An Interview with Charles Barkley
American Century Championship
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
THE MODERATOR: Welcome. We’re joined by Charles Barkley.
Q I think the question that everybody is wondering is there have been reports that you are working on your golf game. So could you please confirm or deny and let us know the status of said game, please?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Number one, thank you guys for having me. As you guys know, the first thing I put on my schedule every year is Lake Tahoe. I have no idea how y’all do it. Lake Tahoe is the only place that’s not hot as hell in the middle of the summer.
I have no idea how you all do it every year. I don’t care, hey, I don’t care where I’m coming from in the country, it’s a heat wave. When I get to Lake Tahoe the weather is always perfect. Man, I cannot wait.
Listen, I am excited. I’m playing really, really well. I’ve had a lot of improvement in the last couple of years. I actually started playing well up there ‑‑ better, I shouldn’t say well, better the last couple of years. And my teacher Stan Utley, we’ve come a long way. And I can’t wait to get there and show it off.
Q Could you help us. You played with some of the best golfers in the world. Can you tell us by handicapping who might win this event a little bit with Mardy Fish, Tony Romo, Smoltz, Mulder ‑‑ guys you’ve played with. Who do you think is going to win. The odds are out and Tony Romo is the favorite?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, clearly if you’ve been watching me make basketball predictions you would know I have no frickin idea what’s going on.
Hey, listen, Romo, Mulder and Mardy Fish, it’s going to be probably be one of those three guys, to be honest with you. They’re all three terrific players. They’re all terrific guys also.
I was really happy for Mardy, because Mardy’s been awesome to me every year I’ve been up to Lake Tahoe. And to see him win, it was cool. And obviously Tony is a terrific player.
And Mark is a neighbor of mine in Arizona. So, hey, any one of those three will not surprise me if they won.
Q It’s obvious to a lot of people you really have improved in your swing, congratulations. You went through a lot. Now that you have an improved swing, do you have some specific goals that are higher or different than maybe your goals in golf before this swing improvement? Do you have some objectives that you’re trying to achieve?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, number one, to say I’ve been struggling on the golf course is the biggest frickin understatement in the history of civilization.
You know, I just want to play and have fun. Listen, it hasn’t been fun for me for 25 years to play golf. I only play in Lake Tahoe because I love coming there. And I played in a couple of my friends celebrity golf tournaments to raise funds for charity. It wasn’t like I was having fun on the golf course; I’m not going to tell you that lie.
But man it’s so much more fun to go out and hit a bunch of good shots. I feel really good, really good about where I am. I just gotta keep working harder.
As far as my goals, I had to make birdie on 18 last year not to come in last. So I hope ‑‑ first of all, it was the worst birdie in the history. I dribbled it like 75 yards and it jumped over the bunker.
But listen, I just want to play well and have fun. Listen, I want to ask you all a question. Are we having fans this year?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Awesome, because you see sports sucks without fans. And last year, as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t have a great time up there last year, because, man, it sucks without the fans. They’re the biggest part of it. So, I’m really excited to hear that, but man I look forward to this week every year.
I cannot wait to get there and it’s going to be ‑‑ it’s going to be awesome now that you told me that the fans are going to be there.
Q Struggling for, what, 20 some years in the game in golf. What kept you motivated? Did you get depressed from time to time? To struggle that long and stick with it, is that within your nature or what?
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know, when you get old and fat there’s only a couple of things you can do ‑‑ golf and fish. And I’m a lot better fisherman than I’m a golfer.
It’s interesting. I love being outside. I love walking. And like I say, it was not fun for me to play, but walking ‑‑ and I wasn’t joking about the Lake Tahoe weather. It’s amazing how it’s the only place in the country that’s not a heat wave in the middle of the summer.
So, I like walking. I get to do it for four days. It’s pretty cool. I meet a bunch of same friends. My caddie, I met my caddie there 20‑some years ago. He’s married now. Got two kids that are teenagers and he brings them out to the course. Think about that, I met a guy 20‑some years ago. He’s got married. And he’s got two teenagers. That’s how ‑‑ and I get for some reason ‑‑ and I know why because my friends are jackasses; they want to be on television. Because everybody wants to caddie for me so they want to be seen on television.
But I’ve been with the same caddie for over probably the entire tournament. And to see him ‑‑ and every year his teenage girls, and they’re beautiful, and it’s probably about 10 to 15 people who I see every year I come to Lake Tahoe.
And we grab dinner and talk about where we are in life, how everybody’s life is going. So it’s pretty special to me in that aspect.
Q Does Shaq play golf?
CHARLES BARKLEY: He does not. He’s in every crappy commercial on television so that takes up all his free time. (Laughter).
So shout out to Shaq. I got water. He got some water out now. It doesn’t ‑‑ 88 infused, Alkaline88 ‑‑ see, he’s got a water coming out. I’ve never seen him drink water but he’s got a water company now.
Q I know at times you’ve been down on KD for choosing the easier path to the title. But now with Harden injured and Durant playing at a crazy level, even after the Achilles, if he were to win the title playing like this, would your opinion of KD’s legacy change?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, he did take Kyrie and James with him. I’m rooting against those guys. I think you already know that. KD is a great player. And I think he’s a great kid. I don’t know him that well.
But I’m not a fan of super teams. So, listen, if they win it, they win it. But I want it perfectly clear, I’m rooting against those guys. I root against all super teams. That’s just the way ‑‑ I’m old school. I said the other day if I would have known you guys were going to make fun of me for not winning the championship I would have joined a super team back in my day.
Me and Patrick and Karl Malone and John Stockton. But like I say, man, I feel good about my legacy. I’m pretty sure Patrick and John and Karl do. LeBron started this super team thing, and it’s the way the game is played now.
Q I think you made it pretty clear you think it’s bad for the game, the super team thing.
CHARLES BARKLEY: It ruins other franchises. When Kawhi left Toronto ‑‑ first of all, other than Chicago that’s my favorite city in the world. I’m never going there again. When LeBron left Cleveland. I’m never going there again. James left Houston. I’m never going to Houston again. Same thing when LeBron left Miami.
When these guys leave, there are very few super, superstars. And when they all leave ‑‑ like Oklahoma City. Once KD left, we’re never going back there again. And I just don’t think that’s good for the game because ‑‑ I’ll tell you this ‑‑ like everything go back to my day.
Like even though we didn’t win the championship, the Sixers were worth watching, the Knicks were worth watching, the Pacers were worth watching when Reggie was there. Same thing with Atlanta and Dominique. So I just don’t think it’s good for business. But, hey, these young kids, they all fold to peer pressure and feel like they’ve got to win a championship or their life sucks. And I don’t believe ‑‑ hey, listen, there’s not many people I’d trade my life with.
Q Seems to negatively impact the smaller markets too.
CHARLES BARKLEY: No question.
Q You mentioned how difficult the sports are, how much they suck without fans. Ratings are up for the NBA playoffs this year for you guys and ESPN. Do you think the fact that fans are back has had a big impact on that?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I think two things people should learn. Number one, if anybody lost a loved one with COVID, my thoughts are with you, or you lost a business, or lost your job. This COVID thing has really, really sucked, really sucked.
I think what has happened ‑‑ and I hope the two guys come together. I think the fans realize that life sucks without sports. That little stretch we went through when there was no sports ‑‑ because if you don’t have sports all you have is reality. Let me tell you something, most people know, reality sucks. If all you have to do is reality all day it sucks. But also I think the players learned, man, sports really sucks with no fans.
So I’m hoping this is a turning point where we start having more respect for each other. My jackass players don’t low‑manage and sit out when they’re not hurt and won’t play back‑to‑back games.
And I hope the fans, like, yo, man, if they give me 110 percent, whether we win or not, I want to live with that, because I don’t want, going back to the question earlier, I don’t want my guys saying, yo, man, I need to go join other guys and go to a bigger market.
So I’m hoping this is a time of reflection for fans and for players and realize, like, man we’re much better together than apart.
Q Phoenix Suns, you used to be the face of that franchise. After the 11 years where they missed the playoffs, how does it feel to see that arena with that type of energy again, which people say has been unmatched since your Finals run in ’93?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, you know what ‑‑ I live in Phoenix because of those people. When I got traded to Phoenix I didn’t know what to expect. And they welcomed me with open arms. I can live anywhere I want to, but I live in Scottsdale, Arizona for a reason ‑‑ because I want to. They have the most amazing people. The energy they had when I was there is great to see. The main thing is it was great to see good basketball, because some of the stuff I’ve been watching for the last few years, that’s not a lot of fun for me being at home.
So I’m happy for those fans and they deserve it because they’re amazing fans. And I just hope that’s going to be a heck of a series. It’s interesting, man, I think now people are starting to lean toward Brooklyn because they stomped Milwaukee in the mud hole for the last two games.
I thought it was weird, I don’t want to be one of those assholes on TV who knows everything. I got zero idea who is going to win the championship coming into the playoffs. And I said, hey, man, this is going to be the craziest playoffs ever. But I thought Milwaukee would put up ‑‑ and the series is not over? Looks like Brooklyn is going to win the East, but, man, I was so disgusted in Milwaukee because, number one, I picked them. But the way they’re playing, like I said, man, I can handle losing; I can’t handle not competing.
What Milwaukee did those first two games, that was not competing. Like I say, what I’m seeing from my Suns and the Nuggets and the Jazz and Clippers, that’s competition. We had that game last night, it was amazing, the Clippers and the Jazz. So I’m just glad to see Phoenix doing well. We got Phoenix tonight. So I’m looking forward to that.
Q Is the food better there now?
CHARLES BARKLEY: The food? When they wasn’t winning they were selling cold nachos. They weren’t even putting jalapenos on it; they were putting bell peppers on it. You could park right down beside the court because there was no fans. They only had like the players there. They have come a long way. We back to being sold out every night. I love it.
Q Charles, what did you learn from playing with Phil in the match that you might apply to this next rendition of the century classic there in Tahoe?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Phil Mickelson is a great friend of mine. I’ve known him a long time, him and Amy. They’re awesome. But Phil is that annoying friend. When you ask him a question, instead of answering your question ‑‑ like, if you said, hey, what’s the weather like, he says, you want the humidity, the barometric pressure, the high and low for the day. No, man, I just want the damn weather. Tell me what the temperature is right now.
So, even though as great a guy he is when you ask him a question, it’s like, yo, what do you think of this putt? Well it’s down grain, it’s into the grain, it’s going to pull towards the valley. Yo, man, just tell me where to hit the putt. I ain’t got time to be analyzing down grain, up grain. It’s pulling toward the valley.
I mean, but, you know, he’s such an awesome dude. It’s so funny, he calls me the day before the match and says, hey, I’m flying up ‑‑ I want you to drive up and play a practice round with me. I’m like, dude, tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. He’s like, no, no, we need to get a practice round in. I’m flying in from San Diego. I’m like, yo, man, it’s Thanksgiving. And I have to spend my Thanksgiving day driving two hours to play a practice round for a charity event. That’s how crazy he is. But that’s how bad he wanted to win.
I was like, yo, man, okay, it’s Thanksgiving, don’t worry about it. I’ll drive up we’ll play a practice round.
Q Did you see him winning that PGA? Could you have foreseen from the match that he was going to win? And have you talked to him since?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I talked to him that night. I was so happy for him. Nobody saw that coming. There was a reason nobody 50 has ever won a major. He hadn’t won in a bunch of years. And it was incredible, especially to go head‑to‑head with Brooks. People were concentrating so much on Phil being 50, they’re like, yo, man, he stood on the first tee with Brooks Koepka, who is probably the most intimidating player out there right now. And for him to hold his own against Brooks, you’ve got to be, like, not only was he 50, he stood up to Brooks. So that was pretty impressive.
Q Believe it or not, I think the average golfer can relate more to you than the great men and women we see Thursday through Sunday. The last time we saw your swing on the match, much improved. You got rid of the hitch. What advice would you give to people who are trying to improve their game and have been struggling for years?
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know, I had pretty much ‑‑ I’m not going to lie, I had given up golf. I only played in Lake Tahoe. And I played like, if a friend wants me to embarrass myself at his charity event and raise some money, I can live with that. I mean, charity is the most important thing.
And I met Stan and he said, Chuck, let me work with you a little bit. I said, Stan, I’ve worked with everybody in the world. He said, well, then one more’s not going to hurt.
I think you just have to keep trying things and sometimes it clicks. I mean and maybe you know what? To be honest with you, maybe I just wasn’t working hard enough, because it’s hard to practice on something when you suck at it.
It’s, like, yo, man, I’m not having any success. And I’m not going to keep practicing not having any success.
And Stan said something to me. He said when you stand over the ball, how many people are talking to you? I said what? He said how many people are ‑‑ I said that’s a great question. I never been asked that before. And in fairness I probably had ‑‑ I’ve had 10 teachers, I had 10 different people talking to me at the same time.
He said let’s just work on one thought. Don’t work on anything else. Forget what this guy said, this guy said. And after about three hours of hitting balls, I hit more ‑‑ we were just hitting balls ‑‑ I was like, wow. And then the next day he said let’s think about another thing today. So he just calmed my brain down said, hey, man, you can’t think ten things over a golf ball.
Q Being from the Bay Area, how much do the NBA playoffs miss seeing Steph Curry?
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know, man, I think it was really great what he did for the NBA this year. It let people know how ‑‑ well, not like we didn’t know.
I thought it was really awesome, the success he had. And he’s such a good kid, too. I liked him a lot as a person. I’ve always liked his dad, Dell, a lot. But I’ve got to know Steph ‑‑ we’re not close, I don’t act like we’re good friends ‑‑ but I’ve always liked him.
Every time I’m around him he’s really just a good kid. And I had a great time with him on the match. We always sit around a little bit at Lake Tahoe with Dell and just shoot the breeze.
And so I just thought it was great for the NBA that he got a lot of shine this year. And, listen, the Joker deserved MVP ‑‑ Embiid missed too many games. But I don’t think you can say anybody played better than Steph this year. But Joker deserved MVP. He’s a great kid, too. But I don’t think you can say anybody played better basketball than Steph this year.
Q I see you rocking that Auburn polo there with the War Eagle on it. Are you wearing that while you’re going to be in Lake Tahoe, or is that coming out the closet for there too?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I can’t wear Auburn’s stuff because it’s not Nike. So I’m trying ‑‑ me and Bo have been trying to get them for years to go to Nike. Me and Ernie just taped our podcast and I wanted to give Auburn some love because ‑‑ we had Marvin (indiscernible) on the gig. He’s retiring at the end of the season.
I think we have a couple more podcasts for the year. And I want to thank everybody ‑‑ me and Ernie got nominated for a Webby, which I don’t know what that is. Apparently it’s the best podcast. We try not to talk about sports. We try to make it funny. But we talk about some serious stuff. We had Dr. Fauci on this year and talked about the pandemic. We had Killer Mike and Van Jones talking about social justice. We have a great group of guests every week.
I wanted to give Auburn some love and they said it right before I was talking to you guys.
Q What’s it going to take for the Suns to advance? We can see they’ve gotten to this point, but what things do you see in their play that this has to be better or they’ve got to do this more efficiently to advance in the playoffs?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, if Deandre Ayton plays evenly with Joker, they’re going to win the series. He outscored him and had just as many rebounds in Game 1. If that happens three more times, the Suns have a great chance of winning. Mikal Bridges, I thought he flipped the series the other day in the third quarter, because if I remember correctly, the Nuggets was up like 6 to 8 ‑‑ up 10 and then Mikal Bridges went crazy. And then Chris, who was having a bad game, took over in the fourth quarter. But listen, man, if ‑‑ first of all I’ve been telling people in Phoenix, that was a big question coming into the playoffs, how mature Ayton was going to be.
He played great against the Lakers and he’s playing great in his first game. No matter what happens in the playoffs ‑‑ because he’s like a 21‑year‑old kid, and you’ve got to feel really good because we’ve got Booker and Ayton for the next 10 years. We’ll have a pretty good team because he’s really played really great in the playoffs.
Q Just on Chris poll, obviously he has the player option next year where he can opt out or work a deal whatever. Does a season influence a guy like that to say, you know what, let me stick around? But has he been here long enough to know it’s not all emotion, that you have to think this through. It’s a huge decision for him at this point in the career.
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know I like to drink, right? I’ve never been drunk enough to say no to $45 million. Not in my wildest drunken stupor. He’s going to make $45 million. I have never been drunk enough to say, no, I don’t need the 45 million. I’m good.
Listen, I get in trouble on TNT because I’ve been saying, like for, 10 years, Chris is the best leader we’ve got in the NBA. I’m a big Chris Paul fan. Listen, I don’t know if the Suns are going to win a championship, and Chris Paul is going to go to the hall of fame. The grass may not be greener somewhere else, but nothing is guaranteed to you. But, man, it would take some stones to ‑‑ I don’t want $45 million. I think that’s more money than I’ve made in my whole career.
I’m not bragging. The most money I made was $5 million. That was my last year. Seriously, I’m not even joking, they’ve got a stat. I think I made $30 million in my whole career. And he’s going to say no to $45 million for one year ‑‑
Q Jerry Colangelo, I just wrote a piece on him ‑‑ why is this guy who is like he invented sports in Phoenix, why is he so relegated in the background? And you giving him a shout‑out I think would really help?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, you know we’ve been trying to get Jerry a statue behind the scenes for the last X amount of time. I’m not even exactly sure how long ‑‑ at least a couple of years. He deserves a statue out in front of the Suns arena.
He’s done a lot for my career. Number one, getting me out of Philadelphia, which is big. Obviously what he’s done for Phoenix sports, he deserves a statue. And I’m hoping ‑‑ and, listen, I’m hoping we get it done before he dies.
And I’m glad you asked me that question. I got a chance to answer it because nobody asked me about that publicly until now. Jerry is awesome. Like I say, there’s a group of us who are trying to get him a statue. He deserves it. I hope they build it for him before he passes away.
Q Is there resistance from the Suns to do it? I know the Diamondbacks don’t want to have anything to do with him.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Let me say this, I live there so I need free tickets. I don’t want to piss anybody off. Don’t make me burn down my own house. But he deserves a statue. And I’m part of ‑‑ the resistance needs to let it go, but don’t make me answer that question; I want free tickets. That’s part of being Charles Barkley is getting free tickets.
Q I know you guys do the Fan Duel gambling segment every day on the AT&T pregame show, and doing over/unders and stuff like that throughout the game. What do you think the impact of gambling as it spreads across the United States, how do you think that the NBA will have to adjust as the average fan becomes a gambler?
CHARLES BARKLEY: That’s a great question. It concerns me a lot. I mean, even though I love to gamble, but I can afford to gamble. I don’t want poor people losing their livelihood, their homes, their families gambling.
I had an NBA owner say to me, Charles, TNT ‑‑ I think TNT and ESPN, we both pay about $2.5 billion a year. That’s $5 billion. I had an NBA owner say to me, Charles, in five years that’s going to be peanuts.
He said fans will be able to sit in their seat, bet who is going to make the next basket, who ‑‑ if a guy is going to make two free throws. And I’m, like, what? Gambling is here to stay. It’s going to be in all 50 states in the next five years. He said if we don’t get on the ball ‑‑ I was in shock that he said it, number one, but he did. He said that little 5 billion you all paying us, between you and ESPN, it’s going to be chump change.
So they’re ‑‑ I don’t want fans sitting there ‑‑ because you know what’s going to happen. Some fans ‑‑ because people should only gamble what they can afford to lose. But what’s going to happen is one of these idiot fans is going to be sitting in the seat and he’s going to bet whether a guy can make two free throws or something like that and he’s going to go off the deep end and get mad.
And, so, I just think you’re bringing in all this negative energy. But, like I say, I don’t think it’s anything ‑‑ the reason the NFL is so popular is gambling. And now you have Draft Kings, Fan Duel ‑‑ I represent Fan Duel, me and Kenny do Fan Duel. I think Shaq does BetMGM. Yo, man, I’m ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s going to be good or bad for the game in the long run but I have my concerns.
Q We’ve seen the fans come back to the game to all of our sports. And it seems to me that I see more hecklers in golf and in basketball because of the fan proximity to the athletes. As we’ve seen in basketball games now, we’ve had hecklers sort of go out of control and do things we haven’t seen for a long time. So Russell Westbrook getting popcorn thrown at him and other incidents ‑‑ guys running on the court. My question is what do you think the players should do about this increased level of unwelcome interaction? What should the league do? And what would you have done?
CHARLES BARKLEY: First of all, I don’t want to overreact to five incidents, because I don’t think we’ve had anything happen this week, right? Well, I’m on TV every night. I haven’t seen anything happen this week. I know we had some incidents the first week.
Listen, all you can do is take their season tickets and ban them for life. But my biggest concern, my biggest concern is one of these times ‑‑ like just telling my man earlier ‑‑ one of these fans is going to run up on one of these big dudes and get hurt badly.
And I never want that to happen. I never want to see that happen. But you know one of these drunk fools is going to be on a bet on something. And they’re going to run out there to one of these big old dudes and get clocked.
And that’s going to be really sad and unfortunate. But that’s really my only concern. I hope no player ever gets hurt. You saw that crazy thing with Martina Hingis gets stabbed back 30, 40 years ago, never want that to happen.
But I say, these dudes are big and strong and some of these fans get liquored up. If they stepped toward one of these guys the wrong way, something bad’s going to happen. I mean because these guys have a right to defend themselves. And I never want to see that. I never want to see that.
But the one thing I don’t want people to do ‑‑ man, we’ve had, like I say, I think three or four, maybe five incidents and we have been playing two games a night. So most of the fans been behaving. But let me tell you something. I’ve been in the NBA for 36 years, 16 as a player and 20 on television. Most of the fans are awesome. There’s always been assholes, though. But most of the fans have always been fantastic.
But there’s always going to be a couple of people that you just can’t control. But I don’t view fans like they’re bad. I said, yo, man, there’s a couple of people screaming things at you that they should not be saying, but you’re like most of the fans are like fantastic. So I’m not going to overreact, though.
Q Do you think a ban by one team should be carried out across the league? Like, if you’re banned in one arena you should be banned in all arenas across the league?
CHARLES BARKLEY: That to me would be a no‑brainer. Yeah, I think you should be banned from every NBA ‑‑ and I would take it a step further. I’d say all sports. Like, if you do something crazy at a Phillies game, you should not be able to go to the Eagles or 76ers. Now I think that would actually be ‑‑ like every sport. If you do something that stupid ‑‑ because we had a great conversation about this the other night. Like whether it’s ‑‑ like what do you do to these people? Because some of the behavior is not criminal. Like if somebody hit Kyrie in the head with a bottle, and he loses an eye or breaks a jaw or something, that’s criminal. But dropping popcorn or running on the court, I don’t know if you can consider that criminal. They might try to bump up the charges, but I don’t know if it’s even criminal. But you’ve just got to take their tickets and say like all major sports.
Q In New York, I think this is a general perception that you’re always negative on the Knicks. But I know that’s not the case. You’ve been positive –
CHARLES BARKLEY: See, this is ‑‑ this is y’all’s problem right here. You know I like you, but I’m just saying something. Y’all have sucked for 20 years. Why is it when I get on TV and say y’all suck for 20 years, I’m being negative.
Q You’re telling the truth.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Didn’t I give you all the love this year?
Q There was love this year. There was love when they won when Mike Woodson was the coach. So I guess –
CHARLES BARKLEY: Why do you all think I hate the Knicks? I’m going to tell the truth about your team. Stop it, Ian.
Q You’re a truth teller. I appreciate that. The sensitive Knicks fans out there thinks you’re too hard on them. Wanted to know what are your thoughts now that they’re past the first season with Tom Thibodeau, that Leon Rose, William Wesley and Scott Perry and Tom Thibodeau are leading this team forward? What are your thoughts on what you saw from them and what they can do moving forward?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I think ‑‑ I root for them because two of my friends are part of that organization. Kenny Payne, one of my teammates, and William Wesley, just a really, really good friend. So I want to see the Knicks do good.
What they learned during the playoff is you just can’t work hard. They are one of the hardest working teams in the league. That’s how they got the number four seed, but as you saw when the playoff started they don’t have enough talent. So this is a really, really big summer for them.
But I want to tell you something, the energy that those fans were showing during the playoffs, man, that’s what the playoffs are about. That place was on fire. And what’s crazy, I was telling Kenny and Shaq this, actually, two nights ago. The New York Nets ‑‑ I’m sorry, the Brooklyn Nets got a much better team, but when they play it’s like a mausoleum. And they got a much better team.
So, man, I’m just telling you I want them because that place was on fire and I’m hoping that y’all keep getting better, because I’ve been there when it’s been on fire.
Actually, when we interviewed Tom Thib last night, when we gave him coach of the year, which he richly deserved, we were like, yo, man, how awesome was it winning game 1, game 2 and game 5? He said, Chuck, it reminded me of the good old days when I was there with Van Gundy and those guys. But it’s great for the NBA that the Knicks doing well. I’m pulling for my man, Kenny Payne and Wesley.
Q Quick question about the Warriors. With Klay Thompson coming back next season, do you see the Warriors being contenders? And what moves do you think they need to make this offseason? Obviously the debate about their lottery picks. What could they package up, potentially pick up an All‑Star? Is there anyone you see fitting in with the Warriors in particular?
CHARLES BARKLEY: That’s a really tricky question. Klay hasn’t played basketball in two years. There’s nobody in the world in any sport who could not play for two years and you just assume, oh, he’s going to be back to Klay Thompson. And he had two serious, serious injuries.
So that’s a big question mark: Can he get back to being the best 2 guard in the NBA? That’s a really tough question so I can’t answer that.
You know it’s going to be ‑‑ the West is going to be great for the next ‑‑ because those boys in Denver are going to be there. Excuse me, you know the Lakers are going to do something. The Clippers will be really good again, depending on what Kawhi decides to do. But I have to wait and see the team put together.
But I was telling your man earlier, Joker deserved MVP. He was fabulous, fabulous. But I think it’s fair to say that nobody played better basketball than Steph Curry in the NBA this year. He was awesome. And it was fun to watch.
Q You talked about being the fabric of this tournament. And I kind of know that myself being a former volunteer who used to bring you drinks out on the range for hours and hours throughout the years. I want to know, because you’re such a part of this community, too, I mean whether it be publicized or not publicized going to fire victims’ houses and seeing the devastation that they’ve gone through, or being in the casino and doing karaoke out there, or even in Sacramento with Mustard Seed School ‑‑ a lot of people don’t know your involvement there ‑‑ does this feel like a home away from home in a way for you?
CHARLES BARKLEY: That’s a great question. So, number one, shout out to NBC. So, my love affair with Sacramento started during the fire situation. I didn’t think it would be fair for none of us, number one, to come up there and just play golf and lay on the beach, gamble at night and have a good time and sing karaoke every night and all them people’s houses had just burned down. I thought that that’s not cool.
And I asked Jon Miller, I said Jon, could I have a camera crew. I want to go meet some of these people and see the devastation, and I want to make a good donation to these people because I don’t want to just play golf and sit by the pool and have fun and, like two, miles away. And I will tell you, man, it was probably ‑‑ I’ve only seen one other scene when I toured Alabama, we had some tornado, I think it was like three years ago ‑‑ when everything is gone.
And I just want to thank Jon Miller and American Century, they’ve been great up there, too. And I didn’t know that people of Sacramento ‑‑ excuse me ‑‑ not Sacramento ‑‑ of Lake Tahoe were going to be so grateful for me taking time to spend time with them and then making my donation.
And, man, next thing I know they gave me Charles Barkley Day. And I had to tell them, shit, I feel pretty good; every day is Charles Barkley Day but thanks for the extra one. (Laughter).
But like I say, I just wanted to showcase all the stuff that was going on. And, man, when they ‑‑ and so every year from that point on, I have people coming up, giving me a hug. I’m like, wow. And it means a lot to me because, man, it was a tough situation.
So they were so appreciative and I was appreciative.
And I just thank the people for being kind to me every year I’ve been up there.
And Mustard Seed School in Sacramento, it’s school for homeless, I’ve been working with them for probably 10, 15 years, it’s crazy that all those kids ‑‑ they have 10 to 20, 30 kids a day who are homeless, and they put them in class all day. And, man, when I found out, my boss, Tara August, she’s from Sacramento, has been working with that charity ‑‑ anytime I get some money, I always try to hook them up, because man I couldn’t imagine being homeless, not having a place to go.
But to go there and get some meals and have a place to not be sleeping out in the cold for a time they’re in school. And all the teachers there are volunteers, that’s pretty special charity.
Q Being that it is Sacramento, and we know you like to tell the truth and not be negative. I know it’s been 15 years for the Sacramento Kings, no playoffs. Is there any hope in sight? Do you see anything to be encouraged about with that organization?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I do not. Unfortunately I do not. I’m a big De’Aaron Fox fan, but I don’t see anything to make me say ‑‑ I love watching De’Aaron Fox play, but I hate saying that, too, because I actually like Sacramento.
I think it’s an underrated city. I’ve enjoyed my time there. So I spent a good amount of time there with my boss, Tara August, who runs all the talent at TNT. So I’ve been up there quite a few times just to hang out with her and her family. I like the city.
And I will say this, when I first got ‑‑ not when I first got to the NBA. When they first got to the NBA, I thought they had one of the best fan bases in the world. And when Chris Webber got there, it was even better.
But and I have to be honest with you, I am perplexed why they’re not getting better. Like the Atlanta Hawks, they’re getting better. And you see, they win a series and got a really good shot of winning against Philadelphia. But I have no idea what the hell is going on, because I’m not there ‑‑ if something’s going on in the organization, it’s got to be, it’s got to start ‑‑ because they get lottery picks every year as long as I can remember. And I’m like you should be getting better and they’re not getting better.
Q Outside of that philanthropic work and the tournament, what is your favorite thing, maybe the guilty pleasure, when you come out to Tahoe that you enjoy doing, that you have to do? And does that include getting in the lake ever?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I get ‑‑ my guilty pleasure, one night on the weekend I get a boat for 12 of my closest people I like. Couple celebrities and a couple of people I’ve gotten to know over the these 20, 30 years. And we go out across the lake and just go and have drinks. I forget the name of the place. It’s a restaurant over there ‑‑ it’s something island. I can’t remember the name of it right now.
We park the boat for a little bit and just sit around and eat and drink. And then we go over to the island bar. It’s a restaurant over there and a little house. And we spend about ‑‑ we go out about 6:00 and we come back about midnight, because it was funny because I had said to myself for 25 straight years, man, I gotta go in that lake one of these years.
One year the guys said to me, I’ll get us a boat. And now I’ve been, like, seven years in a row, I gotta have that boat trip.
We normally do it on Friday night. But it’s about people I really like. I cater a meal. We got a crew. And we just go sit in the lake for about two hours and just talk about life. Then we go over to this little house and eat ‑‑ actually we started having dinner over there. But they make these funky drinks that are really dangerous because there’s bunch of sweet stuff in it. But it’s awesome.
Q Sounds like a hot ticket. I’m curious if you’re willing to let us know who are the people who you like every year. (Laughter).
CHARLES BARKLEY: I shouldn’t have said that because the people ‑‑ because we can only get like 12 people on the boat. So I shouldn’t say it like that. I should say we can only get 12 people. It’s people I really like, though.
Q It’s like a lottery kind of thing?
CHARLES BARKLEY: It’s definitely like the lottery. And this is the lottery. I pick the people going on the boat.
Q When you were growing up in Leeds, Alabama, did you ever envision yourself being in a position to be a spokesperson type for golf?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, not in my wildest dreams. I think it was my second or third year with the 76ers, I’m like 26 years old, and I’m talking, and I said, what are you doing today, Andrew? Andrew Toney. He says, I’m going to play golf. I said, what’s that? Is that thing where they hit that little white ball around? He said, yeah. He says, you want to go? I said, hell, yeah, I want to go, I ain’t got nothing to do today. Man, I got on that range. And I actually hit that damn ball.
I said, wait a minute ‑‑ and I think I was an All‑Star by my third year, if I remember correctly. And I’m thinking, damn, I’m an All‑Star and I can’t hit something that’s standing still. This is going to be a challenge. And I was like, man, this is awesome. And I started playing. And at one point, I think you know I was like a single‑digit handicap. And I broke 80. I was going to shoot between 79 and 85 every time I played golf.
And then I did the stupidest thing ever. I started taking lessons. I said I want to get better. I should have been happy shooting that score, because I had fun, but I wanted to get better.
So I started taking lessons from every single person in the world. And next thing I know I got 10 voices in my head standing over a golf ball. And I went from breaking 80 to couldn’t break 100. It was really like that for 25 years.
It was frustrating. But like I say, I don’t go crazy because it’s something fun I do every day just to get some ‑‑ and I tell people, golf and fishing, the reason I love both of them so much it’s the only place ‑‑ those are the only places you can go and get peace and quiet.
When I go to a grocery store, people want to talk to me. When I go to the supermarket, people want to talk to me. When I go to the dry cleaner, everybody ‑‑ I’m like yo, man, what can I do to get a break?
And I remember ‑‑ I was telling the story the other day to a guy on a podcast ‑‑ I was so dumb when I was young. Like when I first became a star, I think it was like my third year in the league, it was overwhelming where everybody ‑‑ because my first couple of years I played with Doc and Moses and Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones, nobody noticed me.
I remember telling my friends, yo, man, we gotta take a trip. I’ve got to get some peace and quiet. I’ve got to get out of this. It’s overwhelming. And I took about six of my friends to Hawaii.
I said nobody is going to know me in Hawaii. And I got to Hawaii. I’m like, Charles Barkley is in Hawaii. I’m like, oh, shit, they know me in Hawaii.
After that I’ve been in the limelight. You gotta take the good with the bad. I’m always going to be nice and cordial, but you have to take the good with the bad. People are going to talk to you all the time. They’re going to want pictures, they want autographs. It goes with the job. But when I’m on the golf course, I’m out there with three of my friends, it’s all trash talk because we’re all has‑beens. And we’ve all played different sports.
I play with a lot of NFL players and they talk about how dumb basketball players are. And I talk about how dumb football players are. And every time you hit a bad shot we’ve got a name for it. Every bad shot we’ve got some type of quip and there’s nothing like it for four or five hours.
And, man, like I said, in golf, let’s be realistic, it’s one of the few things you can do when you get older. It’s one of the few things you can do ‑‑ you can’t go out there and play basketball or football or baseball. But you can play golf and it’s fun.
Every course is different. But, man, it’s just nice to be walking out there, especially on a beautiful day. So that’s why I love it so much.
Q How refreshing is it to see Bruce with Auburn basketball on the rise and Nate over at Alabama with basketball on the rise to get some spotlight in Alabama which everybody knows is a football‑crazy state?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I love our coach. I love Bruce Pearl. Actually I’m coming to Lake Tahoe again, Bruce’s son, Steve, who’s on his staff, is going to get married at Lake Tahoe. I think it’s September sometime. I gotta look at the invitation. So when he said Lake Tahoe, I said, I don’t care what I got in September; we’re going. I’m coming to the wedding.
But I love Bruce Pearl. I never thought in my wildest dreams Auburn would make it to the Final Four. It was awesome. I know we’re going to have a good team.
We didn’t have a good one last year because he had a number of freshmen and sophomores. But he loves the team coming up this year. But Auburn making it to the Final Four is one of the highlights of my basketball life. I never thought we’d make it to the Final Four.
And I got to know Coach Oats a little bit the last few years. He was coaching at Buffalo. I knew we were in trouble. I was, Alabama is going to start having good basketball teams. And I said that guy can really, really coach when he came from Buffalo.
And I got a chance to meet him when I played in the Bruno’s (phonetic) about a month ago. And I told him, I said, I know you’re a good coach. I want to thank you for screwing up my Final Four prediction. I had three out of four of the Final Four.
You know I actually had to say “roll tide” on television. And Auburn put me on punishment for saying it. But he’s a terrific coach. But I love our coach, I love Coach Pearl.
Q There’s a casino here that if you put $100 bet on you to finish in the top 70 that they pay 1500. And I know you say your game is rounding into form. So should I place that bet?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Repeat that again.
Q So it’s a casino here in Tahoe, and if you put $100 down on you to place in the top 70 of this field, they pay 1500. And pretty good odds.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Are you serious?
Q Do you think I should make the bet on you?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Hold on one second. You ready?
Q I am.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Did you get that?
Q I didn’t hear it, actually.
CHARLES BARKLEY: [Pushed button].
CHARLES BARKLEY: $100 to win 1500 if I’m in the top 70?
Q If you’re in the top 70, yes.
CHARLES BARKLEY: You need to let me know what casino that is, because I want some of that. (Laughter).
You have them let me know who has that bet because I want some of that. It’s 80 people in the tournament?
Q There’s about 80 so far.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Listen, man ‑‑ I’m going to finish in the top 70. You need to put more than $100 on me. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Charles, thank you. That’s William Hill that’s making those odds.
>> Harrah’s, Harveys.
THE MODERATOR: Harrah’s, Harvey’s has it up also? Multiple locations in Tahoe will have that.
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know what, I cannot wait now. I look forward to Lake Tahoe. I cannot wait.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.