The easiest job for a sports media writer? Interviewing Charles Barkley. Essentially, you have two major responsibilities: 1. Make sure your recording device is functioning; 2. And occasionally ask a why or what question.
I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a member of the sports media who combines Barkley’s level of fame and a true enjoyment of shooting the s--- with anyone willing to engage him. On Tuesday, as part of its outreach to kick off Turner’s 2016-17 NBA coverage, Barkley joined fellow Inside The NBA studio analyst Kenny Smith and a host of Turner Sports executives for a media lunch at a Manhattan seafood restaurant.
“I might go my whole life stealing money,” Barkley says. “I got paid to play basketball, which is a scam. I get paid to watch basketball, which is a scam. And they give you trophies [Emmys] for watching basketball now, which is ridiculous.”
Sitting around a table with a group of reporters, Barkley discussed a variety of topics from Kevin Durant joining Golden State to Barack Obama’s legacy to where he ranks LeBron James among the all-time greats. Enjoy.
On Where LeBron James Ranks For Him Historically
"I have told you guys the five greatest players in my opinion: Michael [Jordan], Oscar Robertson, Wilt [Chamberlain], Bill Russell and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Then it’s Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. Then LeBron is right there. I don’t understand why ya’ll are in such a hurry to move him past Tim Duncan and Kobe. Now if he wins a couple of more championships, I might move him past Kobe and Tim Duncan. You guys always talk about championships. Kobe and Tim have five. LeBron has three…LeBron is amazing. But only in the bulls--- of today’s society could I say a guy is one of the eight greatest players ever and it's an insult to him. That’s crazy. If LeBron wins a couple of more championships I will move him past Tim Duncan and Kobe.
"But nobody can get into my Top 5. It’s not like those guys are slouches. It ain’t like I’m putting Manute Bol in my Top 10 ahead of LeBron. Every time LeBron has a triple double, people say that’s amazing. I say yeah, there’s a guy who averaged one for the whole season who have on my Top 5 list! LeBron had three in the playoffs and you all go crazy. And that is no disrespect to LeBron. The guy is amazing. But why would you put him past Kobe and Tim Duncan already?"
On Golden State’s Chances In 2016-17
"I said if they won last year I would give them their due—and they didn’t. It’s hard for people to people to say it—Charles was right! Everybody crushed me for a year—Charles was wrong, he said a jump-shooting team could not win a championship. What I said was yes they won but everybody they played [in 2015] was hurt in the playoffs. I said last year if they win a championship I would get on my knees and I say I was wrong and that a jump-shooting team can win a championship. They didn’t win …They have a really good team and KD is a helluva of player but they are still going to be shooting jumpers. Can they rebound the ball? I don’t know if they can win enough games shooting jumpers and rebounding the ball against elite competition if everyone is healthy. That’s all I’ve ever said. It’s not hating on the Warriors…I just believe in playing basketball the same way. The game's going to come down to defense and rebounding. And easy baskets down low, that's just my philosophy. If they win, maybe next time they can go get LeBron, then they can win that way, and y'all can still think that analytics sh-- works."
On Locker Room Talk In Relation To Donald Trump’s Comments
"Let me say this: It is never appropriate to touch a woman, grab a woman. I have a daughter. It is never appropriate to sexually assault or harass a woman, ever—there’s no place for that. But to act like I have not heard or said something inappropriate that I wouldn’t want to get to the public, it’s just not true. I played for 16 years and I’m not going to lie to you: I am against sexual assault and harassment. There is no place for that ever. But to act like in my 16 years in an NBA locker room, I haven’t heard sexually explicit stuff or said sexually explicit stuff, that’s just not true."
On Why He Buys The Sixers’ Future
"The Sixers invited me and [former Sixers coach] Billy Cunningham to watch them scrimmage about three weeks ago. I got to see Joel Embiid play and [Ben] Simmons play. I like [Dario] Saric. And I thought they did a really nice job fortifying their bench with Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson. They are two really solid vets who are good guys and will be an influence on those young guys. Then two weeks later Simmons breaks his foot. If Embiid can stay healthy, he will be a handful. Simmons looked good. They have a bright future, man. And it's not going to stop. They will probably have two lottery picks the next couple of years. They will keep getting good players. I also like [Jahli] Okafor. I don’t think they should trade him. I would not play Embiid in back to back games or over 25 minutes a night. You have to make sure Embiid is healthy. I mean, if you trade Okafor and Embiid breaks his foot again, you are going to look like an idiot."
On Durant’s Move To Golden State
"Us older guys were disappointed in Kevin. I’m not going crazy here but we were disappointed when LeBron did it. Guys like myself, Patrick [Ewing], Karl Malone, John Stockton, we can answer we are good even if we didn’t win a ring. But we would have never answered, let’s go play with other stars. For some reason something changed media-wise that you have to win a championship or you suck as a player. Our [old] guys are like, “No, if you gave your best that is good enough.” But these young guys get caught up in the peer pressure and media. I know this for a fact: You don’t think LeBron felt better about winning that one in Cleveland than he did those two in Miami? Winning in Miami would not be the same as winning in Cleveland. There is a reason he went back. Durant winning a championship with Golden State will not feel the same as winning in Oklahoma City. He will be happy and excited but he will not feel the same."
Rare Photos of Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley turned 50 on Feb. 20th. In honor of the occasion, SI.com published 50 photos of the NBA legend, who led the SEC in rebounding and his teammates in pizza consumption in each season he was at Auburn.
During Barkley's three years at Auburn, he averaged 15 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. The school retired Barkley's No. 34 jersey in 2001.
Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and Robert Parish
Barkley was taken with the fifth pick in the 1984 draft by Philadelphia, joining a veteran team that had won the NBA title the year before.
Charles Barkley and Moses Malone
Barkley smiles on the bench next to 76ers teammate Moses Malone at The Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1985. Barkley and Malone overlapped with the 76ers for two seasons, losing in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1985 and the conference semifinals in 1986.
Barkley's gregarious personality quickly made him a fan favorite. In this photo, the Alabama native takes in a movie at a Philadelphia theater.
Charles Barkley and Charcey Glenn
Barkley and his mother, Charcey Glenn, enjoy some down time at Barkley's Philadelphia home.
Barkley, who famously battled weight issues throughout his career, likes what he sees in the mirror.
Barkley has to be restrained as he gets into an altercation with Kurt Rambis during a February 1986 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Barkley smiles on the bench during a 76ers game against the Portland Trail Blazers in February 1986. Barkley averaged 20,0 points and 12.8 rebounds that season as the 76ers reached the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Charles Barkley and World B. Free
Barkley briefly teamed up with World B. Free in the 1987 season, bringing together two of the NBA's most outspoken personalities.
Barkley signs autographs for fans before a 76ers game against the Los Angeles Lakers in December 1987. Although Barkley had one of his best statistical seasons, Philadelphia struggled that year, going 36-46 and missing the playoffs.
Barkley gives a quick hug to a fan after diving into the stands during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers in January 1988. Barkley posted a career-high scoring average with 28.3 points per game in the 1987-88 season, including 37 points in this loss to the Trail Blazers.
Timothy Busfield, Charles Barkley, Mike Gminski and Ken Olin
Timothy Busfield (left) and Ken Olin (right), of the hit TV show "Thirtysomething," act out a fantasy scene with Barkley and Mike Giminski before a Clippers-Sixers game in Los Angeles.
Barkley gets upset during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers in November 1988. The 76ers went 46-36 that season before the New York Knicks swept them in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Charles Barkley and Larry Bird
During the 1988-89 season, Barkley averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
Barkley takes a second to smile for the camera during a game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Charles Barkley and Manute Bol
Barkley stares down 7-foot-7 Manute Bol during a game against the Warriors. The two would later become teammates in Philadelphia.
Barkley poses for a portrait as a new member of the Phoenix Suns in 1992. After averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for seven straight seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley was sent to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.
Charles Barkley, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish
Barkley "interviews" his teammate Danny Ainge and Ainge's former Celtic teammates Kevin McHale and Robert Parish at the Boston Garden.
Barkley "confers" with an official during a game against Denver.
Barkley has some fun with fans before a game against the Houston Rockets in February 1993. He averaged 25.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game during that season, his seventh of 11 straight All-Star seasons.
Barkley dresses in royal regalia with children holding his cape at a charity fundraiser in February 1995.
Charles Barkley and Billy Crystal
Barkley makes a cameo in the Billy Crystal movie, "Forget Paris."
Barkley poses for a portrait in the Phoenix Suns locker room in December 1995. The Suns sent Barkley to the Houston Rockets after the season as part of a deal to land Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant, Sam Cassell and Robert Horry.
Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas and Wilt Chamberlain
Barkley reminisces with NBA legends Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas and Wilt Chamberlain during All-Star Weekend in 1997. Barkley spent two seasons on the Houston Rockets with Drexler and played on the Eastern Conference All-Star Team with Thomas for six years.
Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson
After five seasons in Phoenix, Barkley was traded to Houston. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Allen Iverson became the Sixers next great star.
Charles Barkley and Reggie Jordan
Barkley was hampered by injuries in Houston, missing 145 games in four seasons before retiring in 2000.
Charles Barkley and Jack Nicholson
Actor and Lakers supporter Jack Nicholson chats with Barkley at Game 2 of the Lakers-Rockets first round playoffs series in 1995. Barkley scored 19 points with 13 rebounds in Houston's 110-98 loss as the Lakers went on to win the series in four games. Barkley is one of the best players in NBA history to not win a championship.
Charles Barkley and Leroy Neiman
Leroy Neiman presents Barkley with a painting during his retirement ceremony on March 30, 2001, at the First Union Center in Philadelphia
Charles Barkley, Martha Stewart and Jeff Probst
Barkley may be smarter than Martha Stewart, but he has a ways to go before he can match Jeff Probst. The three competed in Celebrity Jeopardy.
Charles Barkley and John Smoltz
Atlanta Braves closer John Smolts enjoys a laugh with Barkley before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta in October 2001.
Barkley lifts weights in a gym.
Barkley relaxes on a couch for a portrait.
Barkley poses for a portrait in February 2002. Barkley released a memoir that year titled "I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It.
Charles Barkley and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods interviews Barkley in Kauai, Hawaii. Despite Barkley's attempts to learn how to properly swing a golf club, the two are close friends.
A locked and chained Barkley made headlines for this 2002 SI photo shoot.
Auburn alum Barkley watches the Tigers take on Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
Joe Dumars, Dominique Wilkins and Charles Barkley
Barkley poses with fellow Hall of Fame inductees Joe Dumars and Dominique Wilkins prior to the 2006 induction ceremony.
Charles Barkley, Carolyn Murphy and Jay Leno
SI swimsuit model Carolyn Murphy compares hand sizes with Barkley on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Charles Barkley and Dick Bavetta
Barkley kisses referee Dick Bavetta after they competed in a full-court race in the Bavetta/Barkley Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas.
Barkley and his famously ugly golf shot at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in Clarksburg, Ontario, Canada.
Charles Barkley and Suckki Jang
Barkley stretches with golf instructor Suckki Jang during filming for "The Haney Project." Barkley, who has a notorious hitch in his golf swing, appeared with the famed swing coach Hank Haney on his show to try to fix Barkley's swing.
Charles Barkley and Hank Haney
Barkley listens to Hank Haney during "The Haney Project," the reality show in which Haney worked with Barkley to try to fix the hitch in his swing. Haney, who coached Tiger Woods for years, was unable to fix Barkley's swing.
Barkley makes pizza on the Jay Leno Show in November 2009. Barkley appeared on the show with Biggest Loser contestant Allen Smith. He later became a spokesman for WeightWatchers in 2011.
Barkley gives a Chicago Bulls Luvabull dancer a flower while broadcasting a game between the Bulls and the Miami Heat. Upon retiring from the NBA in 2000, Barkley quickly went into broadcasting, working as both a studio and color analyst for basketball games.
Charles Barkley and Michael Douglas
Barkley greets actor Michael Douglas on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in May 2010.
Barkley tans by the pool in Dana Point, Calif., in July 2010. Barkley competed against Shaquille O'Neal in a round of golf as part of O'Neal's television show, "Shaq VS."
Charles Barkley and Paul Brittain
Barkley acts in a sketch on Saturday Night Live with Paul Brittain in January 2012. Barkley hosted the show after appearing on NBC's coverage of the NFL Wild Card playoffs that same day.
Charles Barkley, Bill Hader, Jay Pharoah, and Kenan Thompson
Barkley appears in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in January 2012, spoofing "Inside the NBA," the basketball analysis show on which he regularly appears. Rather than play himself in the sketch, Barkley played the role of Shaquille O'Neal, complete with a fake beard while Kenan Thompson filled in the role of the sketch's Barkley.
Barkley rides onto the set in Thunder Alley on a horse before Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On Super Teams
"I’d rather see a bunch of good teams [than a super team]. It undermines the integrity of the game. As a fan, I don’t want to have my team out of it by Day 1. I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s always been like this.’ But first of all it hasn’t always been like this. Michael Jordan fought through it. The Pistons fought through it. They fought through the Celtics. There are always stars who have stuck it out. Everyone wants to make it old against young. It’s not going to hit the fans who defend it until one of their stars joins a super team. The only people who agree with it are the ones who get the superstars. They don’t lose a superstar. I guarantee you people in New York, if Patrick Ewing had left in his prime to go to the Bulls, they would have been like, 'What?'"
On Gaining Weight
"I’m too thick right now. But I did just get a new hip in fairness to my fatness. I’ve been on the shelf all summer."
On Being Vocal Against North Carolina’s House Bill 2:
"If someone passed a law against Jewish people, I would say something too. If someone passed a law against Hispanic and Muslims, I would say something too. You can’t have selective [discrimination]. It has to be you are against any form of discrimination."
On Why He Does Not Appear In The NBA 2K17 Game
"The reason I am not on 2K is because they would not give me money. They make a lot of money on that game. What I said to them was we as players have not done enough for the retired players association. We told the 2K people that our job is to take care of the older players. I don’t even want any money. I said, “Let’s come up with an amount of money for you to give to the retired players union.” They said, “Well we get all the guys the same.” And I said, “Well, we ain’t all the same.” I told them they make a gazillon dollars on that game. They said, 'Well we are not going to do that [give money].' So I’m not giving them the right to use my license until they come up with a fair number. I’m not trying to be a pig or greedy. They should donate the money to the retired players. If they would give a million dollars a year to retired players union, they can use my likeness."
On NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
"Adam has done a fantastic job. He started with the whole Donald Sterling thing. I don’t know the whole history of sports but I do know that no commissioner in the history of sports civilization ever came in with a more toxic situation. So I think Adam is a great guy and he is following the greatest commissioner in the history of sports. People forget, man, when I got to the NBA in 1984 after David Stern’s first year, there was like a bunch of drug guys, no one was making any money and everybody thought the NBA was bad. The average salary was like $500,000. Now that the average salary is $5 million. Adam took over and he inherited a couple of things that were toxic and he handled it great."
On The Knicks
"Derrick [Rose], if he is healthy, he has a lot at stake. If him and [Joakim] Noah play well, that could be dangerous team. Other than the Cavaliers, nobody fears anyone in the East. Even though I love Toronto and love what Boston is doing, nobody fears them. But if you have Carmelo [Anthony], Derrick and Noah playing a high level, I don’t people want to see them….The Knicks season will be dictated whether those boys can stay healthy. It’s all about Noah and Rose because I think Carmelo and Kristaps Porziņģis will play well."
On Who He Is Voting For In The Presidential Election
"I have voted Democrat my entire life. [Ohio Governor] John Kasich was the first time I was going to vote Republican because I like Kasich. But I have to tell you something. I am having a hard time with the Hillary [Clinton] thing. I’m having a hard time pulling the lever for her. There is something about her that rubs the wrong way…I am undecided about whether I am going to vote or not, but I am not undecided."
On Barack Obama’s Legacy As President
"I remember crying the day he was elected. Never thought there would be a black president in my day. One of the greatest days of my life. I think he’s a wonderful man, got a great wife and amazing daughters. I hope he has inspired a lot of black men on the value of education. I think sports has done a disservice for a lot of black kids thinking they can only be successful through athletics and entertainment. I want them to know they can be doctors, lawyers, teachers, fireman, police officers etc.. That is the big picture. It has been very frustrating watching the Republicans and Democrats disagree on every subject and I think he has done an amazing job under the circumstances."