Charles Barkley recently revealed in an interview that his relationship with former Olympic teammate and best friend Michael Jordan had soured due to criticisms he’s made about Jordan’s work as an owner. At times a fierce rivalry, at other times a brotherly bond, MJ and Chuck’s unique friendship has covered an entire spectrum of emotions over its 30-plus years of existence. Here's a look back at the some of the biggest moments of their dynamic relationship.
The 1984 draft
Considered by many to be one of the greatest draft classes in NBA History, 1984 produced four Hall of Famers, seven All-Stars and, oh yeah, the Greatest Player of all time, Air Jordan (also I think that dog from Air Bud was born this year? I’ll get back to you on that).
Selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls, Jordan would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors. Two picks later, the Philadelphia 76ers selected the “Round Mound of Rebound” out of Auburn University, Charles Barkley. Jordan would go on to have the greater legacy, but Barkley would always have the cooler nickname (for more on that, please see our Brief History of Charles Barkley Fat Jokes).
The Dream Team
The 1992 Olympic team was “the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport” and Barkley and Jordan were the centerpieces. Though many people saw it as MJ’s team, Sir Charles led the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team in scoring average (18), field goal percentage (.711) and 3-point shot percentage. Barkley and Jordan would become best friends in Barcelona, though the honeymoon to their budding bromance wouldn’t last long.
1993 NBA Finals
Back from Barcelona, Barkley was more confident in his game than ever. He also was determined to win an NBA Championship with the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, an MVP season and trip to the Finals were not going to be enough for Charles to stop His Airness from capturing his third straight NBA Championship.
Jordan plays baseball, Chuck sells shoes
Soon after the 1993 Finals, Jordan would retire from basketball to become the greatest minor league baseball player of all time... Ok, so just an average minor league baseball player…OK fine! So he wasn’t that great of a baseball player, all right!
The good news for Barkley was that with Michael in retirement, Nike needed a new sneaker spokesman. Thus, Chuck’s first signature sneaker line, The Nike Air Force Max CB was born. Here’s a classic Nike commercial from 1994 featuring Jordan, Barkley and none other than the creator of the Humpty Dance himself, Humpty Hump!
After Barkley had his talents stolen by the Monstars of Looney Tune land, it was looking like he would never be able to play in the NBA again. Luckily, after defeating the Monstars in a legendary game of basketball, Jordan was able to convince the Monstars to return Barkley’s skills. Soon after, MJ returned to earth via a spaceship and came out of retirement to rejoin the Chicago Bulls.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It has recently come to our attention that this may or may not be completely based in fact. We’ll update you with more info as we have it.
Soon after his return to the NBA, Jordan was once again its greatest player, capturing another three straight NBA Finals. This was not great news for Barkley, who was never able to make it back to another Championship series. As the clock on Barkley’s career wound down, his frustrations grew. This clip from 1998 features some heated trash talk between the two that looks nothing like the Barcelona BFF’s.
The saying goes that “time heals all wounds”. Hopefully, with enough time, Jordan and Barkley will find a way to overcome their differences and find the magic they once shared together on Oprah’s stage.