Suns News

Peers Remember Sir Charles

Charles Barkley had an unparalleled impact on Phoenix's sports landscape.
(NBAE/Photos)

Updated: March 20, 2004

When you work anywhere for 16 years, you’re bound to encounter many different people in your field. Charles Barkley was no exception. Whether he played with, against or for them, Sir Charles made an impression on just about everyone he met during his tenure in the NBA. And although the Chuckster might not be able to remember everybody he's run across during his career, they sure remember him.

Some of those acquaintances, friends and foes spoke with Suns.com to share their impressions of No. 34, who was inducted into the Suns' Ring of Honor on Saturday, March 20 during halftime of the Suns-Bucks game at America West Arena.


FORMER L.A. LAKERS CENTER KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR:
Even though they didn't know it at the time, two future Hall of Famers matched up when veteran Kareem took on a young Charles Barkley in the 1980s, and it was Abdul-Jabbar who was the one literally left with an impression of their battles.

I got the best of him, but yet I didn’t. It was at the All-Star Game. I got in position and drew an offensive foul against him. But you know I was bruised and battered after it was over. Even though I got the call, I lost. He played both ends of the court. Points, rebounds, assists… there are only a couple of guys that have gotten over a certain level on all three of those statistics, and he’s one of them. It’s no accident. He’s an interesting guy. He’s certainly been a stalwart with this franchise. I hope it’s a big night for him.


FORMER L.A. LAKERS GUARD MAGIC JOHNSON:
Sharing the court as teammates on the first Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics, Magic and Charles combined to steamroll the competition en route to gold medals for Team USA. Both men were also voted as two of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All Time in 1996.

This is what it’s all about. My good friend being honored, I want to support that and be a part of that. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. He’s been a special person for the league, for the city of Phoenix and also the NBA on TNT. What I didn’t know about Charles is that he’s smarter than what people think. He keeps up on world affairs, but what I really love about him is how he wants to help those less fortunate than himself. He’s a special person with a big heart.

You can’t describe Charles in 10 words or less. He’s the most giving person I’ve ever met. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met, because he knows more than just basketball. He’s involved. He wants to help people. He speaks for those whose voices can’t be heard and so Charles Barkley is one of the most incredible men. As a basketball player, he’s one of the greatest who’s ever played, but I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about him as a man.


FORMER DETROIT PISTONS CENTER BOB LANIER:
Lanier was voted into the Baketball Hall of Fame in 1992, an honor Charles will be eligible for in 2005. The center was a six-time All-Star. He was also named All-Star MVP in 1974, a feat Charles accomplished 20 years later in the mid-season exhibition.

I’m just paying homage to Charles Barkley. He’s achieved a lot. Not only in terms of his play, but what he’s done after basketball and more importantly to me. He’s done a lot to touch the lives of people. He gives a lot of his time and his resources which is very important.

On the court, he was an over-achiever. He was small for the prototypical forward, but he played real big. His hunger, he had a passion for the game which people connected him with. Charles is pretty unique. He’s been a great ambassador for our game. He’s a great role model, even though he doesn’t want to be a role model.


MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES GUARD SAM CASSELL:
Cassell's arrival in Phoenix was one season too late to be a part of the Barkley-Suns era, but he got a first-hand look at the impact of No. 34 as an opponent.

A good player. No doubt about it. Top 50. Charles was just outstanding. Outstanding man. That’s the thing, people don’t realize what a good passer he was, how strong minded he was, how he was undersized as a power forward, but he got it done night in and night out. So it was hell competing against him. He wasn’t a great defender, but he found a way to get it done. That’s all that matters. He just found a way to get it done.

(On Charles the talker) He backed it up. I don’t mind guys that talk as long as they back it up, and he backed it up. So he got a pass.

(On Charles the broadcaster) Charles is Charles, man. Only he can get away with the stuff he says. But that’s what TNT wants so that’s what TNT got.


TORONTO RAPTORS FORWARD VINCE CARTER:
Carter was just coming into his own just as Sir Charles was calling it an NBA career. The four-time All-Star forward was this year’s leading vote-getter at the NBA All-Star Game, a feat shared by Barkley in 1994.

He’s definitely the greatest. That speaks for itself, hands down. He could shoot the ball from outside yet be effective inside. He could pass the ball extremely well. He was one of those guys who could do a lot of things. He was one of the few big men who could play inside-outside games. That was very effective and that made him tough. And when he rebounded, he could drive you right off the court. He was multidimensional.


PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS HEAD COACH MAURICE CHEEKS:
The NBA’s all-time steals leader when he retired in 1993, Cheeks played point while Barkley was manning forward for the 76ers from 1984-88. Both players had their respective jerseys retired by Philadelphia.

My first impression of Charles was that he could play. He was a big guy and he didn’t necessarily know he was going to be as good as he was. Especially with rebounding, because the guy was 6-4, 6-5 and you didn’t know he was going to be that good of a rebounder. Just the way he played the game… He played with such competitive juice. And had fun doing it. He just went out and played and had fun doing it. He played the game with such heart. I loved playing with him, because he was playing to win. Anytime he was out on the floor, he left it out on the floor. A lot of guys have watched Charles Barkley, and they can learn a lot from him. He had fun. He was crazy. He did all those crazy things guys do today, but it was never a question of him going out on the floor playing. He was going to put everything into a game night in and night out.

(On Barkley’s key to rebounds)
Position, position, position. He was big guy. He blocked out, but he was powerful. The way he got his position on the floor in terms of getting his body on a guy to get the ball. When he got his body on someone, he was going to get the ball.

(On Barkley's trash talking)
He did trash talk, but for some reason it was okay the way he did it. It was different for some reason, but you don’t mind a guy trash talking if he’s able to go out on the floor and play. And he did that. He was trying to go out on the floor and break them down, but he was also trying to compete. He was a guy who talked crazy and did crazy things, but when he stepped on the floor he was ready to play.


HOUSTON ROCKETS ASSISTANT COACH PATRICK EWING:
The former New York Knicks center mostly considered Barkley the opposition during his 17-year NBA career, but the two were teammates on multiple All-Star squads and the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. In 1996, Ewing joined Barkley as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

Charles had a fantastic career, and he did a lot of amazing things. As a friend and a guy who competed against him for a lot of years, I want to wish him the best and a lot of success. For a guy his size, the things he that he could do: rebound the basketball among guys my size, very physical. He was just a competitor. It didn’t make a difference who he was going up against.

(On Barkley's trash talking)
You know Charles. He’s a big trash-talker. He talks a lot of trash. From the first day I met him until now, he still talks trash. He’s doing a real good job. He must be, otherwise he wouldn’t be on TV. And TV was meant for him.

There’s only one word to describe him: “Competitor.” That’s it.


NEW YORK KNICKS CENTER DIKEMBE MUTOMBO:
One of the NBA’s most dominating defensive players ever, Mutombo knows a thing or two about out-muscling opponents near the basket. His near-3,000 career blocks ranks him fourth on the all-time list.

Charlie’s one of the great power forwards to ever play this game. To look at his size, to see the domination that he brought on the court, to dominate the game in the paint, rebounding, defensively, guarding guys who were not in his size... He was a monster out there. He was just tough. When you were big and you think you were someone that could take him to the block and challenge him, but he would not back down and just push you out of the block, and then let you do something quick where he disrupts your game.


NEW YORK KNICKS HEAD COACH LENNY WILKENS:
The winningest coach in NBA history, Lenny Wilkens guided the second Dream Team to Olympic Gold in 1996. With Barkley at forward, Team USA steamrolled through the competition, winning each of its games by at least 18 points.

When I had him in the Olympics, a player from Lithuania elbowed him and tried to run down the court thinking that Charles wasn’t going to react. Charles went down and nailed him good. That kind of set the tone in the Olympics that we weren’t going to be like the college kids. If you elbowed someone, you were going to get it back and he made that statement early by retaliating, and I thought it was great.

He’s one of my favorites. He’s a great player, a great competitor. He came to play every night and I think that’s the mark of a tremendous player. He certainly deserves the honor.


DALLAS MAVERICKS CENTER SCOTT WILLIAMS:
Former Suns center Scott Williams was a member of the Chicago Bulls team that met Barkley and the Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals and talked with Suns.com about playing against Sir Charles in that hard-fought series.

Sir Charles was a great player. He was great for the game of basketball at a time when it needed a guy to step out of the mainstream a little bit, more of a colorful figure. I think he was a fantastic player, obviously, a Hall of Famer. It’s just a great honor for the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Suns to honor him in a way that his name will always be associated with Phoenix Suns basketball.

(On guarding Barkley one-on-one)
In the (1993) NBA Finals, I had opportunities where we would switch off and I’d get a chance to guard him a little. But at 6-6, he was so powerful and played so big in the block, he would pretty do whatever he wanted down there. When you get him down there in a one-on-one situation, you were just screaming for help as quick as you can. Get one of the guards down there. “Paxson, Armstrong, somebody get down here and scratch and claw at this guy with me!”

I remember he was banged up a little bit in the Finals. He had an elbow problem and still went out and grabbed 18 boards one game and gave the coach over 20 points and I thought, “What a warrior.” I know he wants an NBA Championship so bad; he’s doing anything he possibly can to help his team win. I just think that was a tremendous accolade for him to be able to put his personal pain aside to help his team win a ball game.