AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP
Teleconference with Charles Barkley, Dell Curry and Jerome Bettis
July 1, 2020
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Dell Curry, Charles Barkley and Jerome Bettis.
Charles, you’ve played in the event for a long time. This is your 25th year. And there are no fans, which is one of the great delights out there. How do you think this experience will be different for you and the celebrities?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, I think for me personally I won’t hit anybody, so that’s always a welcome relief. That’s first and foremost.
First, I just want to give a shoutout to American Century for holding the event. Obviously it’s under some unique and different circumstances. Shoutout to American Century, but also NBC.
You know, I can always count on those guys at NBC. A few years ago we had those major fires, and I asked Jon Miller and those guys if I could take a camera up to where the houses burned down. He gave me his blessing, because I didn’t think it was fair that we came to Lake Tahoe and just have shits and giggles on the course and have a great time and gamble and do karaoke.
So he gave me a camera, and I walked around for four, five hours and met with people who just lost their house.
I know I can always count on NBC. And this year some of the stuff we’ll be doing number one, for justice, equal justice, but also for COVID 19, I think, is really cool what they’re doing for Notah. And you look at the COVID 19 thing, it’s had a devastating effect. I don’t know a lot about the American Indian situation, but I know it’s had a detrimental effect on the black community. And I’m glad we’re doing something like that.
And obviously we have a lot of work to do with equality and police reforms and things like that. But hopefully everybody will come up and also I want to give a shoutout to Lake Tahoe. I know they’ve had a difficult time. And even though fans can’t come to the golf course, I really hope they come up and put some money into the city.
A lot of people out there are going to lose their livelihood and the casinos are obviously at the mercy of all that also. So I’m just glad to be going to Lake Tahoe and thank NBC and American Century.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Charles. The Angora fire that Charles referenced earlier was 18 years ago this week. And NBC did a fundraising campaign around that. And Charles donated $100,000 to the local fire department initiatives in the area. So a memorable year for sure.
Dell, you played in the tournament in 1998. And so you remember it from back in that first decade. What’s your recollection from how the tournament’s grown and what you expect this year.
DELL CURRY: I want to go with what Charles said. It’s a privilege to go to Tahoe every year for that week and just hang out and be with a lot of guys you don’t normally get to see on a day to day basis, and have a lot of fun raising money.
It’s something that I know Steph and I are really looking forward to. Steph (indiscernible) as well, but they made the playoffs, and the NBA season is about to resume. So he’s going to be back at work.
But the thing that I remember the most is that it was stroke play back then. I’m so thankful we went to the scoring point system because I shot a lot of stroke play. I’m sure Charles can remember that as well.
But just the overall growth of the tournament, how exciting it is every year. It will be different this year, obviously, as Charles alluded to, no fans.
But the support and the charity and everything will still feel the benefit that the tournament brings, American Century, everybody involving they do a fabulous job. Obviously it’s a first class event from top to bottom, from the people running it to the players. We’re just so happy to be involved and a chance to have some fun, but most importantly to give back to those in need.
Q Dell, curious, as a parent, is there any part of you that, I don’t know, believes that Steph won’t be playing in Orlando? How do you feel about Steph will be playing in Dallas? How do you feel about the whole NBA setup starting up again and COVID 19?
DELL CURRY: I don’t think relief is the word. I’d love to have my guys playing, to be able to support them. But the time off, I think, Steph and this Warriors team will get will be greatly beneficial to them heading into next year. A lot has been written about their injuries and what they went through this year. So having extended time will really help them.
I had a chance to visit Steph last week for about 10 days and he feels very comfortable about how the NBA and the protocol and setting up the bubble. The players are very informed from the testing to what’s going to go on to the bubble to keep them safe but also keep them entertained.
He’s excited to get back on the floor. He was having a great year before he hurt his ankle before the season was suspended. He’s healthy and ready to go. And he’s looking forward to making the playoffs they have a young team; see how far they can go.
Yes, he’s going to miss his family for the first four, six weeks, but hopefully they can get to the second round and have some family come down and join them.
So I feel comfortable that everything is they’re going to be safe. The league is doing everything they can in setting things up and making sure the players are as safe as they can be. I think it’s a great situation.
Again, people are starving for sports on TV. So to be able to get that fan base back and involved and give people something to do, something to look forward to in this tough time that we’re going through right now, that’s what it’s all about.
Q I don’t know how much film you watch, but how would you describe Charles’ golf game? And if you could offer one critique, what would it be?
DELL CURRY: You know, I’m too busy trying to describe my golf game, critique myself. I can’t worry about other players. Golf is a fun game. It’s extremely difficult. And if you start thinking about other guys’ swings and scores, you know your game’s going to falter.
Again, it’s fun to go and catch up and hang out with the guys and shoot the shit on the range, and like Charles said, hang out, have dinner, have drinks. That’s the part we look forward to after golf. We’re on the golf course it’s competitive. I’m not worried about the other guys. I want to beat them but to do that I’ve got to concentrate on my game.
JEROME BETTIS: I have had the chance to play with Charles a couple weeks ago. And his game is in really good shape. He’s gotten away from the hitch. He’s swinging really good and he hit some bombs out there. So, I expect to see him play markedly better than he has in the past because his game is looking really good. And he’s always been pretty good on the greens. So I expect him to go out and play well.
Q Did you have a song picked out for this year, Dell, for karaoke?
DELL CURRY: I did not. Steph the loser the winner gets to pick the song and the outfit that the loser is going to wear. And I have no idea where Seth is going there. But I’m sure he’ll still make me follow through with that. I think I’m getting a pass that there are no fans and we’re not in the casino with karaoke set up. I got a pass there. He may wait until we get fans back the following year to pick it up. I’m not sure. But it’s his call because I did lose last year.
Q I hope he comes up with something creative this year. What about this year, do you think you’ll be double or nothing this year?
DELL CURRY: I’ll fly to the Bay early next week. And then we always drive up to the tournament. It’s a great drive guys’ trip, me, Steph and the two caddies. And we’ll hash out what the bet will be then.
So I’ve got some thoughts in mind. But again being the loser last year, the winner kind of sets the stakes.
Q Steph’s got game. He’s been playing a lot since he’s been not on the court. Do you think he might actually have a chance to win the tournament this year?
DELL CURRY: I know that’s his mindset. He’s not playing a whole lot. He does have a simulator at his house; he’s able to hit some balls. But coming off a hand injury and not getting to play, because they shut the courses down in the Bay Area. They just opened them up recently.
He’s played a little bit, and he’s played well. But I know he’s really looking forward to this year because he’s had a chance to play and practice and really concentrate and kind of unwind as opposed to finishing the Finals and a week later he’s in Tahoe, really haven’t had a chance to unwind and rest up.
His game is sharp. Like Jerome said about Charles’ game, he has a really good around the green, short game. So he’s definitely thinking that maybe this is his year.
Q Charles, I was following up on that earlier, on Jerome talking about your game. Last year you promised you were not going to finish in last place and you fulfilled that promise. What have you been doing in the last year that’s helped you continue to improve your game?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, let me just say, if I don’t play I played great the first day last year, then I got tired, because I’m not used to walking four days in a row. I’m not going to get tired this year. I’m going to play well.
I’m really excited. I started working with a new coach about two years ago, and the last year things have gotten a lot better for me. Stan Utley’s been great. And I’m really looking forward to play well.
I’ll be devastated if I don’t play well. Like I said, I had a couple of good days last year and then I ran out of gas. This is the only time I can’t speak for Bus and Dell, this is the only time I walk on the golf course. And after I played 36 Thursday and Friday, I played pretty well Thursday and Friday. And then Saturday and Sunday my tank was on empty.
So I’ve worked out a lot more. I hit a lot more balls. And listen, I think I’m going to play well. I really do. I’m excited for the tournament. Listen, obviously I don’t feel like I’m going to win the thing, but I’ll be very surprised and disappointed if I don’t play good.
Q Given all that’s happened over the past month with the social movement and Black Lives Matter, how does this 4th of July feel different to you guys? And on the larger picture, sports in general, how has the pandemic in particular changed your attitude for what sports means in the big picture?
JEROME BETTIS: First, in terms of the 4th of July, it still has meaning obviously, but it’s the question of can our country grow, can we become a better country on this 4th of July and the issues in front of us? And believe we can work towards a better country. And I think that’s going to happen.
We’re starting to see some of the residual effects of the movement. So that’s good to see.
And in terms of the pandemic and sports, I think not having sports we see how important sports are to the fabric of our country, and not only actual things but the conversation about the games; the residuals, we’re not seeing that. And to now know that it’s starting to happen, you’re starting to see a little golf on television. And you’re starting to see some UFC, starting to see NASCAR.
So, although it’s not the core sports, if you will, of the United States, it’s still sports and it’s starting to happen. And we’re starting to see that sports are a very important part of our daily lives.
And although it is a game, it does serve as a great kind of change of pace from everything that’s happened. Obviously, COVID 19 it’s real, it’s scary, and it’s in everybody’s home in terms of the information. But the sports, it takes you out of that realm and gives you something really to look forward to.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, listen, this pandemic, I want to give my blessing to everybody out there who has got the disease and their family, if they passed away. This thing, it’s one of the craziest things, by far the craziest thing that’s happened in my lifetime. I can’t speak for Bus and Dell, but we’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetime. We’ve got businesses ruined forever. We’ve got so many people who are going to be out of work forever. It’s changed their life.
As far as the socialism stuff, listen, America is the greatest country in the world. We have dropped the ball on equality, economically, and that’s the biggest difference. We need to give black people and poor white people economic opportunity. We put them in the worst neighborhoods. We put them in the worst school and we said good luck.
And I think this thing exploded because, No. 1, we need police reform. I’m never going to bash the cops. I think we need the cops. I think they’re important and significant.
You know, it’s interesting, you talk to all these fools on television talking about defunding the cops. First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Good neighborhoods and white neighborhoods are not going to defund the cops. They’re only going to defund the cops in poor black neighborhoods and poor white neighborhoods.
And who are black people supposed to call, Ghostbusters? Are you kidding me? We need cops. But we need police reform because the bad cops are giving the good cops a bad name.
But anybody who thinks we can have a civilized society without cops, they’re being disingenuous and they’re not being honest and fair. But we do need police reform. And that’s something we really need.
Like I say, I don’t want any unarmed black man killed. I don’t want any unarmed white man killed. But we do need police reform, but we need to work with the cops. And, like I said, I get disappointed when all these fools and jackasses get on TV saying we don’t need cops. We’d be in the wild, wild west if it wasn’t for the cops.
I don’t want anything to happen like happened to Mr. Floyd. That was awful and that was terrible. I think as a black man you see another black man die at the hands of cops it’s, like, putting his knee on his neck for nine minutes and got his hands in his pockets; clearly he doesn’t feel threatened you got your hands in your pocket. You don’t feel threatened at all.
So, that was a really awful situation. That cop has to pay the consequences for that. But this can also be a learning experience. And we need to have a learning experience. Like I say, we need the cops.
DELL CURRY: There’s not a lot you can add to what Jerome and Charles said. I agree with everything there. But I’ve been just driving people for their voices to be heard through the voting. You have to get out and vote. The protests are great. I love that peaceful protesting, voices heard. But individually you need to get out and register and vote and make sure your voice is heard that way. That’s how you’re going to get a lot of change.
So that’s something I’ve really been pushing here locally on a local, state market in North Carolina is to get people registered and get out and vote and let your voice be heard and make a difference that way.
Q Jerome, five years ago you were inducted into The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This year The Hall of Fame Game and induction ceremony have been postponed until 2021. Were you planning to head back this year to join the ceremony as an alum? And how has this postponement been a reflection of the new world you’re living in?
JEROME BETTIS: I definitely planned to be there. There’s quite a few guys that were going into the Hall. You had my former coach, Coach Bill Cowher was supposed to go in Troy Polamalu, my teammate, he was going in.
There was definitely a reason for me to be there. I’m was looking forward to it. Obviously with the change and the postponement to next year, I feel sorry for those guys who don’t really get that moment that they’ve been waiting they have to wait another year; they’ve already waited five and they’ve got to wait another year to get to be recognized and have that moment where they’re being received in The Hall of Fame with their teammates and the class and all the pageantry that goes along with this.
It’s disappointing that they’re not going to be able to have that moment this year and they’ve got to share it with the next class next year. But that is the times that we’re living in right now, and we have to make that adjustment.
This pandemic isn’t going anywhere, as we’ve seen. The numbers are telling us that we’re going to be in this for the long haul. So we have to expect that things are going to be postponed.
We’re going to have changes in schedules.
So I think that’s the one part that we all understand it’s for everyone’s best interests that it is postponed because at the end of the day it’s about everyone being safe and being conscious about what’s happening right now, so we are safe and give ourselves the best chance to get through it.
Q Charles, you’ve played golf with all these guys in the past few years and watched them play and checked their scores. Can Steph or perhaps Mulder or Derek Lowe, who came in third last year, can any of these guys beat Tony Romo this year?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I think all those guys are good golfers. If you get hot of course you can. But listen, there’s some guys, they’re head and shoulders like Tony Steph actually has a real job. So he’s always at a disadvantage. He might have a great chance this year because like Del said his game is probably sharp and he’s probably healthy.
This will probably be the most he’s ever been prepared. Think about it. He’s been busy the last three years winning MVP and championships. I think if he’s going to win it this will be the year.
We’ve all been locked up for the last four months, so if he’s going to win I think this will be a great opportunity.
But Tony is a great player. Mark Mulder is a great player, and Derek Lowe is a great player.
Let’s be realistic. There’s probably 10 guys, maybe 15, that can actually win this thing. I mean the notion that everybody is going to win, that’s just bogus. But there’s probably 10 to 15 guys, or there’s probably five guys who will probably go off as the betting favorites. And listen they deserve it.
They’ve won the tournament, I think some of the guys won it two out of the last four years, some of the same names.
Listen, what’s going to be very interesting about this tournament this year, everybody’s probably coming in playing, probably have played more golf than they’ve ever played. I think that’s going to be really important and significant.
Nobody’s been busy for the last four months. I’m not saying they played golf the entire four months, but they probably could have worked on their game in some capacity. So, you know, that to me was going to be the most interesting thing because nobody’s been busy. Everybody’s been working on their game.
So, I think clearly it sucks without fans, because they’re one of the highlights of the week. But as far as golf, man, I think this has the chance of being the best one ever. And I’m not just saying that just for the hell of it. I’m saying everybody’s been working on their game so those top 10 to 15 guys, you know, you only win this thing by I think there’s probably only four or five holes different that you make birdie. So, if you have a guy who has been working on his game get on a hot streak, I think anybody can win in the top 10.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of the betting lines, Tony Romo is the favorite at 5 to 6. Mulder is 5 to 2. Derek Lowe is 12 to 1. Mardy Fish is 12 to 1. Steph Curry, 18 to 1. John Smoltz, 30 to 1. Dell Curry 100 to 1. Jerome, 500 to 1. And Charles 7500 to 1.
CHARLES BARKLEY: I’ll tell you this. If the players are really smart, they’d all bet some money on me and let me win this thing, and we would break every casino in the world. That would be my suggestion to all the players, put a couple hundred dollars on me and find a way for me to win this thing. That would be a nice little check for them.
Q Last year you birdied a hole. I guess that was the first day when you still had your stamina. DeMarcus Ware finished beneath you. So did Dylan Dryer. I see DeMarcus on the list; Dylan isn’t there. I don’t think you’re going to finish last?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Let me tell you something. I guarantee you I’m not going to finish last. How many players are playing this year?
THE MODERATOR: 75.
CHARLES BARKLEY: I’m going to finish in the top 60. I’m going to finish in the top 60.
Q Charles, Dell alluded to it a little bit, with the new NBA season not starting, next season not starting until September. How do you think that will help the Warriors? And do you think they can get back to title contentions with Steph and Klay now fully healthy?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I think, number one, I’ve always been a proponent that we don’t start the season until December. You go back look at the NBA, the year we had our best ratings we started at Christmas. And I think it was because we’re not competing with college football and pro football which are King Kong and King Kong Jr.
I think if we started in December at Christmas, like, we have five games on Christmas Day, I think that would be a perfect way to start the NBA season. And we could go a couple extra weeks because there’s no competition in the middle of the summer.
I’ve always believed that we should do that. Listen, the Warriors, it depends on what they do going forward. I mean obviously going to have a lot of [inaudible]. They’re going to have a good team.
Anytime you’ve got Klay and Steph you’re going to have a good team. They’re probably the two greatest shooters that ever lived. But they’re not the same they’re not going to be the same team they used to be because other teams have gotten a lot better. The Lakers and Clippers are not going anywhere.
The Nuggets got a good solid team. I’m probably missing somebody. But clearly the Lakers and the Clippers are the two teams to beat, not just this year going forward. Milwaukee is terrific.
It’s going to be interesting. My number one thing I’m not even really worried about next year; my only goal go is to get through this. I just hope none of the players get sick, because I think it will be catastrophic for the NBA to get started and then have to stop.
I think it also will be bad if we have a bunch of star players who get the virus and we don’t have a legitimate champion. But if everybody is healthy, this will be a great accomplishment. With all the crap that we’ve been through this year, to go down to Orlando and play without fans and motivate yourself, man like I say, if everybody is healthy it will be a great accomplishment. My only concern is stopping this thing if a bunch of people get sick or a bunch of great players are not able to play. And then, like I said, I told somebody the worst case scenario will be the New York Knicks against the Sacramento Kings playing for the championship.
Like, if all the players in the league got sick and those two organizations play for the championship, that wouldn’t be a good look. So I’m hoping that everybody’s healthy and we have a great championship between (indiscernible) the Clippers, the Lakers and the Bucks and Toronto, that guy from Toronto, Masai and Nick, are doing a fantastic job.
But as far as the Warriors, they might be competitive because of Klay and Steph. Draymond is a good little player. But the rest of the stuff is out. I mean, the rest of the jury is out on the rest of that team.
DELL CURRY: I would agree with that, Charles. I’m looking forward to Orlando. I think the AAU played in Orlando; I’m thinking like the NBA is going to be a glorified AAU tournament. Everybody is going to be right there. You’ll be rubbing elbows with those guys, in the same gym. It’s going to be an A type setting tournament.
It’s really going to be intense. And like Charles, if everybody stays healthy, and every team has their top players, it’s going to be a shoot out until the end. I think it’s a bona fide winner. Shouldn’t be an asterisk beside that.
I think everybody is playing on an equal table, equal floor, equal rules. The winner should be celebrated just like every other world championship is.
And as far as the Warriors, talking to Steph, he’s excited for next. Talked about how everybody is going to be healthy and rested. And even the eight teams that did not make it, they’re trying to find a way to play. And anticipate the Warriors are not going to do that; they’re going to focus on practice. And Klay’s healthy now. I think they’re going to work him in slowly. They’re thinking they can be contenders. But the west is going to be really tough. 13 teams in this bubble in the West and only nine in the Eastern Conference.
So Draymond is already fired up; he’s already on Instagram talking about he’s going to remind people who he was when he made the All Star team. So he’s already thinking about next year and it doesn’t start until next December.
So I think if they can pull this off, get good momentum in Orlando and then, a couple months later, come back with great momentum next year, with everybody being fresh and healthy, the NBA is in a very good position right now.
Q (Indiscernible) with the Suns, with Monty in place and games in place, are you seeing signs of things getting better here in Phoenix, and what do you think the franchise needs to do there to get back to what they once were?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Obviously I’m a Phoenix Suns fan. I root for Philadelphia and Phoenix. When I was living in Phoenix I wanted to see the Suns do well.
I think Monty is going to be a terrific coach. You know, the problem we have in sports now, you guys are never patient. We have two young kids who are they’re building their future around Deandre and obviously Booker.
Listen, I think just making this playoff bubble, I think it’s going to be a great experience for these guys. It’s probably going to be the most meaningful games they’ve ever played.
So I think that’s going to be a positive going forward. Listen, even though this is our legitimate playoff scenario, it is like the playoffs. So I really think it’s going to be good for those young guys going forward; they can learn what pressure is like. Like I say, this is not like anything I’ve ever seen in my life.
I want to get on here say, yeah, I would bust my ass in an empty gym, but I can’t speak for Dell, and I definitely can’t speak for Jerome because I don’t know how you would play football without the crowds, because those are some real men out there who play football. I played football one day and I said hey this shit is not for me.
They’re some real men out there. I can’t imagine trying to play a football game without 70, 80,000 people pumping me up. And I can’t speak for Dell on the other side. Playing in front of an empty gym, that’s going to be so weird and crazy. So this whole thing is going to be fascinating to watch. And the Suns are such a young team, they’ll have to find some mental toughness, and Monty is going to have his hands full trying to get them, hey, there’s no crowd, there’s no looking up in the crowd at your wife or girlfriend and people cheering you on. You’ve just got to bring it yourself. I think that’s going to be the best thing that happens to the Suns, pressure situation.
Like I said, this thing is so crazy. In a sense it’s going to be fascinating to watch.
Q Two weeks ago I had Kevin Nealon on my show. Coming up for this. He said, look, I want to give Charles a shot, so I think I’m going to pass this time?
But I just want to say we really miss the small things. You would fly into the South Lake Tahoe Airport, FliteDeck. And buy you a round of drinks. You’re like a real local up here. I want to say thank you for all you’ve done for the Angora Fire and the folks at NBC. We’re not going to recognize you if you cover your face with a face mask; is that Charles? I was curious to know, because we’re not going to be out there, the fans and whatnot, that maybe because I’ve heard sometimes you play really well when there’s not a lot of crowds there. So I’m wondering if the oddsmakers will have to readjust their minds and give you more of a favorite to win this sucker, because there’s going to be no people out there. Do you think that’s going to affect the game for you and your chances of maybe winning this thing for once?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, I’m not going to win this thing. But like I say, definitely not going to win this thing. But let me say something: I put a lot of time and effort into my game the last two years, with my new coach, Stan. Like I said, I played decent last year. I played great the first day, as a matter of fact, but I really got tired. I’m really. Looking forward to playing again. It won’t have anything to do with the crowd. It doesn’t have anything to do with the crowd. But I’m going to play well. I’m really looking forward to it.
Listen, I’m not going to win the thing, but I’m going to play well. I’m excited to get to Lake Tahoe. It’s such a wonderful place. And the people are fantastic up there. And hopefully, like I say, even though we won’t have crowds on the golf course, I hope the people in this area come to Lake Tahoe and support the casinos, because it’s been a really difficult time for casinos. There’s a lot of people that work in these places, in the bars and restaurants and waitresses and on the floors. I hope people still come and support Lake Tahoe.
Q Just having this event and you guys up here, I got to see that as an eventual business, if anything, for morale. So just coming up here is a real gift. So thank you.
CHARLES BARKLEY: I can’t wait to get there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.