When Charles Barkley was early in his NBA career, he played with a lot of anger. The technical fouls, ejections, and fights piled up. When he spit on a young girl as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1991, it became a wake-up call. He knew then he had anger issues.
Barkley went back to his hotel room, looked himself in the mirror. He knew he had to change. He knew he had to stop blaming his father and Ms. Gomez. From that point on, Barkley was a completely different player.
Charles Barkley was always angry at Ms. Gomez
The anger issues were getting more problematic for Barkley. He never took responsibility for his actions until that one game against the New Jersey Nets when he spat in the direction of a heckler, and it landed on an 8-year-old girl. Until that point, just about everything was Ms. Gomez’s fault.
“I played basketball very angry in the beginning,” Barkley confessed to Doctor Phil in a YouTube video posted in 2019. “I was angry at my dad and I was angry at Ms. Gomez. Ms. Gomez was my Spanish teacher, and I flunked Spanish. First of all, I’m still trying to figure out to this day, 50-something years later, why was I taking Spanish in Alabama?
“So I flunked Spanish and I didn’t get to graduate. I stood next door at the baseball stadium on the top rung by myself and I watched the entire graduation and I cried unmercifully for like an hour. I was so distraught.”
Barkley said his father, who wasn’t very involved in his life, flew cross country to see him graduate, but Barkley wasn’t a participant because of Ms. Gomez.
“I made up my mind that night that I was going to get all them people back,” he said.
Charles Barkley realized he was the one at fault, not Ms. Gomez
It wasn’t until March 26, 1991, when Barkley’s perspective changed. He was ejected and eventually suspended for his spitting incident against the Nets. In his room, he realized something had to be done. He also came to the conclusion he needed to stop blaming others for his actions.
“That night, first of all, I got suspended, which I should have,” he said, “but I was sitting in the hotel that night, and I said, ‘Boy, you’ve gotta calm down.’ If you play on the edge, it’s just a matter of when you’re going to go over that edge.
“I sat down and said I forgive my dad. He wasn’t there. We grew up poor. It sucked. But I gotta play basketball for me. Secondly, I said it’s actually my fault I flunked Spanish. It’s really not Ms. Gomez’s fault. I flunked the exam.
“From that point on, my whole basketball life changed. I said I just want to be a great player and have success for myself. In high school and college, I was trying to stick it to everybody. I wasn’t mature enough to realize the stuff that happened in my life was my fault.”
Barkley’s change paid off big time
After that 1991 season, the 76ers traded Barkley to the Phoenix Suns. A new man, Barkley showed his new level of maturity by playing for a new team and carrying them to the NBA Finals.
Barkley put up 25.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game with the Suns, guiding them to an NBA-best record. He was named the league’s MVP.
Barkley was immature during his 76ers days but found himself after that low point in his basketball life in March of 1991.
“You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say I’m successful for me and the people around me,” he said. “Not to say, ‘Yeah, remember when you didn’t let me graduate. That’s for you, Ms. Gomez.”
From that point on, Barkley said he never played angry again. He owes Ms. Gomez a big thank you.