• Print

Sir Charles held court pregame with the media one final time

Prior to putting on his Rockets uniform for the final time before Houston's game with Vancouver on April 19, Charles Barkley sat down and offered his thoughts on a variety of topics, including his feelings on playing the final game of his 16-year career, the importance of giving back to his community, and his future goals in life. The following is a transcript of Barkley's interview.

Will it be a natural progression for you to become a member of the media?
No. 1, I'm one of the few guys who can say I've been there and done that. I think the media in most cases is unfair. It's easy for me to say an athlete is wrong when he is really wrong, and that's no big deal. I see on television all the time where I see a coach and a player arguing and if the player is on a winning team, they will say he is a great leader. But if he is on a bad team, they will say he is a bad guy. It is going to be great for me to get on TV and tell the truth. There is a lot of BS that the media makes up. I mean there are so many double standards out there and I can say, "Hey, that's no big deal," and say what's really happening. I know this is hard for you to believe, but the media does lie every now and then. I like the majority of the media, but I think it's just a little too much power to give somebody who doesn't really understand. You have to understand that most people aren't going to get to meet most famous people. So they have to judge you by a three-second sound bite on television, and that's not fair.

What's your best three-second sound bite ever?
I feel like everything that I've said is what I wanted to say. I like creating debate. I don't really like the word controversy, but my opinion is just my opinion.

Is there anything you regret saying?
No, not at all because every time I said something, I was trying to get from point A to point B. I know whenever I said something, what was going to happen. I don't think I'm ever caught off guard by anything I say. If I said something, I'm trying to get somebody to say something back to me or get into a debate about a certain subject.

You have pointed to this night, being able to come back one last time. After tonight, what is going to drive you?
I've still got two more months of rehab. As hard as I've been working, trying to squeeze six months into four months, my knee is still only 70 percent. So I've still got two more months of serious rehab to get stronger. I mean my leg is healed to a certain point, but it's only 70 percent of its strength level compared to my right knee. So that will motivate me. I have very set goals in my mind. By the time I'm 50 I want to have $100 million. I probably need another close to $60 million to get there. But I've got a couple of companies I just started that I think are going to be very profitable for me. My goal is to eventually give $10 million to my high school, my college and my church again like I gave $1 million this year. When this season first started, when I came back for one more year, I said that I wanted to give my entire salary this year away to charity. That was kind of my gift back to the game and I gave pretty much all my salary away for the year. That was my goal when the season started.

Most guys say when they retire they are going to miss the guys in the locker room the most. Is that how you feel?
Well I am going to miss that, but the main thing I will miss is playing basketball. I'm going to miss these guys tremendously but you think about this. If I go down to the YMCA, and I don't see Magic (Johnson) Michael (Jordan), Larry (Bird), Karl Malone, those guys out there, it's not the same. When I say I have reached a pinnacle of my life at 37, I don't care whatever I accomplish for the rest of my life. There is nothing that will compare with the highs I have been on the last 16 years. Nothing.

Is that sad to you?
It's not sad because most people don't ever get that. I can honestly say I accomplished some great things in my life and that makes me happy. That is not sad, it's just sad that I can't play basketball anymore.

How did a chubby little kid from Alabama exceed everyone's expectations?
I've got to give all the credit to the Lord. I've done a lot of work, obviously, but I have exceeded all my expectations by tenfold. There is not one person, myself included, that thought I would accomplish things I have. I'm just glad that it turned out great for me.

What are you looking forward to now?
I think now I'm in an important point in my life. The first part has been easy. But that was all God-given. He gave me a tremendous amount of talent, but now it comes to an important part in life where I have to make a decision. I don't want to just be a rich guy who is famous and doesn't give back to the community. That's a big deal for me.

It would be easy to just sit back and rest on the laurels, wouldn't it?
It would be, but I don't think that's what the Lord gave me this talent for. That's what I felt when I gave $1 million to all three of those charities. Especially when I'd like to give each one of them $10-20 million. I'm not saying this to make me sound like I'm a Greek god or anything, but you look at the big picture. There is a reason God gave me talent, more talent than pretty much anyone else. I'm realistic about that. I'm very realistic to know there have been probably five or six guys to play basketball like me in the last 16 years. Let's just be realistic. For some reason, the Lord gave me that gift. And I don't think he wanted me to do that B make a lot of money and sit at home on my fat behind. I really don't believe that.

What skills will you take to your next stage in life?
Just to set my goals real high because we don't know what we can accomplish. I never expected to be where I am today so that's something that I can carry to the table like I don't know what I can do. A good example B I just started a medical supply company and they are estimating it is going to be worth $500 million in three years. Well, I would settle for $100 million. But my goal is $500 million. I'm not going to sell myself short. I want it to be worth $500 million in three years. That means I can give more money to charity.

Ideally, what would happen out there on the court tonight?
There is nothing that can happen on this court tonight for me because I can't play, really play. A piece of mind that I've played my last game and I walked off the court. You've got to understand that I've got the mental block about the last game because we always remember the last thing that happened. I've got the mental thing B the last I would have played basketball I got carried off the court. I'm not going out there with the illusion that I'm going to score a basket or get a rebound. It would be nice if I could score a basket, or get a rebound but realistically, I'm just going out there for my own piece of mind.

This will be the final impression, but what will be the lasting impression of your career?
Just the people that I've met, the places I've been. I've said this and it sounds like a clichT, but I owe everything in my life to basketball. I mean you think about it. I'm rich beyond my wildest expectations, I've got luxuries, I've met kids, I've met kings, I've met queens, I've met presidents and I'm 37 and I've never had a job. And the only way to explain that is basketball. That's my lasting impression of this whole thing. I owe everything in my life to basketball.

How much will you play tonight and what do you hope to accomplish on the court?
Well, I don't have any expectations for the court because I'm only 70 percent. The last thing I want to do is get hurt and have to rehab again all summer. My only goal is to just get out there and when the game is over, I can say thanks to everybody for 16 great years and my last memory will be walking off the court and not getting carried off the court.

Was there one moment in your career that stands out?
I think the highlight was I got to be on the two Dream Teams. First of all, I think the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world. I would suggest that every person in their lifetime try to go to the Olympics. It's such a phenomenal thing. When you see people that dedicate their whole lives for four years or eight or nine years to try to win a gold medal. When you are there and you see all these stories from people from all over the world who have dedicated their lives to winning just one event. When you are there, you are just in awe. Think about it, most people in their life don't do that. I mean nobody builds their whole life around something that happens every four years. And for somebody to put that time and effort in, and that much work for that one moment, it is special. When you are up there and they are playing the national anthem for your country, it is just phenomenal.

Do you have any predictions for the playoffs?
I think the Lakers are by far the best team. In the East I like Indiana. There's not a dominant team in the East, but I still like Indiana. But the Lakers are by far away the best team in the league right now. I'll tell you, they could win the next five or six championships conceivably.