Tim Kempton on Sir Charles
On Saturday, March 20, Charles Barkley will become the 10th member of the Suns' Ring of Honor when his No. 34 is retired during halftime of the Suns-Bucks game. In honor of the big event, Suns.com is turning the tables on the always-opinionated personality, and asking some of his former teammates, coaches and opponents for their opinions and stories of Sir Charles.
Tim Kempton was role player on the 1992-93 Suns team that won a league-best 62 games and came away with the Western Conference championship. Now Al McCoy’s analyst for KTAR’s Suns broadcasts, Kempton talked with Suns.com about what it was like to be around Barkley that storied year, as well as his thoughts on Sir Charles, the broadcaster.
Suns.com: What are your thoughts about playing with Barkley during the 1992-93 season?
Tim Kempton: The best thing about playing with him was that it was a circus every night. You never had to worry about excitement because if it was a dull building Chuck was going to light it up. If it was an exciting night, it was going to be a spectacular “Broadway” night. His ability to bring the excitement to the game and if it was a big game he just took it to another level. His all-out zest and zeal for basketball and for entertainment, he’s one of the few athletes that realized, “Not only am I a basketball player but I am an entertainer out here.”
Suns.com: How did Barkley balance the entertainment aspect with his desire to play hard and win?
Kempton: He was phenomenal at it. I thought he was very good at concentrating on the moment. If he had a moment to play with the crowd, give someone a look, give an official a word or two, he had that ability to be able to concentrate on the moment, but also get right back into his playing mode. He was fabulous at that. Chuck’s one of a kind and that’s what makes those people special is their ability to control the moment.
Suns.com: How did your impression of Barkley change when you became teammates?
Kempton: The first thing that impressed me was his loyalty and his care for you as a teammate. What impressed me the most, and obviously I wasn’t a star by any stretch of the imagination, with Chuck you felt like you were always a part. You never felt like you were segregated, that you weren’t part of the group in any way. He wouldn’t leave you out in any way.
Suns.com: What did you appreciate most in being a teammate of Barkley?
Kempton: The most I appreciated from him was his honesty and his loyalty. I grew up in the era where if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all, but Chuck just lays it on the line. You know exactly where he stands, how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking. And then his loyalty is unbelievable. If you’re a friend of his, he’ll go to bat for you without question.
Suns.com: What was Barkley like on the practice court?
Kempton: The thing about it is, when we got him in the weight room, I’d be amazed at the lack of his strength in the weight room. Then his strength on the basketball court, he seemed like Sampson. Once he put that uniform on he just became this incredible hulk. His basketball strength, his hands on the ball and his lower body strength were incredible. A lot of times, you just don’t see that in somebody that really didn’t work out that much, didn’t use the weights to the most advantage. But his court strength was phenomenal. I guess it’s just his natural ability when he got on the court, being a basketball-specific athlete, his strength that he developed over the years was just enormous. Once he got around the basket, if he got his hands on the ball, no one else had a chance at it.
Suns.com: What does it mean to you to see Jerry Colangelo and Barkley patch things up and have Barkley go up in the Ring of Honor?
Kempton: I think it’s really a compliment to both of them. Obviously they both have egos, they’ve accomplished a lot in their lives. It’s really good to see because at that time it was Jerry’s vision to create a downtown sports phenomenon and he did that. And Chuck was such a big part of that. it’s nice to see Chuck being recognized for what he did in that short amount of time, but it also goes to the testament of Jerry going out there and making the deal to get Charles here to really get the ball rolling in the downtown arena.
Suns.com: What’s it like for a former player like yourself to come back for events like Barkley’s Ring of Honor ceremony?
Kempton: It’s just like Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days.” Everything becomes magnified. Now we were the best in the world, nobody could touch us. It is a lot fun because one of the great things about the Phoenix Suns organization is how they do keep their players involved and it really is a special bond. No one understand what you go through, the media, the public, what your desires are, how much we expect perfection out of ourselves on a daily basis. They don’t realize that, yeah, they were disappointed, but we were absolutely crushed when we didn’t win that championship when you put so much on the line. So it is a special group with a unique feeling to get everybody back together.
Suns.com: What are you thoughts on Barkley the broadcaster?
Kempton: I think he’s phenomenal. A little rough on the edges, but again, his honesty is so believable and that’s what you want to hear. You don’t want to hear the company line every time. You want to hear when guys are making mistakes. You want to hear what Chuck’s thinking about the NBA basketball and where it is at this point in time. I think he does a great job.
Suns.com: Has Barkley’s approached altered at all the way you do your broadcasting job?
Kempton: You take bits and pieces from everybody. Obviously, I can’t be Charles Barkley; I’m going to be myself, but you can incorporate bits and pieces from other people. One of the things that I think Charles does better than any announcer out there is his honesty and just answering questions straight and not tiptoeing around it when people ask him a pointed question.