Say what you will about Charles Barkley, but the former forward isn’t one to bite his tongue. That was true during his time in the Association, and he hasn’t changed as a TNT pundit. Sir Charles is always going to speak his mind, whether you like it or not.
Michael Jordan, it seems, was firmly in the “not” camp.
As the story goes, Jordan and Barkley’s friendship came to an end after Chuck took aim at His Airness’ record as an executive. During a recent interview, the forward reiterated that tale with a bit more color.
Charles Barkley revisits the end of his friendship with Michael Jordan
During his time in the spotlight, Charles Barkley has made more than a few questionable comments. One of his accurate statements, however, stands out for the wrong reasons.
In 2012, Sir Charles said that Michael Jordan hadn’t done a good job running the Charlotte Hornets. While there isn’t much room to argue with that point — even as the team has improved, playoff success hasn’t arrived — His Airness didn’t appreciate the point.
While we’ve heard the crux of the story on multiple occasions, Barkley brought some new perspective to the table during an appearance on SiriusXM’s Let’s Go podcast.
“I think probably, me and Michael [Jordan] were best friends, that’s probably the most prominent thing,” Chuck explained when asked about consequences of his honesty (h/t the New York Post). “Michael Jordan, losing his friendship was probably the most prominent thing that’s happened to me. But I was being honest about what I thought. I said, ‘Listen, the toughest thing about Michael, he’s got to put better people around him.’ Because the toughest thing, when you’re famous, they’re on your private jet, you’re buying all the drinks, you’re buying all the dinners. Very few people are gonna be honest with you.”
Barkley then tied things up by drawing a contrast to how he handles things and reiterating why the relationship is (probably) done for good.
I try to surround myself with people like, ‘hey, if I’m screwing up, please tell me.’ And Michael got offended about something I said about him. And we haven’t spoken in probably almost 10 years. And he was my best friend at the time. And I love the dude like a brother and we’re both stubborn and we haven’t talked.Charles Barkley
Again, none of this is entirely new territory — we’ve heard Barkley explain the rift and theorize that he and Jordan are both too stubborn to patch things up — but there is something poignant about hearing Chuck tell largely the same tale again. Rather than getting stale, it almost becomes sadder.
Sir Charles, for all his flaws, is largely doing what we ask of athletes who step into the media. His analysis isn’t perfect, but he tries to be honest about what he’s seeing. Even if that isn’t perfect, it’s probably better than having a studio show tell the viewers that everyone is great all the time.
And, to bring in some additional basketball context, consider Barkley’s TNT coworker, Shaquille O’Neal. The big man is still discussing how much he regrets missing the chance to connect with Kobe Bryant before his untimely death (h/t PEOPLE).
Will that be enough to inspire a change in either Barkley or Jordan? If we take Chuck at his word, probably not. On a human level, though, it’s just sad to think of a loving and brotherly friendship ending abruptly with little chance of reconciliation.