Barkley One Last Time

Sir Charles held court pregame with the media one final time

Barkley

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.