The TNT basketball analyst is the author of the recently released Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?
SI: Your book is a compilation of discussions about race you had with 13 people, including Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton. Woods tells how on his first day of kindergarten, a group of older kids tied him to a tree, spray painted the n word on him and threw rocks at him. What made you want to tackle this serious and complex topic?
Barkley: I consider racism a cancer. I'm trying to create a dialogue on the touchiest subject in the world. I grew up in the civil rights movement [in Alabama], and my mother and grandmother made me conscious of racism. That made me want to do more about it.
SI: How did you choose your subjects?
Barkley: I wanted Tiger because I think he gets a bad rap. People try to make him choose to be black. I talked to actors because I wasn't really happy with the way blacks are portrayed on television. And [as Toni Morrison said] Bill Clinton was considered to be our first black president.
SI: Did you and your teammates ever talk about race?
Barkley: Race never comes up in sports. It's really weird. In my 16 years in the NBA there was never a racial confrontation on a team. If something like Rodney King or O.J. Simpson happened, we might have a discussion. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write the book. People never talk about race until something bad happens. So I thought: Let me write a book when everyone is in a good mood and we're talking.
SI: Any advice for Phil Jackson?
Barkley: Retire and live happily ever after. I'd tell him the same thing I told Rudy T when I called him after he left the Lakers: Amen. You've done enough. Go enjoy your life.
SI: What other sports interest you?
Barkley: I watch golf every weekend. I watch five baseball games a week. I watched the entire NFL draft. I am the ultimate sports guy. But it's really disconcerting watching the L.A. Angels. I'm trying to figure out what the hell LAA is. --Richard Deitsch