During his career, the power forward was a polarizing figure. On the one hand, Barkley was a player who could thrill fans with his blocks and dunk athleticism, even though he was regularly at least half-head shorter than his opponent and overweight. On the other hand, he was a player who liked to eat, celebrate, and drink a lot, especially in his early years.
After three years on college at Auburn, Barkley arrived as the fifth pick in the legendary 1984 draft to the Philadelphia 76ers. They had with Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone two former MVPs in the squad and were an absolute elite team in the East. Already in Barkley's first year, they made it to the eastern conference finals, where they failed, however, against the reigning NBA champs from Boston. He already established himself as a veritable third option.
As a rookie, Barkley had 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and already in the second year, he increased his numbers to 20 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. After a playoff failure in the second round, however, the Sixers traded Moses Malone and with that move, they lost one of the best rebound combinations in league history. One year later, Dr. J left the team and went to a well-deserved retirement.
"Sir Charles" was from the 1987 star of the team. The most impressive fact about Barkley was the versatility he had with the only 1.98m. Perhaps his greatest strength was to get a defensive rebound and then immediately started to push the ball forwards with all his might. Barkley was a sort of predecessor to LeBron James in this respect, just one head shorter and with a slight beer belly.
Despite all the individual brilliance and the first nomination in the All-NBA First Team Barkley was not able to lead the Sixers without any help in the playoffs. In the next few years, he tried everything, but without any success. The lack of success was a reason for rising frustration level, and Barkley finally demanded a trade after the 91/92 season. He was traded to Phoenix, however, the Olympic Games were about to begin.
The USA had the best basketball team of all time in Barcelona. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson were clearly the most popular players, but the secret star of the team was Charles Barkley. He defeated Karl Malone as starting power forward and was a top scorer of the team.
After battling with the best of the best in the summer, Barkley was fitter than ever - and Phoenix had a team that already had a talented squad with Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle and in the previous season, they won respectable 53 games. With Barkley, Suns won 62 games and secured the best record in the league. They reached the NBA Finals after "Chuck Wagon" delivered monstrous 44 points and 24 rebounds in the seventh game of the Conference Finals.
Barkley's 25,6 points, 12,2 rebounds, and 5,1 assists per game again showed off the whole package of his abilities. He was rewarded with the MVP trophy. In the finals, the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan were too good, and they left Sir Charles without the title. A small consolation: of all six final opponents of the Bulls, the Suns were probably the strongest. However, Barkley will never get closer to the NBA title.
Although the Suns win 56 and 59 games in the next two years, they failed in the playoffs each year to Hakeem Olajuwon and his Houston Rockets, who won ultimately both Larry O'Brien trophies. Barkley was struggling increasingly with injuries, even considering ending his career, although he was still good for more than 20 points and ten rebounds per game. After four years in Phoenix, he joined the Rockets in 1996 to start a final run on the title with Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Rockets reached again the Conference Finals in 1997, and in the following years, they failed in the first round. In the season 99/00, Barkley injured himself in Philadelphia, where it all began - so serious that he had to end his career.
He will be remembered as one of four players with more than 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists in the NBA, as a double gold medalist in the Olympics, as eleven-time All-Star. But not as an NBA champion.