By Nelly Semela
Charles Barkley, one of the 50 Greatest players in NBA History and Class of 2006 Hall of Famer as a Phoenix Sun (he also has one in 2010 as a member of the Dream Team), recently made an apology to fans of the sport that made him an international icon. Since his retirement from pro basketball in 2000, ‘Sir Charles’ has gone from being the Round Mound of Rebound to being the Round Mound of Sound, and now a skinner man, spokesperson for Weight Watchers. His career as a broadcaster for Turner Sports may one day be worthy of a third induction to the Hall.
Barkley is known for being incredibly outspoken and saying whatever is on his mind, regardless of the possible consequences. Obviously, his network benefits from a positive opinion of the game and the league. They’d like people to watch games on TNT and NBA TV; they’d like people to visit the website and cast All-Star votes and the likes. So it may have come as a shock to some when Charles recently made the news for running his mouth about his disappointment with the product on the court during this lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.
“As a NBA fan I want to apologize to the fans, I cannot believe how bad the NBA is right now, I’m a fan first and foremost, watching the NBA right now I’m embarrassed about the product we’re putting out there right now. It’s no fun for me to watch these games, I feel bad for the fans.
“There are probably ten teams worth watching on a nightly basis. They have all these built in excuse about it’s the lockout. Let me tell you something if these teams played once a week they would still suck. You watch one of these teams and they rested for a week they would still suck. I don’t know man. I feel bad for the fans.”
Here’s the thing: the fans don’t seem to agree. The 2010-211 television ratings were way up from previous years, partly thanks to some of the free agent movement that saw LeBron James take his talents to South Beach and Amar’e Stoudemire end up on Broadway. This year, both attendance and rating have continued to increase. Bottom line: The fans are enjoying the product.
I love Charles Barkley as an entertainer and a broadcaster, just as I love what he did as a player. Moreover, I love the way he has managed to transcend the sport of basketball. He frequently cites Muhammad Ali as a source of inspiration for his career, and while he may not be as influential as The Greatest, his impact on the culture has been a net positive. But in this writer’s humble opinion, Barkley suffers from the same thing as many retired stars. He is seeing the game change from what it was when he played. These are not the days of hand-checking, hard fouls and Michael Jordan. They are the days of LeBron James, scoring point guards and free agents conspiring to play together. Whatever Charles feels about what’s currently going on, the fans have voted with their remotes and wallets. They are happy with the NBA, and the NBA is happy that they’re happy. Now Charles Barkley is no stranger to controversy and he is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he and his colleagues, such as Shaquille O’Neal who has raised a few eyebrows this season with his criticism of Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard, should be careful not to alienate themselves by appearing jealous of today’s stars.
Sir Charles, thanks for the apology, but it’s not needed. You’re legend. Nobody is going to ever change that…ever! You also played in a season that started late due to a lockout and the play on the court that season was at times very sloppy. Let these guys do their thing and just focus on keeping us laughing at half time – you’re still the greatest at that!
Naledi Semela with The Arkitekt’s Perspective.