On December 8, 1999, Charles Barkley ruptured a tendon in his knee 10 minutes 51 seconds into his last game in Philadelphia. With his knee wrapped in ice, Chuck sat on a training table in the Rockets‘ locker room and began to cry as he talked to his wife on the phone.
It’s over.Charles Barkley, The Washington Post
Just like that, a 16-year all-time great NBA run came to an end. Instead of playing the season out and hanging it up on his own terms, Charles went down with an injury that required surgery and a six-month-long recovery process before he could get back on the floor. For a 36-year-old NBA veteran, that seemed like too much, and Chuck came to terms that his career would end the same place it started. The only thing is, he didn’t.
I didn’t want to be carried off the court my last game.Charles Barkley
Fast forward six months, the Rockets were facing the Vancouver Grizzlies in the regular-season finale. With 7:26 to go in the second quarter, a 6-4 Round Mound of Rebound checked into a game. He had made it through the recovery and wanted to make one last impact on the game he had played since he was nine years old.
After two missed shots, with 1:24 left until half time, Barkley grabbed an offensive rebound and got his name in the scoring column for one final time. It got him a standing ovation, as Rudy Tomjanovich took Charles out of the game seconds after scoring his last NBA points. He left the floor smiling, finishing with six minutes of playing time, two points, one rebound, one assist, and a blocked shot. But more importantly, finishing on his own terms.
This is a sad day for me, I’ve been playing basketball since I was nine years old and now I’m not going to be playing anymore. That’s the only thing that makes me sad.Charles Barkley, ESPN
For all the times he was called lazy, Chuck showed the heart of a champion by going through all the trouble he went through just to walk off the court on his own. That’s the type of closure he wanted, and that’s the type of closure he got. And after the career he had, it’s the least Charles Barkley deserved.