Barkley: “You want to be The Man.”

Add Charles Barkley to the chorus of “old-school” NBA icons who say the the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh all-galaxy triumvirate never would have happened back in the day: “No,” he said to me in an email. “As a player u think you are the best, or u should. U want to be the man whether its ego or pride. Ask kobe what its like to win as the man; he would tell u its different. I have to live with the fact I did not win a championship as the man.”
I shared Charles’ comments on Twitter last night, and a couple of my followers went ballistic:
@dcolli Barkley is a fool. He forced his way out of Philly to team up with another all-star in Phoenix.
NVisionMarketin Barkley is lying! He tried to do the same thing by teaming with Clyde Drexler & Scottie Pippen in Houston
Two of Charles’s peers – MJ and Magic – have weighed in with sentiments similar to his, saying they (along with Larry Bird) never would have plotted to play with each other, essentially because they were so busy trying to beat each others.
Critics of their comments have charged that each of those great players exerted pressure on management, when necessary, to either obtain more talent or get them the heck out of dodge in pursuit of a ring.
All true. I covered the league during those years and those players – as well as Isiah Thomas in Detroit – were de facto Asst GMs, working with management to ensure they were able to put the best team possible on the floor each season.
And yes, after eight ring-less seasons in Philadelphia, Barkley abandoned Brotherly Love for Phoenix to join all-stars Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and aging Tom Chambers and a team that had gone to the Western Conference semis the year before and was a legit threat to win the 1992-93 title.
Yet in four years there, Charles only came to jewelry once – that first season when the Suns beat the Lakers, Spurs and Sonics to reach the NBA Finals. Awaiting there? MJ and the Bulls, who defeated the Bulls 4 games to 2.
Barkley never got out of the West again. After four seasons in Phoenix, he made one final ring-chasing move: At the age of 33 (probably closer to 50 in Barkley years), he joined two other aging stars – Hakeem Olajuwon, also 33; and Clyde Drexler, 34 – in pursuit of a title. (Hakeem won titles in ’93-’94 and ’94-’95)
Though none of the them had seen their prime for years, the Olajuwon-Barkley-Drexler triumvirate reached the Western Conference finals during their first year together. But that was their peak.
So yes, Bakrley did chase a ring, and in so doing often aligned himself with other all-stars. But the point critics of him, MJ, Magic, etc are missing is this: There were two classes of “star’ in that age.
One comprised the array of top players on numerous teams, perennial all-stars and guys who were clearly among the elite.
And then there was the elite among the elite – MJ, Bird, Magic, Charles and Isiah. 9Even toss Patrick Ewing in the bunch)
Those were the guys who were not only trying to win rings but to beat each other trying.
Magic had to beat Larry.
And vice versa.
Isiah had to beat Larry.
Isiah had to beat Magic.
MJ had to beat Isiah
MJ had to beat Magic.
It was all great theater. But more than that, it was real.
They were all The Man. And at no time during their prime could you have seen any of those stars playing together.
Their feelings for each other were just too much to overcome.
Play with my friend in…? Please.
Of course they did overcome their feelings to perform together on Dream Team I.
But by then the attitudes of their youth had given sway to their growing respect for each other.
And it was a very long way to give.

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One thought on “Barkley: “You want to be The Man.”

  1. josmar says:

    Roy, do you have an email that I can contact you at?

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