While Charles Barkley has found a home as a popular member of TNT’s Inside the NBA team, the forward-turned-analyst didn’t always have the greatest reputation. During his time on the hardwood, Sir Charles wasn’t always on his best behavior. He fought, he spit, and, on one famous occasion, he literally told the world that he wasn’t a role model.
Even though that chapter of his life is confined to the past, Barkley knows that he’ll always be associated with his less-than-ideal actions. In a candid interview with Dan Patrick, Chuck touched on his complicated legacy and admitted that, in the big picture, he has to own up to everything he’s ever done.
Charles Barkley was never the greatest role model
Even though he failed to win an NBA championship, Barkley put together a Hall of Fame career on the hardwood. For all of that talent, though, the forward also had an unfortunate knack for making non-basketball-related headlines.
During Sir Charles’ time in the Association, he got in his fair share of fights; on one famous occasion, he even threw his opponent through a window. The forward also appeared in a game while drunk after a trade fell through, spit on a young girl in the stands, and earned his fair share of fines. At one point, Barkley even appeared in a famous Nike commercial saying that he — and other professional athletes — shouldn’t be looked to as role models.
Even in retirement, Chuck still made some less-than-ideal news. As recorded in a 209 AP story (H/T ESPN), he “was sued by a Las Vegas Strip casino for failing to pay $400,000 in gambling markers, or loans” and, on another occasion, pleaded guilty to a DUI, “served three days in jail, paid $2,000 in fines, and attended an alcohol treatment program.”
Sir Charles knows those bad choices will always be part of his legacy
During a recent GQ interview, Scottie Pippen took a shot at Barkley, seeming to suggest the forward wasn’t as tough as his reputation might suggest. Sir Charles, in turn, appeared on The Dan Patrick Show, where he got a chance to respond.
While Chuck did take his own shot back, essentially saying that Pippen was damaging his reputation for self-promotion, that wasn’t the most interesting part of his conversation with Patrick. Barkley, for all of his confidence, conviction, and overall gusto, also showed a nuanced grasp of his own legacy.
For a bit of additional context, Patrick suggested that Pippen could be compensating for The Last Dance and trying to share his side of the story. That prompted Barkley to look in the mirror and admit that some ugly incidents will always be part of his overall resume.
“Well, you know, for me, Dan, I have to take the good and the bad when people talk about Charles Barkley. I don’t get to sugar-coat like everything I did stupid in my life,” the forward explained. “The spitting incident. The DUI. People get to bring that up. I don’t get to talk about how great I was at basketball without saying…when people say, “OK, yeah, but he did some stupid things.’ And that’s just the way it works. Like I got a DUI. I spit back in my day. Like I have to take the good with the bad.”
Barkley then noted that Pippen was a good player, but he still made some mistakes. In Sir Charles’ mind, owning up to those missteps is simply part of life.
“When you talk about your life,” the forward concluded, “you don’t get to say, ‘Hey, this is all the good I did.’ When you do things that are not good, you have to talk about those also. There’s some things that I’m not proud of [that] I’ve done in my life, but you have to talk about those things. And it sucks when people bring them up.”
For all his mistakes, Charles Barkley seems to get it
In fairness, some people would still argue that Charles Barkley isn’t a role model. The analyst has made some controversial comments during his time on TNT and has spoken openly about his gambling habits. Based on his comments on The Dan Patrick Show, though, it seems like the forward does have a solid handle on his legacy.
Over the years, Chuck has had a propensity for making bold statements, whether it’s about Skip Bayless or an underperforming team. His comments about his life’s work, however, show that same candor without the over-the-top nature. There’s nothing to scream ‘Look at me’ or outright steal the spotlight. Instead, it’s honest, refreshing, and frankly human.
For professional athletes, legacy can be a touchy subject. How you’re remembered isn’t always fair and, in many situations, it can be defined by factors outside of your control. Circling back to Scottie Pippen, for example, he never asked to receive the gift and the curse of playing alongside Michael Jordan. It just happened and, for better or worse, defined his career.
While Barkley’s situation isn’t exactly the same, there is something to be said for his position. The forward seems to be comfortable with his overall body of work, ranging from his on-court highs to his behavioral lows. There wasn’t any mention of excuses, oversensitivity among fans, or how he was better than you might remember. While it wouldn’t be quite fair to say that Sir Charles is resigned to his legacy, he does seem to understand that things aren’t completely in his hands. For all of his efforts to do good, he can’t change the past or force fans to forget his bad decisions.
During his NBA career, Barkley said that he shouldn’t be a role model. While you can debate whether that stance does or does not apply to him in 2021, the former forward’s comments about his own legacy are still a breath of fresh air. With the benefit of hindsight, Sir Charles does seem to get it.