The Phoenix Suns are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 when Charles Barkley faced off against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. That series was won in six games by the Bulls, who won all three games in Phoenix.
Barkley is rooting for this year’s Suns team to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals. He’s also hoping that Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton avoid making the same mistake he did back in 1993 against Jordan and the Bulls.
Charles Barkley says Suns weren’t ready to play Game 1 of ’93 Finals
During Game 1 of the ’93 Finals, the Suns were nervous and played poorly from start to finish. The Bulls led 34-20 after the first quarter and won 100-92. Barkley struggled from the field, missing 16 of 25 shots while finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. Meanwhile, Jordan had 31 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and five steals.
During an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Barkley admitted that it was his fault the Suns weren’t ready to play Game 1 since he was the MVP and leader of the team.
“The other games (after Game 1) were really good games, but I thought the one bad game we had was Game One,” Barkley said. “I thought we were nervous, and I think that was my fault for not having us ready to play. I had been in big moments before, but nobody else on our team had been in big moments. I just felt that I should’ve had us better prepared, or I should’ve been more aggressive, to be honest with you. It’s so interesting. Michael actually talked about it in the documentary (The Last Dance). He was talking about his first championship (in 1991), and (how the Bulls) lost their first game to the Lakers (before winning in five games) — people forget. And he said, ‘We were kind of in shock how intense it was in Game 1,’ and he said, ‘We weren’t ready for Game 1.’ And I had never talked to him about that before, to be honest with you, but I thought it was funny that he said that in the documentary.”
Barkley and the Suns played much better in Games 2-6. However, they had no answers for Jordan.
Michael Jordan averaged 41.0 points in the ’93 Finals
Jordan was a scoring machine in the ’93 Finals. He averaged 41.0 points while shooting 50.8% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc.
Barkley and the Suns won Games 3 and 5 in Chicago. The Round Mound of Rebound finished the six-game series with averages of 27.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. However, it wasn’t enough to take down Jordan, and Barkley believes the Game 1 loss set the tone for the series.
Because of Jordan, Barkley gets teased all the time for never winning a championship despite being one of the greatest players of all time. He told The Athletic he’s confused why critics keep treating basketball as an “individual game.”
“Somewhere along the way, these talking heads turned it into an individual game, like we’re (playing) golf or tennis. And that’s just how it is nowadays. It’s really unfortunate. It’s really unfair. But that’s how it is,” Barkley said. “I’m smart enough to know who I am. But I’m just trying to figure out how it became an individual thing somewhere along the way.”
Barkley is excited to watch the Suns and Bucks battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. He just can’t pick a winner until he knows what is going on with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Charles Barkley: ‘I’m rooting for the Suns’
Barkley says he’s rooting for the Suns to win the Finals. However, he won’t pick a winner since Antetokounmpo may or may not play in the series due to a knee injury.
“I mean, I’m rooting for the Suns,” Barkley said. “But like I say, you can’t make an educated guess on this series until you understand the Giannis situation. But I’m the biggest Suns fan in the world right now. It’s going to be very interesting. I can’t wait to watch it.”
Antetokounmpo has been upgraded to questionable for Game 1 of the Finals. He missed the Bucks’ past two games because of a hyperextended left knee he suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, a series Milwaukee won in six.
It will be fascinating to see if the Suns can win the championship and make Barkley proud. The 11-time All-Star will be watching the series closely to see if Paul, Booker, and Ayton can finish off their magical season in style.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.