Before becoming famous for his razor-sharp comments working as a tv-pundit, Charles Barkley was a perennial All-Star and one of the league’s best players. Even though he never placed a title in his trophy cabinet, Sir Charles was an All-Star 11 times and won the MVP award in 1993.
Barkley was also a member of the legendary Dream Team that won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona. He got another Olympic gold four years later, in Atlanta, and was named one of the top 50 players of all time in the same year. Charles Barkley was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Although he had a remarkable basketball career and today is one of the most famous tv personalities in sport — there’s still a lot you might not know about him — so without any further ado, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Charles Barkley.
1. He was born underweight with numerous health problems
Even though he was being perceived as overweight during most of his career, Barkley was born underweight; he had so many problems that a six-week-old baby Charles was given a blood transfusion. Luckily for him and his family, he recovered well and grew into a rebounding machine.
2. Failed to make the varsity team
We’ve heard many stories during the years: NBA superstars who, in their youth, were seen as non-promising used it as motivation later in their careers. That happened to Charles. He went to Leeds High School, and as a junior, he stood at 5’10” and weighed 220. Still, he failed to make the varsity team. However, during the summer between junior and senior year, Barkley grew to 6’4″, and when the news broke in his hometown, he immediately jumped into the starting five. During his senior year, Charles averaged 19 points and 18 boards per game and led the team to a 26-3 record.
3. Didn’t graduate with his high school class
It probably wouldn’t be wise for someone to ask Barkley to translate something written in Spanish. He flunked Spanish in high school, and because of that, Sir Charles didn’t graduate with his high school class. However, that was the day Barkley decided that he would be accountable for his mistakes. Chuck admitted a few years later that flunking Spanish made him take control of his destiny and make better decisions in the future. From that perspective, flunking Spanish in high school may not have been the worst thing in the world that could’ve happened to him.
4. He was viewed only as a rebounder
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Barkley as the 5th pick of the 1984 NBA draft. However, many experts didn’t see him going far in his career despite being picked that high. His awesome nickname, “Round Mound of Rebound,” is pretty much all that others thought of him. Just an undersized power forward who knows how to grab a rebound. Barkley proved everyone wrong, and throughout his 16-year NBA career, he recorded over 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists.
5. He moved a basket one time after dunking
Barkley was never a featherweight. He was probably short in height for his position, but he made up for it in weight. Oh, and he was a mean dunker. Once, Barkley dunked the ball so hard that he moved the 2,200-pound basket support around six inches to the right. And in one three-year span (1988-90), he dunked 513 times, more than any player in the league at the time.
6. Almost became a Laker
According to Barkley, his agent told him in 1992 that everything had been agreed and that his new team would become the LA Lakers. It was an era dominated by the Chicago Bulls, and the season before that, Magic Johnson decided to retire from basketball due to HIV. In that case, Chuck would take on the leading role in which he would try to get the Lakers back into the ranks of the best teams in the league. That would be especially media-attractive given his nature, and it’s hard to imagine a better blend than Barkley and LA. But the trade fell through. The Philadelphia 76ers arranged a last-minute deal with the Phoenix Suns and traded Barkley to Arizona.
7. He broke a couple of NBA Records
During the 1986 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Charles set the record for most free throw attempts in a 7-game series with 100. He also set the record for most turnovers in that same series with 37.
During the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Barkley broke the record for most free throws made in a half with 19.
When Chuck retired, he was only the fourth player in league history to reach at least 20k points, 10k rebounds, and 4k assists, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Karl Malone.
8. Went out on his own terms
In his last NBA season, with the Houston Rockets, Barkley suffered a severe injury. After one routine jump, Chuck’s quadriceps didn’t hold, and as he later admitted, he knew that his career was over after that.
But stubborn as he is, Chuck decided that a serious injury will not end his career and that’s not going to be the way to go out. So he underwent a difficult and painstaking rehabilitation to re-appear on the basketball court at least once before the end of his career. And he succeeded in his plan, on April 19, 2000, in an insignificant game against the Vancouver Grizzlies.
While it was clear he could no longer play high-level basketball, Barkley managed to grab one offensive rebound and lay the ball in for his last NBA moment. He then returned to the bench after a standing ovation and announced his retirement.
“I can’t explain what tonight meant. I did it for me. I’ve won and lost a lot of games, but the last memory I had was being carried off the court. I couldn’t get over the mental block of being carried off the court. It was important psychologically to walk off the court on my own.”Charles Barkley
9. Lost more money gambling than you’ll ever make
During an interview several years ago with ESPN, Barkley admitted to losing around $10 million in gambling over the years. He also admitted that he lost around $2.5 million during six hours while playing blackjack. However, Barkley says that his gambling isn’t a problem because he can afford it. He says that he does it for the excitement and not because of the money.
10. He was once a good golfer
Barkley was a passionate golfer from the moment he started playing in the NBA. He used most of his free time to get back on the course, and as people who knew him to say, he was pretty good at it. Then Barkley wanted to become even better, and he looked everywhere for advice. Once, he had to do a Nike-sponsored event in San Diego, where he crossed paths with a professional golfer, who advised him to make a slight pause at the top of his golf swing. After that, it all went downhill for him.
Jumped over a five-foot fence
As a kid, Barkley had a lot of energy, and he was always running or jumping around. So when he wasn’t playing basketball, Barkley used to jump over a chain-link fence that was five feet high and surrounded his house. He did that flat-footed 15 or 20 times to burn off extra energy. After a short rest, he would go on and do it again.
He led the 1992 Dream Team in scoring
Barkley was on the legendary US Olympic “Dream Team” in Barcelona that dominated the games and eventually captured the gold medal. The team had names like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, but their leading scorer was Barkley. Chuck averaged 18 points on 71.1% shooting. Four years later, Barkley won the gold again with the US team in Atlanta, and this time he was the leading scorer and rebounder with an 81.6% field goal percentage.