Over the course of 16 NBA seasons in the NBA, Charles Barkley proved to be one of the all-time greats. Among other impressive feats, he is one of just four players in NBA history to amass 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists. He garnered those impressive numbers as one of the most physically dominant power forwards the game has ever seen.
Barkley was also a passionate, competitive player. On more than a few occasions, his physicality crossed the line into downright aggression, leading to fights with other players. One of Barkley’s most notorious fights, however, took place off the court. Let’s look at the incident and seemingly small price Barkley had to pay for it.
Charles Barkley’s craziest bar fight
The fight in question took place in Orlando, Florida on October 26, 1997. At the time, Barkley was a member of the Houston Rockets, who were in town to play a pre-season game against the Magic. The naturally gregarious party guy decided to hit the town one night. He ended up at a bar by the name of Phineas Phoggs.
There, a 20-year-old construction worker by the name of Jorge Lugo accosted Barkley. At just 5-foot-2, Lugo didn’t stand much of a chance against the 6-foot-6 Barkley. So instead of taking a swing at the big man, Lugo threw a cup full of ice at him. Barkley initially ignored the provocation. But when the man returned a short time later and threw a second glass, hitting a member of Barkley’s group, he flew into a rage.
As it happened, an off-duty police officer was working at the bar, and quickly intervened. Yet Barkley refused to back down. Instead, he wrestled Lugo out of the officer’s grasp and, in a move straight out of professional wrestling, picked him up threw him through a plate-glass window.
Unsurprisingly, police quickly arrested Barkley. He spent several hours in jail before fellow Rockets star Clyde Drexler bailed him out. That gesture of friendship set Drexler back a cool $6,000.
Barkley’s response to the fight
In discussing the incident, Barkley took full responsibility for his actions, while standing by his decision to react the way he did, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
“I’m going to defend myself. Let there be no debate. If you bother me, I’m going to whip your ass. The guy threw ice in my face, and I slammed his ass into the window. I’m not denying that. I defended myself. He got what he deserved.”
To anybody who knew Barkley, those words came as no surprise. To this day, Barkley’s candor and willingness to stick to his guns are two of his most characteristic personality traits.
Charles Barkley’s legal ramifications
Barkley was charged with a count of aggravated battery, and a count of resisting arrest without violence. Fortunately, Lugo had not been seriously injured during the incident. A local hospital treated him for a minor laceration to his right arm. Lugo ultimately decided not to press charges against Barkley.
Instead, in December, reports surfaced that Barkley reached an out-of-court civil settlement with Lugo. The exact terms of the resolution never surfaced to the public. As for the criminal charges against Barkley, he ended up getting off relatively light. A judge decreed that he pay a $320 fine and do two community-service visits with children’s programs.
Lugo remained adamant that he had never thrown anything at Barkley. Yet reporters soon uncovered the fact that Lugo was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He had already been arrested twice that same year, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In September, he was released from jail after serving over three months on drug charges.