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“You have got to be better” — How Charles Barkley helped Michael Wilbon adjust to his celebrity status

Barkley basically made the same point he argues to young players in the NBA - you can't have your cake and eat it too.
ESPN reporter Michael Wilbon and Inside the NBA analyst and NBA legend Charles Barkley

Michael Wilbon and Charles Barkley

Many celebrities in the sports industry find the aspect of fame to be irritating after a while. Stars in the sports world can become immensely popular, leading to large fan bases following their every move. It’s a transition that can be tough to undergo, especially when it first starts.

Michael Wilbon recently discussed his struggles with adjusting to fame

Count Michael Wilbon among those who have struggled with the transition to his celebrity status. Wilbon started as a columnist for The Washington Post before transitioning to a television role with ESPN, and he struggled to adjust to his newfound fame, in large part thanks to the ultra-successful PTI. Wilbon would eventually figure things out, as he still features on ESPN regularly, and he even got some help from Charles Barkley along the way.

Barkley had some experience with fame, given that he was a highly touted basketball player dating back to his college days, and he was able to successfully transition from the court to the television. Wilbon recounted a story during an interview with BasketballNews.com where he and Barkley were at a restaurant, and people kept coming over to Barkley, interrupting their discussion, which frustrated Wilbon. That led Barkley to give Wilbon some advice shortly after:

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“Charles said ‘Alright, you can’t have that. You are going into these peoples living rooms everyday, you are going into their homes everyday, you can’t have that. These people may get to see you one time, you gotta be better than this, you are going to be a celebrity.’ I was like ‘Charles that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.’ He said ‘You are going to be a celebrity, you have got to act better, you have got to behave better.’”

Michael Wilbon, BasketballNews.com

Both Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon have gone on to have successful careers in television

It’s rather impressive that Barkley adapted to television after a successful basketball career so quickly. Right after he retired in 2000, he joined TNT as an analyst, which is a role he still occupies to this day as part of the “Inside the NBA” crew. But at the time, Barkley was used to fame and interacting with fans, whereas Wilbon was just getting started.

Wilbon, of course, has had a fantastic career with ESPN, getting his start on “Pardon the Interruption” while being regularly featured elsewhere. But without Barkley’s wise words, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Wilbon would have been able to jump from writer to a television personality.

Instead, both have been award-winning analysts who are widely regarded to be among the best at what they do. Wilbon took Barkley’s advice, and he was able to make the adjustments required to deal with the fame of being on television. Both Wilbon and Barkley are still going on strong with their analyst careers, and neither has shown any sign of slowing down anytime soon.

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