Before a preseason game in October 1999, the great Charles Barkley announced that it would be the final season of his career. After 16 wonderful seasons, “The Round Mound of Rebound” was finally saying goodbye to the sport he once dominated, and as expected, he wanted to enjoy every bit of it, from the very first tipoff to the final buzzer of the last game of the season.
A bad landing
Content, happy, and decided, Barkley declared in a press conference held in his native Alabama that it was about time for him to move on to the next chapter of his life. And apparently, basketball was no longer part of it.
“It’s time for me to do something else,” Barkley said in the book “Barkley: A Biography” by Timothy Bella of HoopsHype. “It’s time for me to have some fun now. I don’t think my life could get any better. But it’s time to do something else…I feel great relief and am at peace with myself.”
As a 36-year-old and 6-foot-6, Barkley, as per a digital body weight and energy calculator, should only weigh within 213 pounds. However, in the 1999-00 season, Chuck, who had always been overweight, reportedly weighed 252 pounds.
Despite being out-of-shape, the Houston Rockets forward was still averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game that season.
In his 20th game, Barkley made an epic return to Philadelphia as the Rockets visited the Sixers. Seven minutes into the game, Barkley contested a shot and landed awkwardly, rupturing his quadriceps tendon. From that point on, he knew “it was over.”
“I knew it was over as soon as I saw it,” Barkley recalled. “I saw the way the kneecap was bulging through my leg and I said, ‘Well, it’s been fun.’”
Chuck wanted to leave the game with dignity
The diagnosis stated that it would be a long rehab for Barkley, and there was a great chance he’d never be able to play another game that season. But like a true legend of the game, “Sir Charles” refused to leave that way and said, “My objective is to play in the last game of the year,” Barkley said. “I want to be able to walk off the court.”
Against the suggestions of his trainer Tim Grover, Barkley, whose leg was still immobilized, insisted that he play a few minutes on the Rockets’ final game of the season against the Vancouver Grizzlies on April 19, 2000.
Grover saw in Barkley’s eyes that the man was not taking “no” for an answer, and it prompted him to clear the future then-Hall of Famer.
“He looked at me with that death stare and demanded a ball,” Grover said. “Then he stood under the basket and dunked ten times off the healthy foot. Dunked. Ten times. One foot. The boot never touched the ground.”
Come game night, Barkley showed up and got fans in attendance elated by his presence. In one dead ball in the second quarter, Barkley checked into the game and was given his well-deserved standing ovation. He grabbed an offensive rebound and scored an and-one. It was a less-colorful play, but for obvious reasons, it became one of the best highlights of his career.