Growing up, I was always a big NBA basketball fan. While my brother was a huge Michael Jordan fan (like everyone else in the world), I was idolizing Charles Barkley. Chuck didn't want to be a role model and he made sure everyone knew that, but to me, he was.
Barkley had no championships, he also did not have the roster and coaches around him that Michael Jordan did. He was an undersized post player who made an impact on the game bigger than most with hard work, honesty and passion.
Sir Charles began his career on a championship team. He was not a leader but learned from some greats who's names will always be mentioned when the game of basketball comes up. While playing with Dr. J surely benefited him, he obviously took the most from Moses Malone. Malone was a post player who, like Charles, prided himself on rebounding. He was a great mentor for "The Round Mound of Rebound" to learn from. Malone taught Barkley to work hard and how to prepare for games, seasons and the life of a professional athlete.
A few years after being in the league, Erving and Malone were gone (trade and retirement) from the team, and it was time for Charles to become the leader. He did what he could, but the 76ers management did not put anything that great around him, so he eventually relocated to Phoenix via trade. When you try and try and things aren't working, change something. This obviously helped, as he was the league MVP this year and led the Suns to the NBA Finals where they eventually lost to the Bulls in 6 games.
"Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." - Charles Barkley
I AM NOT A ROLE MODEL. This was a popular Nike ad campaign designed around Chuck in the 90s. He didn't want to be one, but he was. And I think he was a pretty good one. I'm sure there were other kids around the country looking up to him besides me (even if it didn't feel like it in my small midwestern hometown), I mean he was one of the most popular players in the league and had a polarizing personality. He was honest about his thoughts and feelings and didn't sugarcoat anything for the public. He owned up to things he did, and did not make excuses for his mistakes. He took credit for his faults, as well as his achievements. Barkley was passionate and competitive and often had skirmishes with other players during games. Afterwards, he was not afraid to say what he thought about it. Rather than playing to the media like most did, he was honest, but he always left the grudges on the court.
He learned from his mistakes. Once, during a close game in 1991, Charles became agitated by a heckling fan
and turned to spit on him; the spit ended up hitting a little girl. He apologized to the girl and became friends with her family and provided them tickets to games. He also served a suspension and paid a fine for the incident. He learned from this, here's a quote from around the time of his retirement.
"I was fairly controversial, I guess, but I regret only one thing - the spitting incident. But you know what? It taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I was getting way too intense during the game. It let me know I wanted to win way too bad. I had to calm down. I wanted to win at all costs. Instead of playing the game the right way and respecting the game, I only thought about winning."
Chuck got in many fights throughout his career. He threw a guy through a window, he jawed refs, he played rough and even took some cheap shots, but he was always standing up for what he believed. He stood by his opinions and fought for them.
He never got a ring, but he did chase the dream in the latter years of his career when he went to the Houston Rockets to play with Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler. You should always try for what you want, don't leave yourself wondering what if. Though he did not succeed, he tried.
For the best years and majority of his career, he was competing with Michael Jordan. The two are widely know as being good friends. They had a healthy competition between them, which is important. Competing with your friends and peers is always important. It does sometimes get out of hand. We've all had times when a pickup game at the park, a board game or even a game of Halo got out of hand and we lost our tempers. Competition brings out our adrenaline and testosterone and things get heated. This is why we should surround ourselves with good people. Our friends understand and don't hold these things against us.
I could go on, but I feel this is enough for now. Charles Barkley taught me a lot about life through his achievements and downfalls. He was a league MVP, an 11-time all star, an All Star Game MVP, SEC Player of the Year and named one of the 50 Greatest Players Ever in the NBA. He taught me roads to take, and roads to avoid. He taught me to be passionate about what I do, to voice my opinions, to work hard and to stand up for what I believe. I am glad I went through life looking up to him.
I am a better man for having Charles Barkley as a role model.......because he could dunk a basketball.
^Start that one at 1:44