Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were very close friends. The duo entered the league together in 1984, with Jordan and Barkley going number 3 and 5 respectively in the NBA Draft. Both players quickly ended up establishing themselves as superstars in the league and forged a close bond together.
Jordan and Barkley represented the United States at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where they were part of the 'Dream Team' that won the Gold Medal. The following year, Jordan and Barkley played each other in the NBA Finals.
Jordan defeated Barkley's Suns to get the Bulls their third consecutive NBA championship. MJ averaged 41 points per game against the Suns, his fifth playoff series where he averaged 40 PPG, making him the only player to average 40 PPG in multiple playoff series.
Their bond off the court was very strong, as the two had similar hobbies. They would often go play golf together and spend time with each other. Jordan even got Barkley a prominent role in his 1996 movie 'Space Jam'. It seemed that the two would continue to stay friends for a long time, as they were even seen together in public after both players retired.
But things have gone south for the two friends over the last decade. Barkley made comments about Jordan as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets that did not go down well with Michael Jordan.
In a later interview, Barkley revealed that Jordan cut off communication with him, and they don't talk to each other anymore. Barkley regretted the fact that their relationship suffered because of his criticism but noted that he had an obligation to speak his true opinion, regardless of how Jordan would feel about it.
“We’re not. And I take some responsibility for that. I criticized [him]–he was one of my best friends, and I definitely love him and miss him, to be honest with you, but I, Bob, I have to do my job. I said, at the time, and we can debate whether I should have said it, but I was asked a question, and I’m told (to) always be honest at my job. I said, ‘I don’t know if Michael’s ever going to be successful [running the Charlotte Hornets] because I don’t know if he got enough strong people around him.’”
In 2010, Jordan became the principal owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets). Since the purchase, Charlotte has not found a lot of success. And Charles Barkley put that blame on Jordan.
In 2012, Barkley criticized Jordan for the way he had been running the Charlotte Hornets. Barkley also said that Jordan hadn't surrounded himself with people who would be honest with him, but rather he had yes-men around him who would agree with everything he said in order to not upset 'His Airness'.
“I love Michael, but he just has not done a good job. Even though he is one of my great friends, I can’t get on here and tell you he’s done a great job. He has not done a great job, plain and simple. I think the biggest problem has been I don’t know if he has hired enough people around him who he will listen to. One thing about being famous is the people around you, you pay all their bills so they very rarely disagree with you because they want you to pick up the check. They want to fly around on your private jet so they never disagree with you. I don’t think Michael has hired enough people around him who will disagree.”
Jordan and Barkley were two of the best players in the NBA during their time together. And their friendship came from their mutual love of the game, and other off-the-court interests. But that friendship turned sour when Barkley criticized Jordan. Despite their issues, Barkley still holds Michael Jordan in high regard, selecting MJ and Kobe Bryant over LeBron James. Hopefully, these two legends can set aside their issues and rekindle their friendship in the years to come.