Charles Barkley meant everything to the city of Phoenix in 1993. After spending his first eight seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley was shipped off to the desert. He promptly gave Suns fans one of the best seasons of his career.
Barkley carried the Suns on his back throughout the 1992-93 campaign, finishing the season with MVP honors. But he really cemented his place as one of the game’s best with a stellar postseason that included an absolute destruction of the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Charles Barkley led the Suns to the best record in franchise history during the 1992-93 season
The Phoenix Suns already had the talent of a playoff team before acquiring Charles Barkley ahead of the 1992-93 season. But the Round Mound of Rebound elevated the Suns to a championship contender.
Barkley was utterly dominant during the regular season. He averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, a career-high 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks. Chuck ranked fourth in player efficiency rating and value over replacement player. He ranked second in win shares per 48 minutes. Most importantly, he had a profound impact on his teammates.
The Suns won 62 games during the regular season, which remains a franchise record. They earned the top seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The home-court advantage came in handy for Barkley in the Suns, especially during Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. He fed off the energy from the Phoenix crowd and came through with one of the most outstanding performances of his career.
Sir Charles had a classic performance against the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7
Former Suns guard Danny Ainge doesn’t remember all that much about the specifics of Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals. What he does remember is Charles Barkley putting on a truly dominant display.
The Suns had won Game 5 behind a 40-point triple-double from Barkley to take a 3-2 series lead, but they could not close things out in Game 6. Charles ensured Phoenix would not lose on its home floor. He scored 44 points and pulled down a whopping 24 rebounds, controlling the paint and taking matters into his own hands.
Ainge recalled that 1992-93 Sonics team as a quality group during a 2003 interview with NBA.com. But, as he said, Barkley was on an entirely different level during that game.
Barkley didn’t just put up numbers. He put up obscene numbers.
Chuck shot 12-of-20 from the field and made 19 of his 22 free-throw attempts. He had 10 offensive rebounds, consistently giving the Suns second opportunities and giving himself extra chances at the charity stripe.
Keep in mind that the Suns shot 41.7% as a team, which isn’t all that stellar given Barkley’s numbers. Yet the dominance on the glass and at the foul line — the Suns shot 64 free throws to Seattle’s 36 attempts — made all the difference for Phoenix. Of course, the league MVP made a massive impact in both of those departments.
Chuck’s heroics brought the Suns to the Finals. He practically deserved an ownership stake of the Sonics franchise after such a standout performance. Barkley would continue his strong play in the Finals, but he was about to be out-dueled by arguably the greatest winner in NBA history.
Barkley could not overcome Michael Jordan and the Bulls
By all accounts, Charles Barkley did his job in the 1993 NBA Finals. But it simply wasn’t enough.
Barkley was a force in the frontcourt against the Bulls, averaging 27.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. However, his production couldn’t match that of Michael Jordan.
The Bulls legend put on one of the most memorable performances in NBA Finals history, averaging 41.0 points on over 50% shooting while adding 8.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists. Jordan’s dominance throughout the series forced the Suns to overcommit to him at the end of Game 6, resulting in the Bulls swinging the ball around to John Paxson for a game-winning triple.
It was a bitter end for Barkley and the Suns, who would not reach the Finals again until this past season. Still, the journey meant something to the people in the desert, and Sir Charles’ astounding performance against the Sonics in a must-win Game 7 forever endeared him to Suns fans while vilifying him among the people in Seattle.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.