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Charles Barkley: Before He Became A Loveable TV Host, He Was The NBA's Bad Boy

Charles Barkley: Before He Became The Loveable TV Host, He Was The NBA's Bad Boy

Charles Barkley is everyone's favorite NBA TV analyst. He joined TNT's Inside the NBA in 2000 after retiring from the NBA.

The show, thanks to Barkley, has become so popular that earlier this year it received its own four-part documentary.

Barkley recently went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss his decision to join TNT after retiring from the NBA:

“It's the best decision I made in my life, Jimmy. Working with these guys, it's so much fun going to work.”

“I mean, number one, getting to watch the best basketball players in the world all the time is pretty special,” Barkley continued. “But to go to work and have fun with those guys… when I took the job, Ernie [Johnson] asked me how long I was going to be there. And I said I was going to be here like three years and I'm gonna move on to bigger and better things. But nothing bigger and better has come along, that's why I'm stuck there.”

Barkley has helped the ratings grow ever since he joined the crew at TNT. Part of the reason is the humor he brings to the show.

Another part is some of the controversial comments and actions he's made and done throughout the years.

For example, during the 2007 NBA playoffs, when the 8th seed “We Believe” Golden State Warriors upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, Barkley made these comments about Oakland, California:

“It makes me mad, mad that they're in Golden State and not LA. It's not a city.”

This upset the entire city of Oakland, including Oakland native, Gary “The Glove” Payton.

“It ain't no thrift store, it's Oakland,” Payton said.

Inside the NBA had a segment where Payton went around Oakland with a video camera getting the people of Oakland's responses to Barkley. Then it proceeded to show an embarrassing clip of Barkley being dunked on in a game against Golden State.

One of the most famous “controversial comments” made by Barkley during his time at TNT came in 2007 when he made a slick comment about referee Dick Bavetta.

It happened on January 4, 2007, during a game between the LA Lakers and Sacramento Kings. Barkley wasn't in the TNT studio during this game, instead, he was one of the commentators for the game, alongside Marv Albert.

Barkley, who was 43 at the time, commented that he could outrun Bavetta, who was 67 years old.

Albert disagreed with Barkley, stating that Bavetta's entire job involved running. This set up the famous race between the two, which occurred during the 2007 NBA All-Star weekend.

So, on All-Star Saturday night, Barkley and Bavetta had their race. The NBA and TNT decided to donate $50,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada (the 2007 All-Star Game took place in Las Vegas).

On top of the donations from the NBA and TNT, there was a side bet between Barkley and Bavetta that the loser would donate $5,000 to a charity of Barkley’s choosing.

Barkley would end up winning the race, and the two would share an iconic kiss afterward.

One of the biggest controversies Barkley has found himself in, especially after his playing days, occurred on December 31, 2008, Barkley was arrested for DUI.

This led to Barkley taking two months away from working for TNT, but he came back and explained his situation on air. This won him a lot of respect from fans.

In his TV analyst career, Barkley has won four Emmys for Sports Commentary in 2012, 2013, 2017, and 2020.

There have been more controversies from Barkley during his time at TNT, but none of them have hurt his popularity and the love people have for him…

This wasn't always the case. As a player, for most of his career, Barkley was looked at as being the “Bad Boy” of the league.

Yes, Barkley took over that role after the Detroit Pistons' “Bad Boys”, namely Bill Laimbeer, retired.

Barkley's career in the NBA started in 1984 when the Philadelphia 76ers took him with the fifth overall pick.

The 76ers were a pretty stacked team in the 1984-85 season with players like Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks.

The 76ers with these core players won the championship just two years prior to drafting Barkley.

This didn't intimidate a young Barkley, though. He went on to average 14.0 points and 8.6 rebounds as a rookie.

Barkley would go on to play eight seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to the Phoenix Suns, where he made it to his first and only NBA Finals in 1993.

Barkley's Suns were unfortunately matched up against Michael Jordan and his Bulls, losing in six games.

After four years in Phoenix, Barkley would finish his career in Houston, with the Rockets, playing four more years before retiring.


Charles Barkley has had his fair share of controversies throughout his career. His short temper was often written about in the sports section of the newspapers.

In a game in 1990, Barkley notoriously brawled with Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer. He received then record fine totaling $162,500.

Barkley has been in his fair share of fights on the court during his career, including his famous fight against Shaquille O'Neal in 1999.

Beyond the fights on the court, Barkley's first big controversy came in 1991 during a game against the New Jersey Nets.

A fan was shouting racial slurs toward Barkley, and this rightfully angered him.

The problem was when Barkley tried to spit at the man. He missed the man and accidentally spit on an innocent girl.

Then in 1992, Barkley was out at a Chicago bar hanging out with his 76ers teammate, Jayson Williams.

A disgruntled fan ended up attacking Barkley with a knife. Luckily for Barkley, Williams' hit the fan over the head with a mug.

Barkley's actions would often go against the “role model” actions of some of the other star players in the league.

This is something Barkley took a strong stance against, which brought him more controversy.

“A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail; should they be role models?” Barkley said in a 1993 interview.

Barkley went on to make the famous “I'm not a role model” commercial for Nike, which caught the eyes of the national news.

After the commercial aired, Barkley went on to add more details of his message:

“I think the media demands that athletes be role models because there's some jealousy involved. It's as if they say, this is a young black kid playing a game for a living and making all this money, so we're going to make it tough on him. And what they're really doing is telling kids to look up to someone they can't become, because not many people can be like we are. Kids can't be like Michael Jordan.”

What Barkley wanted to get across to families throughout the United States was that the parents should be their kids' role models, not athletes, movie stars, or musicians.

Even when the United States “Dream Team” was dominating the 1992 Olympics, Barkley still found himself in a controversy.

After making a layup, Barkley elbowed Herlander Coimbra from Angola in the chest for no apparent reason.

Barkley was unapologetic after the game, claiming he was hit first, but it didn't appear that was the case.

This put a negative view on Barkley worldwide. Even Michael Jordan said people viewed Barkley as the “Ugly American” because of his physicalness and the anger he played with on the court.

Barkley's biggest controversy as a player happened in 1997. He was in a bar in Orlando when he threw a man out a window.

Barkley was charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest. He would later be bailed out by teammate, Clyde Drexler.

“If you bother me, I’m going to whip your a**,” Barkley said about the incident. “The guy threw ice in my face, and I slammed his a** into the window. I’m not denying that. I defended myself. He got what he deserved.”

At the end of the day, Charles Barkley is one of the greatest players in NBA history, and he's one of those great players who never won an NBA title.

From Barkley's remarkable NBA career to his incredible TV analyst career, it's safe to say even through the controversies, it's been a pleasure to watch him.