Charles Barkley is best known for being a former professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He attended Leeds High School in Leeds, Alabama and was only 5 ft. 10 in. tall during his junior year, failing to make the varsity team and being named as a reserve.
Over the summer, however, Barkley grew six inches to 6 ft. 4 in. became a starter on the varsity team as a senior and led his team to a 26–3 record that took the team to the state semi-finals. Barkley earned a scholarship and played college basketball at Auburn for three seasons, where he led the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in rebounding every year.
Barkley had the nicknames of “The Round Mound of Rebound” and the “Crisco Kid” while in college. He was named the SEC Player of the Year in 1984 and earned three All-SEC selections and one Second Team All-American selection.
During his college career, Barkley averaged 14.1 points on 62.6 percent field goal shooting (which was an Auburn record), amassing 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game. 1984 was also the year that Barkley led the Tigers to the school’s first NCAA Tournament in school history.
Barkley made himself eligible for the 1984 NBA draft and was selected fifth in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, two slots after the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan. He joined a veteran team that has just won the 1983 NBA championship with Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks.
Barkley was often listed as being at 6 ft. 6 in. despite being 6 ft. 4 in., and he played power forward memorably in the NBA. Barkley’s style saw him typically dominating players who were half a foot taller, and he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1984.
Moses Malone ended up being traded to the Washington Bullets before the 1986–87 season, Julius Erving retired the following season, and Barkley effectively became the franchise player on the team. In the 1989–90 season, Barkley finished second in MVP voting behind Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Philadelphia reached the 1985 Eastern Conference Finals with Barkley in his first season, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in five games, but the team never regained its playoff magic. Barkley then sought a trade to leave Philadelphia.
Barkley spent eight seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to the Phoenix Suns during the 1992–93 season. The Suns finished with an NBA best 62–20 record and Barkley was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Barkley then led the Suns to the team’s first NBA Finals appearance since 1976. Phoenix was able to send the series to a sixth game, but John Paxson’s game-winning 3-pointer gave the Chicago Bulls a 99–98 victory in Game 6.
The Houston Rockets then traded for Barkley during the 1996–97 season to play with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
Despite having won NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995, the Rockets never returned to the NBA Finals with Barkley and he ultimately retired following the 1999–2000 season having been named to the All-NBA First Team five times, the All-NBA Second Team five times, and the All-NBA Third Team one time.
Barkley’s career numbers speak to how dominant he was. He is one of only six players in league history with at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists.
Barkley competed in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games as a member of the United States men’s basketball team, including the 1992 “Dream Team.” He won two gold medals.
One of the most infamous moments of Barkley’s career was a March 26, 1991 game against the New Jersey Nets in which Barkley tried to spit on a fan who was allegedly heckling him with racial slurs, but his spit instead hit a young girl. Rod Thorn, then NBA president of operations, suspended Barkley without pay for one game and fined him $10,000.
Barkley did develop a friendship with the girl and her family. After apologizing, he provided all of them with tickets to future games.
Charles Barkley’s TV Career
Since 2000, Barkley has been a studio analyst for Turner Network Television (TNT), appearing on the network’s NBA coverage during pre-game and halftime shows as well as other special NBA events. The crew on Inside the NBA includes Barkley as well as Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Barkley has won four Outstanding Studio Analyst Sports Emmy Awards for his work on TNT. Barkley has also been serving as a studio analyst for Turner Sports and CBS coverage of the NCAA Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament since 2011.
Barkley played himself in the 1996 film “Space Jam” made an appearance during the eighth season of “Modern Family,” and voiced animated versions of himself in “Clerks: The Animated Series” and “We Bare Bears.” He has hosted Saturday Night Live four different times between 1993 and 2018.
Barkley has appeared in a number of different commercials.
Nike first hired him in 1993, he was a spokesperson for Right Guard deodorant on television from 1994 to 1996 and also did print adds for the company between 1991 and 1996, he appeared in McDonald’s ads with Larry Bird in 1995, Charles Schwab, Inc. and schwab.com hired him in 2000, he worked for AT&T in 2001, the Weight Watchers weight-loss program hired him in 2011, McDonald’s used him again in 2018, and FanDuel Sportsbook and Dick’s Sporting Goods both used him in 2022.
Charles Barkley on Shark Tank
Barkley first began appearing on “Shark Tank” in episode four of season 10. On October 28, 2018, KNXV-TV reported that fellow shark Mark Cuban said Barkley had “a great eye for the personalities in a business.”
Cuban said Berkley had a good understanding of business and also credited his ability to see what a person was like and was particularly impressed with his ability to know whether or not a person could be a great entrepreneur. He described Barkley as being hysterical and being a lot of fun.