Charles Barkley was a freak athlete during his time in the NBA. While he never won a championship in his career, there is no denying just how incredible Barkley was. Barkley was a rare and frightening combination of size, speed, and strength, and could go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the NBA.
But Barkley hasn’t been the same athlete since retiring. Understandably so, Barkley has let himself go since walking away from the game. So naturally, many fans were shocked to hear that he would be partaking in a race at the 2007 NBA All-Star game. The surprise dwindled when fans learned that Barkley, age 43, would take on 67-year-old NBA referee Dick Bavetta.
As part of a promotion for Inside The NBA on TNT, Barkley came out to the court, preparing to take on a much older referee. Barkley stated that he felt Bavetta was taking certain comments he made earlier personally, and that this race was not going to end well for him. But Bavetta remained confident in his chances in a slightly out-of-shape Barkley.
The race’s rules were that both Barkley and Bavetta had to start at one end of the court, touch the baseline of the other side, run back to their original side, and then back to the other side, and then cross half-court.
After a few false starts, the two men were off, and Barkley took the lead. It was a lead he would sustain for the entirety of the race, as the older Bavetta was struggling to keep pace with Barkley. In the final sprint to half-court, Barkley started running backward to show his dominance, and the race ended with both men stumbling beyond half-court.
It was a fun moment between two respective legends in the NBA and reminded fans that All-Star weekend is for everyone in the NBA to have fun and entertain themselves and the audience. While the festivities of the All-Star break are centered around the All-Star game, this was a fun interaction for fans to watch.
Perhaps the NBA will bring back these exhibition races between legends of the games and referees. After all, referees and players are always at odds, so this would be a way for both parties to earn a measure of revenge against the other, and allow fans to have a good time.