Danny Manning on Sir Charles

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
Posted: March 17, 2004

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.

1988’s No. 1 overall draft pick and 15-year NBA veteran Danny Manning played alongside Sir Charles in Phoenix for two seasons. After racking up 12,367 points, Manning retired following the 2003-03 campaign and headed back to his alma mater as director of student athlete development for the Kansas basketball team. He takes time out to talk with Suns.com as his fourth-ranked Jayhawks prepare for the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

Suns.com: Where did you and Charles first meet and what was your impression of him?

Danny Manning: I first met him at the 1984 Olympic Trials. Everybody was trying out for the team. In between having meals together and walking back and forth from the dorms and the locker rooms... I was a high-school senior, so I was very young. I just sat back and took it all in. Charles has always been a very outgoing person, very humorous and yet he’s very caring also. He’d always spend time talking with you, seeing how you were doing.

Suns.com: Talk about Charles' human side.

Manning: Anytime anybody had a child in the locker room, the children would gravitate toward Charles. That was for a lot of different reasons. Basically, it was his general makeup and the characteristics that he displayed. He showed them a lot of attention. He spoke to them. He knew all their names. He played with them, and that’s something a lot of kids enjoyed, when they’d come into the locker room, they’d head over and sit next to him and start talking.

As a player, I was always respectful of his game. He always went out and did the things he needed to do to make his team successful and win ballgames. He played hard. As a friend, our families became friends in Phoenix and I just enjoyed spending time with him. He was a very caring and giving person. We’d have a day off and there was a football game, go around the locker room and ask everybody if they’d like to go with him. He’d charter a jet, get tickets to the game. He was very caring.

He has charisma. He’s just a very likable person. Not many can tell you a Charles Barkley story without smiling.

Suns.com: Is there a story that sums up Charles in a nutshell?

Manning: We were in training camp in Flagstaff for my first year with the Suns. I get up there and Charles says, “Danny, let’s go to dinner and get to know each other since we’re going to be teammates.” We go out, have dinner and go out and shoot a little pool. We walk in and start shooting pool. We’re talking, and within 20 minutes everybody in the bar is surrounding him. He’s telling everybody he’s taking on all comers on the pool table. I never got a chance to play him. He’s a better pool player than he is a golfer. I’ve been on the course with him. I can’t comment on that because I’m not a great golfer. I know I’m bad. He won’t admit it.

That to me sums up his personality. He’s very outgoing, very bubbly and he’s also a strong-willed person. He’s gone through some hardships. People would talk about him not being tall enough or not being this or that as a player. His numbers and his play on the court speaks for itself.

Suns.com: Talk about Charles the broadcaster. It seems to be a perfect medium for him.

Manning: I think he’s fun to watch, because he’s entertaining. He’s honest. There’s a lot of humor that comes in. Some of it is humor anyone can pick up, and some of it is a little sarcastic humor. He’s just entertaining. Charles has always been a very entertaining person. He speaks the truth. He’s got the TV deal down, and he’s doing pretty well.

Suns.com: What impressed you most when it came to how he played the game?

Manning: He wanted to win. He would accept nothing less. If anything was bothering you, he wanted to make sure that you were feeling good and your mental state was right before you stepped out on the court. He’s out there giving his all, and he expected you to do the same.

Suns.com: What was the biggest difference with Charles in terms of when he started out as a 76er and when he became a Sun?

Manning: Philadelphia Charles was, well... You want to show people you belong, accomplish all these goals. Later on in your career, you have an understanding what it takes and how to get there to help your team win. In Phoenix, the team was different. Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle… these guys have been All-Stars, NBA first or second defensive teams. The load changes from team to team. When he got to Phoenix, the load was spread out very evenly and Charles was what Phoenix needed to get them up to the peak.

Suns.com: Is there an on-court Barkley memory that will stay with you forever?

Manning: Late in a game against the Clippers, Charles isn’t having one of his stellar defensive performances and someone drives down to the basket. Flat footed, Charles just jumps up in front of the rim and puts his elbow above the rim to block someone’s shot. That to me proved that Charles could do whatever he wanted to out on the court. It was just a matter of him wanting to get it done.

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