The Arizona Republic
June 22, 2003
1993 NBA MVP Charles Barkley talks with The Arizona Repuplic's Lee Shappell about his Suns memories of 1993 and the years since.
First of all, it was the greatest experience athletically of my life. It started the day I was traded from Philadelphia. The thing that's amazing is we didn't win the championship . . . but what we went through the entire year was amazing.
Realistically, I've only had three chances, and all three were in Phoenix. We lost to the champs three years in a row, but I've always thought the best team wins in a seven-game series.
When I got there I kind of felt Arizona was looking for an identity. That's why I was totally shocked at the reception I got. They supported me, and if they support that guy, they kind of let people know that guy wasn't as bad as people made him out to be in Philly, and I let the world know that Arizona isn't such a bad place just because it didn't have a Martin Luther King holiday.
We struggled at the start. Cedric Ceballos all year was the player who never got the credit he deserved. For me, he was a godsend. He is going to get open. I loved passing to him out of double teams.
The biggest problem in the NBA is you need guys to do the dirty work. We didn't need more guys who could score, we needed guys who want to play defense and don't worry if they catch the ball. We had enough scorers. That was the only thing I regretted in Phoenix. Mark West, it was tough for him knowing he wasn't going to get any shots, he was just there to rebound and play defense.
• 'O' (overweight Oliver Miller) and Richard (Dumas, drug suspension) - now I don't like to blame anybody, but their problems cost us getting back to the Finals again. They created some internal conflict that was a detriment.
It was really tough for everybody when I came to town. Dan (Majerle) and Tom (Chambers) opened their arms to me better than anybody.
It was a struggle with me and Kevin (Johnson). I was always disappointed we were not close. It wasn't like we didn't get along, but I felt I really reached out and I didn't get it back in return. It's incorrect for anybody to say that Kevin and I didn't get along. But as friends, I wanted that with him.
I really tried, and it didn't happen. I took a chance in the Finals, a big chance, with the fans when I went out of my way to go off on them for booing Kevin.
What hurt us the most was when we took that week off at the end (five season-ending "exhibitions," as coach Paul Westphal called them). We never really got our rhythm back, to be honest with you.
The one memory that summed up the season for me was coming back from 0-2 in the first round against the Lakers. We'd have been remembered as the greatest chokers of all time. That showed our toughness, which I also was very proud of.
The fourth quarter of Game 5 (against San Antonio, when Barkley scored 19 of his 36 points) was the best quarter I ever played.
Seattle was a war. There was no way I was going to let us lose. The best game I ever played in my life was that Game 7 against Seattle (44 points, 24 rebounds to put Suns into the Finals).
Realistically we lost the Finals in Games 1 and 2 (at home). None of us, myself included, had ever been through anything like that. Game 1 we were like a deer in the headlights.
The parade (with 300,000 to cheer the NBA runner-up team) was cool, but I remember getting back from Chicago, and that was the greatest thing. It was like 3 in the morning and there were 12,000 people at the airport. I was there when the Diamondbacks won the World Series (in 2001), which was great, but it was nothing like 1993.
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