The media sat in end zone seats at the Spectrum in Philadelphia where a loose ball bounced into my arms during a Detroit Pistons — Sixers game in the 1990s.
I caught it and tossed it back to Sixers star forward Charles Barkley. He recognized me from an in depth interview/bull session we had earlier that season at The Palace.
“Hey I thought you were going to come visit me before the game,” Barkley said.
I explained that Pistons center Bill Laimbeer sustained a last minute injury so it did not allow me time to come into the Sixers dressing room for pregame.
“It figures that ass hole had to be involved,” Barkley said.
You’d think the conversation would be over because an NBA game before a nearly packed house needed to be finished. But Barkley does not follow rules all the time.
He asked about the family and how I enjoyed covering a bunch of jerks like the Pistons. Finally the official grew impatient, blew his whistle, and demanded the ball from Barkley.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I have something else I got to do.”
That exchange explains Barkley in a nut shell. Irrelevant, funny and a man who walked outside the lines in life. This is why I like Barkley.
A few days earlier we sat together in the visitors dressing room at the Palace talking life, race and his controversial “I am not a role model” statement that sent the sporting world blaze.
We spoke for about 45 minute prior to the Sixers game against the Pistons. The media must leave the premises 90 minutes before tip off so my time was nearly up. A fidgety public relations guy stood near by ready to give me the boot because it was a few seconds after 6 pm for a 7:30 tip.
“He’s got to leave,” the PR person said to us.
I gathered my pre-game notes, thanked Barkley for his time, and was headed out the door.
“We are not finished,” Barkley said firmly. “My man does not have to leave.”
I did my best pivot and returned. We continued to talk for another 10 minutes and it was the only time that I can remember being in an NBA dressing room after the bewitching hour.
A few years later we stood in the middle of the Phoenix Suns dressing room laughing in stiches.
Players, media, front office staff, security. Barkley, who gained much of his fame with the Philadelphia 76ers, was finishing his career with the Suns and he was doing what he does best — besides dunking basketballs — and that’s making fun of teammates.
Today’s victim was 7-foot-7 gentile giant Manute Bol, who ran the floor like a giraffe and acted as a perfect gentleman off the floor. His mistake this day was walking by Barkley’s dressing stall with no shoes on. Barkley pounced and for the next 15 minutes cracked joke after joke only on Bol’s feet.
One of his best lines focused on how ashy Bol’s feet were.
“Lotion is no match for those ashy ass feet,” Barkley cracked. “You need Pennzoil or Quaker State on those bad boys.”
The abuse became so intense that the 7-foot-7 Bol shrunk into a 5-10 man. He held his hands up in surrender saying in his African accent: “Charlie. Charlie. You are not funny. Stop if Charlie.”
He was funny. Barkley was the reason I was bent over in laughter with pain shooting from my stomach and tears flowing from my eyes.
This is why I like Charles Barkley.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: