A Career Worthy of Commemoration

by @SixersHistory's Curtis Harris

Charles Barkley receiving a sculpture on the 76ers’ Legends Walk presents a great opportunity to tell tall tales.

Literally, we’re talking tall. As in, how tall was Barkley really?

His official height listed by the NBA was 6-foot-6. In his 2002 book, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It, Barkley claimed he was only 6’4”. Maybe we split the difference and call him 6’5”?

Our eyes might never decipher the mystery of Barkley’s height, but they could unequivocally see just how tremendous a player he was regardless of physical stature. Whatever his height, Barkley’s impact on the game is no tall tale or fantasy.

It’s certified true that Sir Charles is one of the greatest power forwards ever.

For 16 seasons, the first eight with the 76ers, Barkley was a rebounding machine, especially on the offensive glass. In 1987, the Round Mound of Rebound led the league in boards. He also averaged an otherworldly 5.7 offensive boards a game, tying his mentor Moses Malone for the Sixers’ single-season record.

Whether on the offensive glass or not, Barkley had a knack for strong-arming buckets and earning trips to the foul line with ease. In 1988, he reached his charity stripe peak with 951 free throw attempts and 714 makes, both second-best in a single season in club history.

Only Wilt Chamberlain took more free throws in a single season for the 76ers (976 in 1966). Likewise for Moses Malone in respect to free throws made (737 in 1985).

The well-deserved defensive attention Barkley drew on the low block opened teammates up for scoring opportunities, and boy did he feed them, to the tune of a stellar career average of 3.9 assists per game.

But those are just the numbers you see in the final box score. To see Barkley actually do the thing, that was an out-of-body experience.

Fans in Phoenix and Houston certainly saw some primetime Barkley in the mid-and-late 1990s, but the most astounding and unbelievable works of Sir Charles were unveiled during his tenure with the Sixers.

Charles Barkley circa 1987 let loose on the fast break is perhaps the most terrifyingly electric play in all of NBA history.

Like a steamrolling locomotive, Charles chugged down the court for monstrous dunks. In fact, the locomotive comparison doesn’t do Barkley justice. He would often careen around the court blitzing through defenders. It was more like a character in Mario Kart powered-up by a star and going on a tear through the opposition for his slams.

And to shake things up, sometimes Barkley would mercifully relent on the ferocity and instead rifle a pinpoint wrap around pass to a teammate, who would then be the beneficiaries of an easy lay up or dunk.

On the defensive end, Barkley would shock opponents with some of the most intense blocks you’ll ever see. He would seemingly rise up out of nowhere and send an opponent’s shot flying halfway down the court after he got done spiking it.

Seeing anyone of any height accomplish the things Barkley did would be considered a masterful basketball player.

But when you’re talking about Charles Barkley, describing how he played to somebody who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of seeing the man work, maybe it is a little better to invoke the tall tales.

After all, legends are supposed to leave the audience with a little doubt, a small bit of bewilderment, as to whether something or someone so amazing could have actually happened.

Only one way to find out for sure…

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