Charles Barkley was on Jimmy Kimmel this week and, as usual, the conversation was fascinating.
Barkley doesn’t need talking points. Sit him down and just chat.
Right around the 3:03 mark, Kimmel asked about how Barkley was nearly traded by the Sixers to the Lakers in the early 1990s.
Barkley, who played for the Sixers from 1984-92, recalled a day when he was called by his agent and told that the Sixers were indeed sending him to L.A.
He was so excited to be getting out of Philadelphia that he went out and got bombed with a couple of friends. Barkley could see the Sixers were headed nowhere and wanted to play for a title contender. The drinks flowed.
Then he got another call, saying the trade actually had fallen through.
And the Sixers had a game that night. Whoops.
Barkley enjoyed an adult beverage as much as anyone, but said he never played drunk. Hungover, maybe. But not drunk. Take him at his word. Barkley had too much respect for the game. Except for this one time.
“I don’t remember anything about that game,” Barkley told Kimmel. “First of all, I was so [angry] and I was so drunk, too. I have no idea what happened that game.”
Barkley also couldn’t remember the year, but it almost had to be the 1991-92 season – his last as a Sixer. The Lakers had played in the Finals the previous season.
Early that January especially, a month before the deadline, rumors were flying almost daily that Barkley was going to be dealt to L.A. … or to Portland … or to Phoenix … or to Atlanta. It was insane.
After the 1991-92 season – and before he was dealt to Phoenix in June — Barkley was on WIP and said, “I spent the whole month of January talking to [Lakers general manager] Jerry West. I had my bags packed and I was history. It was James Worthy and Elden Campbell for me. The Sixers should have made that deal. I was very disappointed when they didn’t.”
West, for his part, denied this. If he was talking to Barkley, that would be tampering and the Lakers could have been fined up to $250,000. (Today’s value: $448,000.)
Late Sixers writer Phil Jasner, whose career was honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 for his NBA coverage, reported that West had contacted Sixers general manager Gene Shue several times that season to inquire about Barkley. All parties involved emphatically denied it, of course.
Jasner also reported that Sixers forward Ron Anderson got a call from his agent, who was hearing that Anderson was going to be part of a Barkley/Lakers deal. Something was going on. Salary-cap compliance prevented the trade.
“They’ve called a ton of teams,” an NBA coach told the Inquirer’s Bob Ford. “They’ve made overtures to a lot of people. They’re fed up with him.”
Anyhow, getting back to the game Barkley was bombed: Jasner’s last story in January that season mentioning specifically Barkley and the Lakers ran on Jan. 17. Since Barkley said he was out with friends, it stands that the game was at the Spectrum. The Sixers played just two home games from Jan. 1-17.
*They beat the Rockets on Jan. 8 when Barkley had 15 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists.
*Two days later, they dumped the Clippers when Sir Charles had 20-14-5.
Trying to nail down which game Barkley was lit is like trying to pick up a goldfish out of a pond barehanded. But we’d be remiss to not mention the Jan. 31 game when Barkley had a season-low six points in 27 minutes, his fewest minutes that season for a home game.
Then again, the Sixers were up 25 at halftime and 37 after three quarters before winning, 112-88. Barkley also had eight assists that night.
Barkley averaged 22 and 10 that January and 23 and 11 for the season as the Sixers went 35-47. Barkley loaded was better than the rest of the roster sober.
“I wanted to win a championship,” he said when he finally was dealt. “But I think the Sixers were more concerned about making money than winning. And you can’t do both.”
He was in Milwaukee that June when he found out he had finally been traded. Barkley was at a trial in which he was acquitted for battery and disorderly conduct after breaking a guy’s nose in a bar fight in December. Barkley claimed self-defense, and the jury agreed.
Barkley learned he was being dealt to Phoenix just before boarding the plane to come back home after the trial. Probably via pay phone.
“Drinks for everybody,” he exclaimed. His fellow passengers in the waiting area cheered with joy.