was one of the most talented players in the NBA, a Hall of Famer and former league MVP. Here is a brief look at his college and pro career.
Auburn: The College Years (1981 -1984)
Current coach Bruce Pearl had Auburn in the Final Four a couple of years ago, but Auburn is mostly known as a football school. Charles Barkley played there for three seasons, with his last being his best. Barkley another NBA bound player, Chuck Person, led them to a high of 16 in the national rankings and the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round. Barkley led the Tigers in rebounds for three straight seasons. He was also All-SEC for his three seasons, including SEC player of the Year in his last.
Off to the NBA
Though he has always been a little out of the normal size range for a player with his type of game (he is about 6'4 despite playing power forward), Barkley was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the fifth overall pick. He joined a team with future Hall of Famers like Julius Erving and Moses Malone and quickly became a starter. That team went to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season, which ended up being as far as Barkley went in his time in the City of Brotherly Love. For the next seven seasons he was the best player on the 76ers, but they could not get by Larry Bird's Celtics, the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons or Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the very competitive Eastern Conference.
Barkley's incredible rebounding, athleticism, and all out force as an offensive player made him a fan favourite. For those who only know him as a mostly out-of-shape (Sorry Charles) announcer, watching highlights of Barkley grabbing a defensive board and going end to end and dunking on someone should give you an idea of the type of player he was.
In June of 1992, Barkley was surprisingly traded to the Phoenix Suns. All he did in that first season with Phoenix in 1992-93 was win the league MVP and lead the team to the NBA Finals, where he lost to Jordan and the Bulls in six games. Similar to Philadelphia, he never enjoyed as much team success as he did in his first season with the Suns, though for the next three years he was still an elite, All-Star level player.
Barkley was amazingly traded again in 1996, this time from Phoenix to Houston. The Rockets had won back to back titles a couple of seasons prior and were hoping to get back there with Hakeem Olajuwon and Barkley. Again, his first season with the Rockets was the one where the team enjoyed the most success, but it was obvious that Barkley was slowing down as a player. He still had his moments and remained one of the best rebounders in the league, but the team did not make it far in the playoffs.
Hall of Famer
Charles Barkley is one of the all time NBA greats, one of just four players to finish his career with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists. In some ways he needed to be great to match the size of his character, earning multiple nicknames throughout his career including Sir Charles and Round Mound of Rebound.
Barkley might not have ever won a title, but he was everybody's second favourite player for his skill and entertainment value. He was on the All-Rookie team and made 11 All-NBA teams throughout his career. Sir Charles was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2006 with other greats from his era like Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars.
Barkley is still relevant today due to his role covering the game for TNT. On a TV set full of accomplished former players he is always the most entertaining, sometimes for calling out current players and sometimes just for his folksy nature. Similar to his playing days, he is must see TV all on his own.