One of my earliest recollections of Charles Barkley was when he was in Philadelphia and they were playing Portland at the Spectrum. The Trailblazers were in their half-court set and the ball had swung to their then-rookie Mark Bryant who was working the ball to Jerome Kersey. Barkley, who was on top of the key called out, “Yo!” And Bryant fell for that old playground trick of passing to an opponent. The Round Mound of Rebound hightailed it to the other end of the floor for a monster slam and guffaws of laughter on both sides.
That’s the way Barkley played the game – with feral intensity and in the spirit of fun. Easily, he is the most quoted – although he does claim, misquoted – player in the NBA. The loquacious forward has found a home on TNT’s Inside the NBA which is the funniest sports talk show since Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann ruled Sportscenter. Along with Kenny Smith, Doug Collins, Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Ernie Johnson among others, they have the best quotes and most fab insights. While not as astute as Kerr, Chuck knows how to make the broadcasts interesting and fun to listen to.
Barkley: Byron Scott just got out of the hospital.
Johnson: Huh? What happened?
Barkley: He got stabbed in the back (in reference to his players ousting him from New Jersey).
Chuck on Vince Carter: Half-man. Half-season.
Kenny Smith: Andre Igoudala was on fire!
Chuck: No, he wasn’t. He was just excited he got to shoot in a game (in reference to Allen Iverson’s not passing the ball).
During the recent Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings game in Sacto, Barkley subbed for an indisposed Steve Kerr to work alongside Marv Albert and he was fantastic. He playfully needled veteran ref Dick Bavetta who is 67 years of age about his apparent slowness in getting up and down the NBA hardwood to do his job. Said Barkley, “Bavetta was so old that he parted the Red Sea with Moses.” And he also added that he and Albert could beat Bavetta down the floor anytime and anywhere. Added Sir Charles, Bavetta’s tombstone would read, “He keeled over while racing the Chuckster.” TNT is proposing that the two settle the score once and for all right before the All-Star Game. Bavetta has reportedly agreed to race. Stay tuned to this if it materializes but that would be real fun since Bavetta is another jokester.
In that same LA-Sacto telecast, the Lakers’ Brian Cook found himself wide open late in the game but passed up a shot to which Barkley leapt up and yelled out loud enough even for those in the nearby seats to hear, “Shoot the ball! Shoot the ball. If you’re scared, get a dog!” Bwahahaha. That’s just awesome!
My three fave NBA jerseys today are Kobe’s #24 (yes, I have the Lakers’ purple road jersey and am one of the few MJ fans who’s a Kobe fan), Andres Nocioni’s #5, and Gilbert Arenas’ #0. Yes, Arenas. How can you not love this player who has made a career out of using perceived slights as motivation? Not since MJ lit up foes with channeled anger has the NBA seen a playa like Arenas. There’s even a term coined for his oddities, Gilbertology. He wears #0 after basketball experts once said that he plays zero minutes in Arizona, his college. That goes to show that experts know jack. And after being cut out from the US Basketball National Team to the recent FIBA Worlds, he promised to take it out on Mike Krzyzewski’s assistants on that team, Phoenix’s Mike D’Antoni and Portland’s Nate McMillan. He lit up the Suns for 54 and said he’d go for 50 versus the Trailblazers this coming February 11. And he even wrote in his blog that he’d “give up one NBA season to go back to college just to play Duke where he’d score 84 or 85 points.” Hoo-hah!
My slant, Coach K was the main reason why the US team lost at Saitama. He didn’t play his bench much and inexplicably did not use Dwight Howard in the second half during that crucial loss to Greece. Why get a team of 12 when you’re only going to a 7-man rotation? And he had Brad Miller who could break down those zones with his deadeye outside shooting. Stay in college, Coach K. Your game only works there.
Back to Arenas. Not since Larry Bird have we seen a player who likes to call his shots. Remember when Bird told Xavier McDaniel as they were headed for their respective benches during a timeout that he’d shoot from a certain spot on the floor (in the game’s dying minutes) and that he’d make it? The Birdman delivered on that promise on the very spot he pointed out to the X-Man.
Well, Arenas is somewhat like that. Before every shot, he’d yell, “Hibachi!” That’s because he heats up real fast like a Hibachi grill. But after Kobe Bryant said that he doesn’t take quality shots, Arenas began to shout, “Quality shot,” after every shot. And he took it out on the Lakers going for 60 points.
Well, both are headed for the All-Star Game at Las Vegas where both figure to be a big part of pro hoops’ biggest party. Barkley vs. Bavetta? Arenas vs. the League. That I’d pay to watch.
Monday, January 29, 2007