A Tribute to Thunder, Part 4

The Three Muskateers

Posted: April 8, 2002

In the 8:30 p.m. segment of the KTAR 620 Sportsline, Brad Cesmat and Dan Majerle were joined by a couple of the veteran's former teammates and close friends. The following is a transcript of the question-and-answer session...

Cesmat: Now coming up now, letís go to Arkansas.

Majerle: Oh no.

Cesmat: The grizzly bear (Joe Kleine).

Majerle: Howís the pulled pork and the curly fries over at Corkyís?

Kleine: Howís the chili cheese fries at Majerles?

Majerle: The last time I talked to Joe, he was out mounting TVs on the patio at Corkyís and delivering to office people. So this guy has really sunk to a different level.

Kleine: Times are hard, baby. Youíve got to make ends meet.

Majerle: I hear you.

Kleine: How come I didnít get to come on tape?

Majerle: Youíre better live, because youíre so unpredictable.

Kleine: If when weíre talking, I start to cry, just give me a moment.

Cesmat: What is the deal between the two of you. You two have had this unique friendship. Where did all this start, Joe?

Kleine: Iím sick and heís sicker.

Majerle: I just remember him coming to town and I said, ďWho is this guy?Ē We just clicked. I think weíre both the same type of player. Joeís the type of guy who works extremely hard and does whatever it takes to help the team win. That kind of attitude is the same with most of the players I hang around with. Joe is one of those guys who just came to work every night and is just a fun guy to be with. Heís a family guy whoís got some beautiful kids and a beautiful wife, who keeps calling me, by the way, Joe. Tell her to quit calling me (laughs). Heís just a good guy to hang around with and a good guy to play with. Heís a hard worker and just a fun guy to play with.

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Kleine: I agree. I just admire Dan.

Majerle: Stop, Joe.

Kleine: Hold on a minute (sob, sob). Heís just a hard worker.

Caller: Hey, shut the #%&$ up, Whitey!

Majerle: What was that?

Kleine: Speaking of tissue paper.

Majerle: Oh, thatís Charles (Barkley)!

Kleine: Whereís Ernie Johnson and Kenny ďThe JetĒ Smith?

Barkley: Theyíre working. Whatís up guys?

Majerle: Charles, how are ya?

Barkley: Iím doing great. How are you doing?

Cesmat: Heís retiring, Charles. He wants to do your job.

Barkley: Heís earned the right to retire. He had a good run.

Majerle: Not as good as you, but good enough.

Barkley: You know what, as my friends told me when I retired, ďYou got Ďem good!Ē Itís been a good run. Youíve had a great career. I had the pleasure of playing with you. It was fun. We had a great time, you, me and big head.

Kleine: Oh Charles, itís so good to hear your voice.

Barkley: (Laughs) Hey, werenít those the good old days? That was so much fun. Thatís the most fun I ever had playing basketball, playing in Phoenix. There was nothing like that. It was fun. The fans were great. We had a great team.

Majerle: Yeah, we definitely had a good time playing. We won a lot of games, which was the most important thing. But we definitely had a very good time playing and Charles and Joe, you two were probably the favorite guys I ever played with. You guys definitely made it interesting, both on the court and in the locker room.

Barkley: Well, I can honestly say this, Dan. Man, you treated me when I came hereÖ You know, any time you crash somebody elseís partyÖ I mean, obviously, it was you and Kevin (Johnson)ís team before I got here, but I just appreciated the way you treated me the three years we played together. Me and Kevin never really quite bonded. I liked Kevin, but we just never bonded. But me and you, man, it was so much fun playing with you. Number 1, everybody knows youíre a helluva player. But I just appreciate, from a teammate standpoint, just the way you treated me when I came here and kind of rained on your parade. Because itís tough when somebody comes to you and theyíve got to get a lot of pub and you were getting that pub (before). But you always made me feel great and I always tell people, Rich Mahorn, Mike Gminski, you and Mark West are my four favorite teammates ever.

Cesmat: What about Joe?

Barkley: Forget Joe.

Kleine: Thatís all right. I donít mind.

Barkley: I just liked having Joe on the team because he had a bigger head than me.

Kleine: Hey, donít worry. Maurine (Barkleyís wife) thinks Iím one of the best players ever.

Cesmat: (Laughs) What was it about off the court with you guys?

Barkley: We just had fun. First of all we had a great team. You know, when guys retire, obviously they miss the money, but the only thing they ever talk about missing is the camaraderie with the guys, and there are very few guys that you actually click with and get along with. People might think thatís strange, but everybody kind of has their own agenda. But Dan Majerle, me and Joe Kleine, we clicked. And it was the same for me and Rick Mahorn and Mike Gminski in Philly. I never felt that in Houston when I went there. We had a pretty good team, but I never clicked with any of the guys, even though we had fun together. But me, Dan and Joe just clicked.

It was funny. The weirdest thing for me when I first came to Phoenix was, every girl I met wanted me to introduce them to Dan. Thatís the thing that was funny. I would be minding my own business and I would have complete strangers wanting to meet Dan Majerle.

Majerle: Why was that hilarious?

Barkley: I couldnít believe that a woman would rather be with Thunder Dan but Thunder Chuck.

Majerle: Well, youíre right. But you were right about the chemistry thing. You kind of take that for granted. That í92-93 year, when you came in and we opened America West Arena, you kind of just took this city by storm and pretty much just put this team on your shoulders, we had a great chemistry team. You did the dirty work on the floor. You did the rebounding and the scoring. We had guys who did other things. We had Danny (Ainge), who came in and played well.

Barkley: Well, Danny was just mooching off of us.

Majerle: Thatís true. He would just feed off of your passes.

Barkley: Thank you.

Majerle: But it was fun. We had great chemistry and it was tough when they broke that team up because you donít have chemistry like that on every team.

Barkley: I donít think you probably ever got the credit you deserve and Iím not just saying that to blow smoke. I think you know me better. But I feel like other than myself, and thatís not a knock on anybody else, you were the reason that we got to the Finals. People forget that Kevin struggled a little bit in the playoffs, but you were the second most reason why we made it to the Finals and I donít think you ever really got your credit.

People donít want to admit this, but the Suns went downhill after they traded you. I was still on the team one more year, but once they traded you we dropped like rocks. Thatís just the truth. We had other good players, but you brought the intangibles. Thereís no coincidence that right when you left the team, we started going downhill. Itís unfortunate that people donít understand that. People always look at players as good players, but there are other intangibles. You brought a great toughness to our team. When we used to play the Suns, before I got to town, you know the team was soft. You were the toughest guy on the team, you and Mark West. Putting us together and Kevin and the other guys, it was just a great mix. I just hope that people understand what you meant to the Suns organization. Iím just kind of glad you got a chance to finish your career in Phoenix.

Cesmat: Joe, let me ask you something about Dan. When you look back at his career and the time you spent here in Phoenix, what stands out to you about Danís run with the Suns?

Kleine: When I think of Dan, I think of toughness. I was fortunate to play with Charles and I played with a lot of great players, with the Celtics and those guys, I got to have a cup of coffee with Shaq (in L.A.), got to play a year with Michael (Jordan). But when I think of toughness, I think of two guys, Larry Bird and Dan Majerle. Itís like what Pat Riley said, you give him an assignment and he doesnít complain and talk about itís fair or not fair. He doesnít worry about who gets the credit. I think thatís why Charles respected him so much and thatís why I respected him. Itís why all veteran players respected: him so much, because they saw the time and effort he put into things. They saw what his motives were. His motives were not more money. His motives were not personal motives. His motives were getting to the Finals and winning a championship. When you ask Dan what his best year was it was getting to the championship (series), because that was his ultimate goal, to get that ring and to play in the championship. For team oriented guys, itís a great thrill. And I think his toughness, as Charles said, was the glue that held the Suns together and when he went a lot of that toughness went, too.

Barkley: Itís got to be mentally, obviously itís physically, demanding to know that every night you go to the building, youíre going to have to guard the best player. We put Dan on the best guard or small forward that teamís had, the best scorer most of the time, and he didnít complain. There was never like, ďHey man, am I going to get any shots on offense?Ē It was like, ďI know Iíve got to guard the best player every time we go into a building.Ē That was the thing that amazing to me. Most guys are like, ďWhen are you going to run some plays for me?Ē Or ďIím underpaid and Iím not getting any recognition.Ē Dan was like, ďIíve got the best playerĒ and that was it. Then we went out and drank beer after the game.

Kleine: Another thing, the mentality of the fan and the players, you look at the box score, you look at the points, you look at your shots. And what people didnít realize was, Dan took the toughest shots. You know, theyíd look in there a lot of times and theyíd see 3-for-8 or 2-for-9, but they didnít realize that Charles was holding the ball for 22 seconds and throwing it out to him, making him shoot a three, just so he could make Dan have a worse shooting percentage than he had.

Barkley: Hey, donít be giving away my old tricks.

Cesmat: Whoís the better golfer between the three of you?

Majerle: Oh, thereís no question about that. Me. Are you going to be in Phoenix any time soon, Charles? We can go out and play here in about a week and a half.

Barkley: Well, Iím actually only going to work three days during the playoffs and the rest of the time Iíll be in Phoenix getting my game ready. You know what, we should go to Vegas one weekend just to get drunk and play golf and celebrate your retirement.

Majerle: (Laughs) You got it. Iím there.

Barkley: You know what youíve got to do next? Youíve got to get you one of these scam TV jobs.

Majerle: Iím working on it, actually.

Barkley: Get you a good one. Itís like stealing.

Cesmat: You know heís got a fourth child on the way, guys.

Barkley: I saw Tina the other day. I saw her working out. I knew she was either pregnant or sheíd been eating good.

Majerle: You know weíre having a boy, though, Charles?

Barkley: A little Chuckster Majerle?

Majerle: Yeah. Little Chuck weíre going to call him.

Barkley: I like that. Chuck Majerle. I like that.

Kleine: Please donít do that.

Cesmat: Hey Joe, you and Dana and the kids doing well down in Arkansas?

Kleine: Weíre good. Everybodyís good.

Barkley: Hey man, if youíve got like $1,000, you can live like a whole year in Arkansas.

Kleine: You know whatís great, though? If youíve got $250, you can live 10 years in Alabama (laughs). Iíve got to go to Alabama twice a year. Iíve got to go to Tuscaloosa and Iíve got to go to Auburn. Iíll tell you what, if you went to Alabama to do anything, you got paid for it big time. Especially Auburn, you had to get paid big time.

Barkley: Hey, I never said I didnít get paid in college. Of course I did. I just thank God for Arkansas and Mississippi, so Alabama is only ranked 48th in education and poverty.

Kleine: Youíve got the worst state in the world. No wonder you live in Phoenix (laughs).

Click here for part five of the Tribute to Thunder, in which Majerle takes calls from fans.

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