Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan used to be like two peas in a pod. That irked Barkley’s former Philadelphia 76ers teammate Rick Mahorn, mainly because he believed Chuck’s friendship with MJ led him to play soft whenever the Sixers matched up against the Chicago Bulls.
Mahorn and Barkley only shared the floor as teammates for two seasons. Still, the former Bad Boy remembers lamenting the Round Mound of Rebound’s tentative style when playing against Jordan.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls handily defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons
Charles Barkley’s Sixers repeatedly ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in both 1990 and 1991. They didn’t need to work very hard in either series, winning both in five games. His Airness was dominant against Barkley’s Sixers, especially in 1990. Jordan averaged over 43 points per game during that series on nearly 55% shooting from the field.
Although Jordan’s scoring numbers went down in the next playoff matchup between the two teams, he still averaged over 33 points per contest. There likely wasn’t much the Sixers could have done to beat the Bulls, who at that time were coming into their own as the next NBA dynasty.
Yet, all these years later, former Sixers center Rick Mahorn thinks Barkley wasn’t physical enough with Jordan whenever Philly faced off against Chicago.
Rick Mahorn wanted Charles Barkley to give Michael Jordan the Bad Boys treatment
Rick Mahorn was never shy about putting a hurt on Michael Jordan. Part of the infamous “Jordan Rules” devised by the Detroit Pistons dictated that MJ be forced into the help defense in the form of Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.
Mahorn only wished Barkley brought the same kind of physical mentality to Philly’s playoff showdowns with the Jordan and the Bulls.
The former All-Defensive Team member said on an episode of the Steam Room podcast earlier this year that he felt Barkley played soft against Jordan. Chuck said he tried to tell Mahorn that he couldn’t afford to go after MJ because he couldn’t be in foul trouble. The Hartford native did not want to hear it.
Barkley has a point, though.
The Bad Boy Pistons could afford to be physical with Jordan because Mahorn and Laimbeer were the enforcers. That was their job. They left the playmaking and scoring to Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Mark Aguirre, and Adrian Dantley. Detroit was a deep and well-rounded team. It didn’t have a ton of bearing on the game if Mahorn got in foul trouble.
The same cannot be said of Barkley. Philadelphia stood no chance without him on the floor. The Sixers didn’t have the scoring, rebounding, or experience to even sniff Jordan and the Bulls with Barkley in the rotation, let alone when he sat on the bench.
Then again, Barkley failed to capitalize on his best chance to beat Jordan later in his career, partly because MJ got whatever he wanted at the rim.
MJ again got the best of Barkley in the 1993 NBA Finals
Barkley might have done well to heed Mahorn’s advice when his Phoenix Suns challenged Jordan and the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals.
Jordan strung together one of the best performances in Finals history, averaging 41 points per contest on 50% shooting from the field. He scored 40 or more points in four of the six games in the series, including a 55-point explosion in Game 4. Jordan punctuated that game with an and-1 over Barkley with under 20 seconds remaining and the Bulls clinging to a narrow lead.
Maybe the Suns could have given Michael Jordan and the Bulls an even greater test had Barkley instilled some fight in his guys. At least, Rick Mahorn probably thinks so.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.