Turning 50 is a big milestone in anyone’s life but when you’re one of the greatest basketball players ever, you celebrate the big 5-0 in a very public way. Last month I spent two days with Charles Barkley in preparation of our Barkley at 50 special on Comcast SportsNet, which debuts on Barkley's birthday Wednesday at 7 p.m.
You will see Charles like you have never seen him before. Barkley holds court in the Sixers' team laundry room before working the broadcast for TNT and he greets everyone from Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo to legendary Sixers stat man Harvey Pollack. What Hall of Famer uses a laundry room as his personal locker room? But it’s here where Barkley offers some very candid views about Andrew Bynum’s situation. You’ll see why Barkley has aspirations to get involved in the game in a different capacity than just as an award-winning television analyst.
A variety of topics were discussed when I joined Barkley and his Sixers coach Jim Lynam for a lively lunchtime conversation at Charles’ favorite Philadelphia restaurant. When I told Lynam that Charles was about to turn 50, Lynam chimed in, “some out there that didn’t think he was going to make it,” and on cue Barkley blurted out, “And I was one of them.”
Barkley is one of those unique individuals who has an opinion on just about anything, and for a couple of hours with the cameras rolling we had a blast reminiscing. Find out what Charles meant by saying, “I went through my stupid stage.”
Jim Lynam says Charles was a “handful to coach,” but then elaborated on how difficult it is to be a “super,” as Lynam puts it. As the Sixers' GM, Lynam did trade Barkley in 1992, and both guys share their thoughts on how that trade to Phoenix went down. There are stories about Billy Cunningham, Doctor J, the Moses Malone trade and a personal favorite about how Lynam told Barkley to make his teammates better against the Celtics' Hall of Fame trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
There were lots of laughs and some serious topics as well. Charles’ playing weight was 250 pounds but when he retired, we all know he blew up. How much weight did he gain, and was he a problem at practice? Charles and Jimmy get into that and a whole lot more on Barkley at 50.
For Sixers fans it is a must-see. One thing you will learn: Charles Barkley is very appreciative for what basketball has done for him in the first 50 years of his life.