When did Barkley become so beloved?

For the record, I love Charles Barkley.

I grew up in what I’ve said on numerous occasions was the greatest eras in the NBA — the 90s. And Barkley was among the top players during that time starring most notably the 76ers and later with the Suns and Rockets. Barkley never won a championship, but was named to numerous All-Star teams, won an MVP and was part of the original and only Dream Team.

Again, I’m a Barkley fan.

If my memory serves me correctly, while he was playing, Barkley was just as loved for this off the court “antics” as for his play for 48 minutes. The media loved him, because of his candor and, aside from the infamous spitting incident and the “I am not a role model” commercial Barkley maintained favor  and had crossover appeal, which, for that time, was essential for the black athlete.

But to his disadvantage (or maybe in hindsight it was an advantage), depsite his success and personality, Barkley spent his career in the shadow of his boy Michael Jordan. During that era, Barkley was at best the third most popular black NBA player behind Jordan and Magic Johnson, both of whom won multiple championships.

But as I watch the NBA playoffs, have conversations from time to time with people at work and watch how Barkley is talked about in the media, it’s become clear that Barkley is without a doubt the most beloved former NBA player period and arugably the most popular athlete, past or present.

I just can’t figure out when that transition occurred.

Barkley, along with Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, is part for the very popular TNT NBA team. Most of the time, Barkley talks about everything except basketball and does it in a way that nobody raises an eyebrow or questions him. When he does get in trouble or says something controversial — it’s just Charles being Charles.

How he’s ascended to this status is beyond me. Maybe, since he didn’t venture into coaching or front office work like Jordan and Larry Bird, nor became a successful entrepreneur like Magic, he was able to carve his niche through television which allows him to be visible and in turn land commercials with Dwyane Wade.

Whatever the case, Barkley is one of THE go-to voices for all things, not just basketball. People value his opinion and maybe, it’s not really important why we do.

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3 Responses to When did Barkley become so beloved?

  1. Wendell says:

    I’ll try to brake it down for you like this. The legendary players of that era;
    1-Michael Jordon has no personality. Someone as famous as him should have been able to make billions in post alethic entertainment. He made one movie with bugs bunny. Zero in studio work etc. Also I think Jordon looked forward to getting away from the spotlight.
    2-Larry Bird; ditto on the lack of personality.
    3-Magic has an empire to run. Also he got a bad deal in the beginning. After he stopped playing they gave him color commentary work. There was not many in studio NBA shows like they are today. He was terrible at color commentary. Occasionally he is a guest on Barkley’s show and he’s great. If he retired today he would have an in studio gig like Charles.
    4-That leaves Barkley. I heard him say several times that he and Kenny should wear a mask when they pick up their checks because they are robbing TNT. He elaborates by saying that basically he is getting paid to be himself and say whatever is on his mind. There is so much money in sports today that athletes are programmed by agents what to say so they don’t screw up the money train. You can’t get the truth from anybody. The only place you can get it is from people like Charles. So Charles is wrong. He is most likely underpaid by TNT.

  2. keith says:

    I disagree:

    Michael Jordan is currently making millions on the “jumpman” brand and Nike stock – he is far wealthier than magic johnson.

    Charles Barkley is popular now because he’s a fucking Alabama coon. He nows how to make the white man laugh without ever challenging him.

    He will criticize blacks at a drop of the hate ( Iverson), he will disrespect black people ( elbow incident to African in the Olympics), all for the amusement of white people. He’s a sell out coon with his white wife……that is why white controlled networks are giving him burn.

  3. lester is dumb says:

    KeithKeith Keith Keith Keith Keith Keith……………FINALLY SOMEONE GETS THE POINT AS TO WHY BARKLEY GETS AWAY WITH SHIT. I ALWAYS HEAR WHY DOES BARKLEY GET TO SAY THE THINGS HE SAYS? ITS BECAUSE OF HIS WHITE WIFE. THE EXECS KNOW THAT AND LAUGH AT HIM AND DONT TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY. IF HE WAS MARRIED TO A BLACK WOMAN THERE IS NO WAY HE WOULD BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH IT.

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