It’s no secret that even though they rivaled each other during their prime, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were once thick as thieves. The two NBA Hall of Famers used to enjoy the company of each other even outside basketball, and like any other close pals, MJ and Chuck often roasted each other.
Charles doesn’t know how it feels
It was undeniably an epic scene whenever the cameras caught Jordan and Barkley mocking one another. And fans were delighted with a lengthy back and forth courtesy of the pair when they appeared on Oprah in 2004.
As expected, neither of the NBA legends backed down from teasing each other on national TV. Jordan destroyed Barkley by poking fun at his terrible golfing skills. On the other hand, Chuck hit back by revealing how stingy a multi-millionaire “His Airness” is in person.
When Oprah brought up the topic of riding motorcycles, which happened to be one of MJ’s newfound hobbies at the time, Barkley got the better of his former NBA Finals foe once again.
Sir Charles quickly replied “hell no” when asked if he had ever ridden a motorcycle like Jordan. In his defense, Barkley pointed out that he’ll never do it as he just wouldn’t risk his life the way MJ did every time he went for a ride.
“I hate the fact that he [Jordan] rides motorcycles ’cause it scares me to death. It’s not safe. It’s just not safe,” Barkley stressed.
The 1993 NBA MVP then emphasized that helmets don’t guarantee safety, and Jordan was just too “stubborn” that his head was so hard he didn’t even need one when riding.
“His head is mighty, he don’t need no helmet for his head,” Barkley joked. “He’s the most stubborn person you ever gonna meet in your life.”
Everybody in the studio laughed, and even Jordan found Barkley’s joke hilarious at one point. However, it didn’t last long. In a matter of seconds, the smile on MJ’s face went away, and a deep voice with an evidently serious tone barged in and uttered, “I disagree.”
It’s hard to tell if Jordan took Barkley’s joke personally, but what he said next changed the vibe and the entire atmosphere for a few seconds. The six-time NBA champion apparently knew how to put Barkley in his place. And for MJ, there’s no better way but to remind him a bit that he never won a championship.
“When you think about it. When you ride a motorcycle, you have to be a defensive driver,” Jordan began. “You don’t have time to talk on the phone, you don’t have time to eat, you don’t have time to do a lot of things most people do every single day, which is more dangerous than riding a motorcycle. You have to be really focused on seeing the traffic ahead. He doesn’t know about this. He’s never ridden a motorcycle.”
Barkley was speechless, but he acknowledged that there was “something” behind that explanation. Jordan then put a grin on his face and playfully questioned, “Did I say something wrong? Did I say something bad?”
Things got serious
No matter how hard Jordan and Barkley ridiculed each other on the said Oprah appearance, it did not affect their friendship. Both were sport enough to suck all the insults up and carry on. However, nobody knew at the time that the fun would also come to an end and things would get serious.
During an interview in 2014, ten years after that Oprah episode, Barkley revealed that he and Jordan were no longer on speaking terms. According to Chuck, it started with something negative he said on national TV about the Charlotte Bobcats, the team Jordan owns.
“I think that Michael was upset about something I said about the Bobcats that were obviously true,” Barkley confessed. “First of all, he is doing a much better job. A couple of years ago they had one of the worst records in NBA history and Michael didn’t do a great job. I always loved him as a brother but I will do my job first and foremost. I am not going to get on tv and being dishonest to people. They know when you are being dishonest and disingenuous. I am going to do my job.”
For those who are thinking maybe it was just a hoopla to add flavor to Barkley’s TV shows, you’re wrong. In fact, Jordan was even caught awkwardly snubbing Barkley at the NBA 75 ceremony.
But if it’s only up to Barkley, he would’ve ended his rift with MJ.
“I would love to be friends with Michael ’cause, like I say, he was great to me for 20-some years, and I love him like a brother. He was like a brother to me,” he explained. “But our last conversation, he was not very happy with some things I was saying about him on television. … My criticisms, No. 1, were fair.”
Like with Barkley, it will also be a treat for most of us to see him and Jordan revive their friendship. Let’s just hope they do, eventually.