Full Name: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Formerly known as: Lew Alcindor
Born: 8/16/47 in New York
High School: Power Memorial (N.Y.) College: UCLA
Drafted by: Milwaukee Bucks (1969)
Transactions: Traded to Los Angeles Lakers, 6/16/75
Height: 7-2; Weight: 267 lbs.
Honors: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1995); NBA
champion (1971, '80, '82, '85, '87, '88); NBA MVP (1971, '72,
'74, '76, '77, '80); 10-time All-NBA First Team; Five-time All-NBA
Second Team; Five-time All-Defensive First Team; Six-time
All-Defensive Second Team; 19-time All-Star; One
of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996).
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left the game in 1989 at age 42, no NBA player
had ever scored more points, blocked more shots, won more Most
Valuable Player Awards, played in more All-Star Games or logged
more seasons. His list of personal and team accomplishments is
perhaps the most awesome in league history: Rookie of the Year,
member of six NBA championship teams, six-time NBA MVP, two-time
NBA Finals MVP, 19-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, and
a member of the NBA 35th and 50th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
He also owned eight playoff records and seven All-Star records.
No player achieved as much individual and team success as did
10 years his junior couldn't keep up with Abdul-Jabbar, whose
strict physical-fitness regimen was years ahead of its time in
the NBA. But if others have since emulated his fitness regimen,
no player has ever duplicated his trademark "sky-hook."
Although labeled "unsexy" by Abdul-Jabbar himself, the
shot became one of the most effective weapons in all of sports.
An all-around player, Abdul-Jabbar brought grace, agility, and
versatility to the center position, which had previously been
characterized solely by power and size.
incredible success on the court, it wasn't until the twilight
of his career that Abdul-Jabbar finally won the universal affection
of basketball fans. He was a private man who avoided the press
and at times seemed aloof. "I'm the baddest among the bad
guys," he once told The Sporting News.
But late in
his playing days Abdul-Jabbar began to open up, and as his career
wound to a close, fans, players and coaches alike expressed their
admiration for what he had accomplished in basketball. During
the 1988-89 season, his last, Abdul-Jabbar was honored in every
arena in the league.
Coach Pat Riley, who coached Abdul-Jabbar for eight seasons in
Los Angeles, once said in a toast recounted in Sports Illustrated,
"Why judge anymore? When a man has broken records, won championships,
endured tremendous criticism and responsibility, why judge? Let's
toast him as the greatest player ever."
was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. in New York City, two years
after the end of World War II. He was the only child of an overprotective
mother and a strict father whose impassivity, some say, Alcindor
grew to resent. Far and away the tallest kid in the Harlem school
system, Alcindor was viewed as something of a freak by his schoolmates.
After dominating New York high school basketball at the now defunct
Power Memorial, he enrolled at UCLA and played for John Wooden's
ruled the college ranks. After sitting out his first season because
NCAA regulations prevented freshmen from playing at the varsity
level, he was selected as Player of the Year in 1967 and 1969
by The Sporting News, United Press International, the Associated
Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He was also
named an All-American and the most outstanding player in the NCAA
Tournament in 1967, 1968 and 1969. With Alcindor taking charge
in the middle, Wooden and UCLA pocketed three national championships.
Bucks were only in their second season when they made Alcindor
the first overall choice in the 1969 NBA Draft. (The Bucks' first
season had been forgettable, at 27-55 and it won the coin toss
for the first selection over the Phoenix Suns.) The time was ripe
for a new center to dominate the league. Bill Russell had just
left the Boston Celtics, and Wilt Chamberlain, though still effective,
was almost 35 years old. With Alcindor aboard in 1969-70, the
Bucks rose to second place in the Eastern Division with a 56-26
record. Alcindor was an instant star, placing second in the league
in scoring (28.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (14.5 rpg). He handily
won NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
offseason the Bucks traded for their ticket to the NBA title:
31-year-old guard Oscar Robertson from the Cincinnati Royals.
With a supporting crew of Bobby Dandridge, Jon McGlocklin, Greg
Smith, and a young Lucius Allen, Milwaukee recorded a league-best
66 victories in 1970-71, including a record 20 straight wins.
Alcindor won his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award and his
first scoring title (31.7 ppg) while placing fourth in rebounding
(16.0 rpg). Milwaukee went 12-2 in the playoffs and dispatched
the Baltimore Bullets in only the second NBA Finals sweep in league
history. Alcindor was named Finals MVP.
1971-72 season Alcindor converted from Catholicism to Islam and
took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means "noble, powerful
servant." He was certainly a noble, powerful player, enjoying
stellar years with Milwaukee. In 1971-72 he repeated as scoring
champion (34.8 ppg) and NBA Most Valuable Player, and the Bucks
repeated as division leaders for the second of four straight years.
In 1973-74 Abdul-Jabbar won his third MVP Award in only his fifth
year in the league and placed among the NBA's top five in four
categories: scoring (27.0 ppg, third), rebounding (14.5 rpg, fourth),
blocked shots (283, second) and field-goal percentage (.539, second).
returned to the NBA Finals in 1974 but lost to the Boston Celtics,
who were led by 6-9 center Dave Cowens and a stable of guards
who proved too quick for the 35-year-old Robertson. "The
Big O" retired after the playoffs, ending the Bucks' string
of division titles. The team plunged to last place in 1974-75
with a 38-44 record.
phenomenal success in Milwaukee, Abdul-Jabbar was unhappy due
in part to the lack of people who shared his religious and cultural
beliefs and wanted out. He requested that he be traded to either
New York or Los Angeles, and Bucks General Manager Wayne Embry
complied, sending Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers in 1975 for Junior
Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters. The second
Abdul-Jabbar dynasty was about to take shape.
had retired two years earlier, a fact that helped explain the
Lakers' 30-52 record and last-place finish in 1974-75. Abdul-Jabbar
helped bring about a 10-game turnaround in his first season in
Los Angeles. His contributions (27.7 ppg, 16.9 rpg) won him yet
another NBA Most Valuable Player Award, his fourth in only seven
years in the league.
season Jerry West was hired as the Lakers' coach, and he guided
the team back into first place with a league-best 53-29 record.
Abdul-Jabbar (26.2 ppg, 13.3 rpg, .579 field-goal percentage,
261 blocks) was named Most Valuable Player for the fifth time
in eight years, tying Celtics legend Bill Russell's record. But
the Lakers were swept in the conference finals by the championship-bound
Portland Trail Blazers, who had a fearsome big man of their own
in Bill Walton.
best efforts, the Lakers finished in the middle of their division
in each of the following two years. He continued to put up big
numbers, although he missed 20 games in 1977-78 after breaking
his hand in a fight with Milwaukee's rookie Kent Benson in the
season opener. Young players Jamaal Wilkes and Norm Nixon looked
promising, but Los Angeles nevertheless wallowed in mediocrity.
In 1979, using
a first-round draft pick obtained from the Utah Jazz, the Lakers
selected a 6-9 point guard named Earvin "Magic" Johnson
from Michigan State. Johnson's arrival marked the beginning of
a decade that would bring Abdul-Jabbar five more championship
rings. With a blitzkrieg fast break that came to be known as "Showtime,"
the Lakers won nine division titles in the final 10 years of Abdul-Jabbar's
first season the Lakers won 60 games, and they lost only 4 of
16 postseason contests en route to the 1980 NBA Championship.
In a moment that would link the two superstars forever, Johnson
jumped center for the injured Abdul-Jabbar in Game 6 of the NBA
Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Abdul-Jabbar had severely
sprained his ankle in Game 5 after scoring 40 points to help the
Lakers take the series lead. The 33-year-old center couldn't play
in Game 6, so the 20-year-old rookie took Jabbar's position and
went on to tally 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists, leading
the Lakers to a 123-107 victory and the championship. For the
season, Abdul-Jabbar (24.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) further cemented his
place in history by winning a record sixth MVP Award.
continued to average at least 20 points for the next six seasons.
His rebounding average dropped to between 6 and 8 as years of
pounding and battling for position began to take their toll. But
he remained in remarkable shape, even in his late 30s when he
was trim, muscular, and able to play 32 to 35 minutes per game
at an age at which the vast majority of players had retired.
the most beautiful athlete in sports," Magic Johnson told
writer Gary Smith. In the final years of his career Abdul-Jabbar's
fitness program became more important than ever. He practiced
yoga and martial arts to keep his arms and legs strong and limber,
and he meditated before every game to reduce stress.
On April 5,
1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz played in Las Vegas, Abdul-Jabbar
had perhaps his finest moment. Taking a pass from Magic Johnson,
Abdul-Jabbar whirled and launched his trademark sky-hook toward
the hoop. The shot drew nothing but net, giving Abdul-Jabbar career
point No. 31,420, which vaulted him past Wilt Chamberlain as the
NBA's all-time leading scorer.
reached the NBA Finals eight times in the 10 seasons between 1979-80
and 1988-89. They won five titles, beating Boston and Philadelphia
twice each and the Detroit Pistons once. The 1985 series against
Boston was perhaps the most satisfying for Abdul-Jabbar. At age
38 the league's senior center was thought by many observers to
be washed up. In Game 1 it looked as though they were right --
Abdul-Jabbar had only 12 points and 3 rebounds in his matchup
with Robert Parish. The Celtics romped to a 148-114 win in what
became known as "the Memorial Day Massacre."
next two days Abdul-Jabbar watched hours of game films and took
part in marathon practice sessions that included over one hour
of sprinting drills. Repeated attempts by Coach Pat Riley to persuade
Abdul-Jabbar to take a break failed.
In Game 2,
Abdul-Jabbar recorded 30 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists and 3
blocked shots in a 109-102 Lakers win. Los Angeles went on to
win the series in six games. In the Lakers' four victories Abdul-Jabbar
averaged 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 blocks.
In one memorable sequence Abdul-Jabbar grabbed a rebound, drove
the length of the court and swished a sky-hook. He even dove for
a loose ball. "What you saw," Riley told Sports Illustrated,
"was passion." Abdul-Jabbar was named Finals MVP.
said that the 1985 championship may have been the sweetest of
his six. It was won on the floor of the Boston Garden and vanquished
the ghosts of the arena and the Celtics, the team that defeated
the Lakers just the year before and many other times during Russell's
the Lakers again beat Boston for the NBA Championship. Although
Abdul-Jabbar played respectably, series MVP Magic Johnson was
the star. During the regular season Abdul-Jabbar dipped below
20 points per game (17.5 ppg) for the first time in his career.
At age 40 he signed a contract to play two more years. The following
year the Lakers' victory over Detroit made them the first team
since the 1968-69 Celtics to repeat as NBA champions.
Abdul-Jabbar's final season, the Lakers returned to the Finals
in a rematch against the Pistons. Abdul-Jabbar tallied season
highs in Game 3 with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but with Johnson
and Byron Scott both nursing injured hamstrings, Los Angeles was
swept. In his final game Abdul-Jabbar recorded 7 points and 3
rebounds. During the regular season he shot below .500 from the
field for the first time (.475) and averaged a career-low 10.1
retirement marked the end of an era for the NBA. He left the game
as the games all-time scorer, which may never be surpassed, with
38,387 points (24.6 ppg), 17,440 rebounds (11.2 rpg), 3,189 blocks,
and a .559 field-goal percentage from a career that spanned 20
years and 1,560 games. He scored in double figures in 787 straight
after he retired Abdul-Jabbar told the Orange County Register,
"The '80s made up for all the abuse I took during the '70s.
I outlived all my critics. By the time I retired, everybody saw
me as a venerable institution. Things do change."
Abdul-Jabbar has worked in the entertainment business, served
as a "basketball ambassador," working in various capacities
such as a coach and broadcaster as well as helped to fight hunger
and illiteracy. In 1995 Abdul-Jabbar was elected to the Naismith
Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Name: Nathaniel Archibald
Born: 9/2/48 in New York
College: Texas El-Paso
High School: DeWitt Clinton (Bronx, N.Y.)
Drafted by: Cincinnati Royals, 1970
Transactions: Traded to N.Y. Nets, 9/10/76; Traded to Buffalo,
9/1/77; Traded to Boston, 8/4/78; Signed with Milwaukee, 8/1/83.
Height: 6-1; Weight: 160 lbs.
Honors: Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1991);
NBA champion (1981); All-NBA First Team (1973, '75, '76); All-NBA
Second Team (1972, '81); Six-time All-Star; All-Star Game MVP
(1981); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996).
his way to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Nathaniel
"Tiny" Archibald learned all about rising from desperate
surroundings to extraordinary heights. It was an education that
started early in life and served him well through a 14-year playing
career that led him from the lowly Cincinnati Royals to an NBA
Championship with the Boston Celtics.
retiring at the end of the 1983-84 season, Archibald became the
only player ever to lead the league in both scoring and assists
in a season (34.0 ppg, 11.4 apg in 1972-73). At the time of his
retirement, he also had 6,476 regular-season assists, which ranked
ninth among the career leaders. He played in six All-Star Games.
And in an era when the game threatened to become the exclusive
domain of gargantuan players, the 6-1 Archibald proved that there
would always be room for a speedy, smart and creative small man.
Born and raised
in the South Bronx's Patterson housing projects, one of America's
most ravaged neighborhoods, Archibald used his deftness with a
basketball to steer clear of the drugs and violence that claimed
many of his peers. Fate, fortitude and inspiration from unlikely
places helped him persevere to become the pride of Patterson.
Not a man
to forget his roots, Archibald continued to be a presence in the
troubled neighborhoods of New York, helping to run community programs
and homeless shelters and counseling kids on the street.
was nicknamed after his father, "Big Tiny"--grew up
in a two-bedroom apartment, the oldest of seven children. At age
14 Archibald effectively became head of the household when Big
Tiny left his family. Living in an environment that destroyed
many close to him, Archibald easily could have succumbed to the
temptations of the street.
interesting," Archibald told Sport magazine in 1980, "how
guys who are into drugs are always looking to get other guys involved,
as if they want company when they go under. Me? I was always into
hardly seemed the natural course for the young Archibald. True,
he had decent skills. But he was a small, painfully shy kid who
lacked confidence on the court. He failed to make the basketball
team his sophomore year at DeWitt Clinton High School and nearly
dropped out of school.
for Archibald -- and for all those who enjoyed his splendid NBA
career -- a man named Floyd Layne, then a community sports director
and later head coach for City College in Manhattan, entered the
scene. Layne knew the DeWitt Clinton coach, who agreed to take
another look at Archibald. The youngster made the team his junior
year and by his senior season had made the All-City Team.
and other supporters convinced Archibald to stay in school, his
grades were not good. Consequently a major college scholarship
was out of the question. Instead, he left New York for the first
time in his life to attend Arizona Western Community College.
After one year at Arizona Western he accepted a scholarship to
the University of Texas at El Paso, where he averaged 20.0 points
over three seasons.
starred during postseason collegiate All-Star Games. He scored
51 points in the 1970 Aloha Classic and averaged nearly 40 points
in five postseason exhibitions.
Royals, coached by former Celtics great Bob Cousy and run by General
Manager Joe Axelson, made Archibald the second pick of the second
round in a strong 1970 NBA Draft that also included Bob Lanier,
Rudy Tomjanovich, Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens, Sam Lacey and Calvin
was the young Archibald that the first time Cousy and Axelson
laid eyes on him in a Memphis hotel they mistook him for a bellhop.
But in the coming seasons Archibald proved that he could deliver
far more than any bellboy, even at a wispy 6-1 and 160 pounds.
a spot in Cincinnati's starting lineup as a rookie when veteran
guard Flynn Robinson held out in a contract dispute. Archibald
responded by averaging a respectable 16.0 points on a marginal
team that ended the season with a 33-49 record. His defense was
spotty, however, and he tended to overhandle the ball, thereby
season, with Archibald continuing to turn the ball over with alarming
frequency, Cousy and Axelson reportedly considered trading him
for the big man the team badly needed. The Royals instead traded
Norm Van Lier to the Chicago Bulls for 6-10 Jim Fox. When Royals
captain and scoring leader Tom Van Arsdale went down with an injury
a short time later, the making of a Hall of Famer was underway.
now in the role of floor leader, played a solid first half in
1971-72. The decision to leave him off the Eastern Conference
All-Star Team so upset Archibald that he cranked up his production
to 34.0 points per game for the rest of the year, finishing his
second season with a 28.2 scoring average. He finally received
recognition at the end of the year when he earned a berth on the
All-NBA Second Team. Still, the Royals finished with a disappointing
1972-73 season, the Royals packed up and moved to Kansas City-Omaha,
where they became the Kings. It was as a King that Archibald assumed
his place among NBA royalty, becoming an All-Star for the first
established Archibald as one of the best second-round draft picks
ever. In 80 games, he averaged 34.0 points and 11.4 assists, becoming
the only player ever to lead the league in both categories in
a single year. Archibald had finally made it -- he was a star.
He was named to the All-NBA First Team at season's end.
The year was
not all roses, however. The franchise foundered on its way to
a 36-46 record. But more significantly, the harsh reality of Archibald's
family roots came back to haunt him in the midst of his success.
One younger brother was arrested for robbery, another on drug
charges. Archibald flew home on one trip and found one of his
brothers incoherent and hallucinating because of a drug overdose.
Two of his brothers eventually came to live at Archibald's Kansas
City home, where they righted their lives, and another brother
underwent drug rehabilitation with Archibald's help.
Achilles tendon cut Archibald's 1973-74 season short at 35 games,
and he averaged only 17.6 points. Tiny recovered in 1974-75, playing
all 82 games and leading the team to its first winning record
(44-38) since 1966. He averaged 26.5 points and 6.8 assists to
reclaim a spot on the All-NBA First Team. More importantly, the
Kings made the playoffs for the first time in Archibald's career.
They lost in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Chicago
Bulls in six games.
season Archibald posted similarly impressive statistics (24.8
ppg, 7.9 apg in 78 games) and again was named to the All-NBA First
Team. Unfortunately, his performance was wasted on a 31-51 team
that had no one to complement Archibald's talent.
was traded to the New York Nets prior to the 1976-77 season, a
campaign that marked the beginning of the three most difficult
years of his career. Just 34 games into the Nets' schedule, Archibald
sustained a severe foot injury and missed the remainder of the
season. At year's end he was shipped to the Buffalo Braves. He
tore an Achilles tendon before the 1977-78 season and never played
a game in a Braves uniform. Again he was traded, this time to
the Boston Celtics before the 1978-79 campaign.
to Celtics Green was anything but smooth. Archibald was 20 pounds
overweight after the layoff, his play was slow and clumsy and
his role was ill-defined. He had difficulty playing alongside
Jo Jo White, and he carried on a running public feud with player-coach
Dave Cowens over playing time. The once-glorious Celtics struggled
to a 29-53 record.
1978-79 season rumors of Archibald's exit abounded. "The
sad part," one NBA general manager told Sport magazine in
1980, "is that I'm not sure anyone would have taken Tiny.
Heck, he was 30 years old, had a bad reputation and a huge contract.
He seemed to have lost his game." Archibald, it appeared,
As the press
prepared Archibald's basketball obituary, the Celtics were busy
assembling the ingredients for a return to greatness. Under new
owner Harry Mangurian and new coach Bill Fitch, the team boasted
rookie Larry Bird, fiery sixth man M. L. Carr and a rejuvenated
Cowens at center. All the Celts lacked was someone to run the
team on the floor.
back in the South Bronx, where Archibald returned each summer
to help and counsel troubled youngsters, Tiny was drawing on an
unlikely source of inspiration on the Patterson playgrounds.
I was," Archibald recalled, "coming off the most frustrating
year of my career, and it was the kids who were counseling me.
They kept saying, 'Don't worry, Tiny. Don't get down. You can
do it. The Celtics need you.' I'll never forget them for that."
returned to Boston for the 1979-80 season in a far different role.
The Celtics didn't need him to score as he had on the Cincinnati
and Kansas City-Omaha teams of the early 1970s -- they had Bird,
Cowens and Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell for that. So Archibald
emerged not as the flashy scorer of old but as a controlled, efficient
playmaker, running the offense like a general.
average (14.1 ppg) was the second lowest of his career, but his
671 assists were his highest since his league-leading 910 in 1972-73.
Archibald was again named an All-Star. The result for the Celtics
was one of the most dramatic one-year revivals in league history:
they posted a 61-21 regular-season record before losing to Philadelphia
in the Eastern Conference Finals.
season marked the height of Tiny's resurgence. He averaged more
than 35 minutes while directing a disciplined Boston offense to
a 62-20 record. Along the way he picked up the All-Star Game MVP
Award and finished fifth in the league in assists with 7.7 per
game. He was also named to the All-NBA Second Team at season's
after 11 up-and-down seasons in the NBA, Tiny Archibald finally
claimed an NBA Championship. After the Celtics won a seven-game
showdown against the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they
went on to defeat the Houston Rockets in six games in the NBA
had a productive 1981-82 season as the Larry Bird era entered
its third year. The Celtics went 63-19 but lost to Philadelphia
and Julius Erving in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Archibald's 8.0 assists per game were fourth best in the league.
year, the 34-year-old Archibald's numbers began to drop. In 66
games, he averaged only 27.4 minutes and 6.2 assists. The Celtics
were swept from the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference
signed with the Bucks as a free agent for the 1983-84 season.
He retired that year after playing in only 46 games.
contributions over his 14 years in the NBA were huge: 16,481 points,
6,476 assists and six NBA All-Star Games. He was rewarded with
election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
stopped contributing on the basketball court, he certainly did
not stop contributing elsewhere. After his brief stint with the
Bucks, he returned to New York City to run basketball schools
for underprivileged kids and to work as athletic director at the
huge Harlem Armory homeless shelter until it closed in 1991. He
was honored for his work with the city's youth by then New York
City Mayor David Dinkins in 1993.
Charles Wade Barkley
Born: 2/20/63 in Leeds, Ala.
High School: Leeds (Ala.)
Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers (1984)
Transactions: Traded to Phoenix Suns, 6/17/92; Traded to Houston
Rockets, 8/19/96 Height: 6-6; Weight: 252 lbs.
Honors: NBA MVP (1993); All-NBA First Team
(1988, '89, '90, '91, '93); All-NBA Second Team (1986, '97, '92,
'94, '95); All-NBA Third Team (1996); 11-time All-Star; All-Star
MVP (1991); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996);
Olympic gold medalist (1992, '96).
are four players in NBA history who have compiled at least 20,000
points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. But when the
conversation turns to the exploits of Barkley, many people think
first of the always entertaining, sometimes outrageous running
commentary on basketball and life he provided throughout his celebrated
16-year NBA career.
as a player he was the greatest anomaly in basketball history.
Listed at 6-6, but probably actually closer to 6-4, he played
power forward as well as anyone, often dominating players half
a foot taller.
Barkley brought vitality,
attitude and a host of skills to professional basketball. He was
viewed as an oddity -- an undersized power forward with rebounding
as his only discernible basketball skill -- when he entered the
league with the nickname "Round Mound of Rebound."
quickly buried that backhanded compliment once he began playing
for the Philadelphia 76ers. It was not rare to see the neophyte
Barkley grab a rebound among a crowd, then rumble downcourt with
the ball and finish with a monster slam. In a half-court offense,
he could fill the basket from the paint or the perimeter. And
on the defensive end, he would play the passing lane for a steal
or block a center's shot.
His awe-inspiring play
demanded full respect and earned him a new nickname: Sir Charles.
"Barkley is like
Magic [Johnson] and Larry [Bird] in that they don't really play
a position," Bill Walton said in a SLAM magazine issue ranking
NBA greats. "He plays everything; he plays basketball. There
is nobody who does what Barkley does. He's a dominant rebounder,
a dominant defensive player, a three-point shooter, a dribbler,
A perennial All-Star
and All-NBA selection during his career, his pinnacle may have
been winning the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 1993, his first
season with the Phoenix Suns. Although he made a career of outmaneuvering
and outsmarting bigger players while also overpowering smaller
opponents, few expected anything close to that of the chubby player
In his three-year college
career, Barkley averaged a not-so-spectacular 14.1 points per
game. However, he had averaged 9.6 rebounds per game and thus
was known for his heft and his hunger for caroms. He was the Southeastern
Conference Player of the Year in 1984 but didn’t make the
U.S. Olympic basketball team that summer.
He entered the 1984
NBA Draft as a junior and was taken by the 76ers with the fifth
overall pick. Barkley joined a veteran-laden team with stars such
as Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks -- players who
took Philadelphia to the 1983 NBA championship. Yet, Barkley averaged
14.0 ppg and 8.6 rpg and earned a berth on the NBA All-Rookie
Barkley spent eight
seasons in Philadelphia, but the team's best showing during his
tenure was in his first year, when the Sixers went 58-24 in the
regular season and advanced all the way to the 1985 Eastern Conference
Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in five games. After
several disappointing early-round playoff defeats, the Sixers
failed to make the postseason in 1991–92 and Barkley wanted
out of the City of Brotherly Love.
Barkley's time in Philly
brought headlines and headaches. The incidents were many, such
as the infamous spitting incident during a game against the New
Jersey Nets where Barkley's expectorant, aimed at a heckler, landed
on a young girl at the Meadowlands Arena.
But Barkley, consistent
with his paradoxical nature, developed a friendship with the girl
and her family. Similarly, he revealed that kinder side of his
personality when he offered room and board to Scott Brooks, a
young rookie whom had just made the team. But never shy of telling
the world how he saw it, Barkley was seemingly always in the eye
of a storm of controversy. Barkley -- whose words were sometimes
satirically searing, at other times superfluous -- stirred a mini-firestorm
when ads began airing in which he rejected the pro athlete as
a role model paradigm.
"I don't create
controversies. They're there long before I open my mouth. I just
bring them to your attention," Barkley once stated. Nonetheless,
Sixers ownership got off the Barkley roller coaster by accommodating
his desires for a trade when he was sent to Phoenix for Jeff Hornacek,
Tim Perry and Andrew Lang.
Like the mythical bird
for which the city is named, Barkley found new life in Phoenix.
In his magical first season with the Suns, he won the NBA MVP
while leading Phoenix to the league’s best record of 62-20
and a berth in the 1993 NBA Finals. The Suns lost to Michael Jordan
and the Chicago Bulls in a memorable six-game series.
Although over the next
two seasons Barkley struggled with nagging injuries, he maintained
a high level of play. The Suns reached the conference semifinals
in 1994 and 1995, but lost to the Houston Rockets, the eventual
NBA champs. And after four seasons in the Valley of the Sun, Barkley's
time had set in Phoenix and he was traded to the Rockets.
Paying homage to that
maxim, "If you can beat 'em, join 'em," Barkley was
rejuvenated again when he joined the Rockets. But the chance to
grab that elusive championship ring never materialized with the
similarly aging superstars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
After announcing that his fourth season in Houston would be his
last in the NBA, his time on the hardwood ended sooner than expected
... and ring-less.
8, 1999, he suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his left
knee, which sidelined him until the final game of the season.
Ironically, this injury occurred against his former team, the
76ers, in Philadelphia, the town where years earlier he had entered
the collective basketball consciousness of NBA fans.
But back in 1984-85,
that career-ending injury was far away. Barkley was the only Sixers
player to appear in all 95 regular and postseason games that season.
The Sixers cruised through the first two rounds, beating the Washington
Bullets 3-1 and sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference
Semifinals before losing to Boston. Barkley averaged 14.9 points
and 11.1 rebounds during the postseason run.
In his second season,
he dispelled the notion of a sophomore jinx with another impressive
NBA campaign. Despite the presence of Malone, a man who had won
six of the previous seven rebounding titles, Barkley finished
the season not only as the Sixers’ best rebounder, but also
as the second-best in the league, averaging 12.8 boards. He also
finished as the team’s second-leading scorer with 20.0 ppg.
For his efforts, he was named to the All-NBA Second Team.
Charles was definitely
in charge in the 1986 playoffs. He averaged 25.0 points on .578
shooting from the field and 15.8 rebounds in the Sixers’
12 playoff games. However, Philadelphia was eliminated by Milwaukee
4-3 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Despite being just
23 years old at the start of the 1986-87 season, Barkley was thrust
into a leadership role when Malone was dealt to Washington and
Erving retired at the end of that season. Although he missed 14
games during the year with spleen and ankle injuries, Barkley
earned his first NBA rebounding title with an average of 14.6
boards per game. He was also tops in offensive rebounds (5.7 per
game), third in field-goal percentage (.594), and 15th in scoring
Barkley was selected
to play in his first NBA All-Star Game and was named to the All-NBA
Second Team for the second straight season. The team finished
in second place in the Atlantic Division, 14 games behind Boston.
The 76ers lost to Milwaukee 3-2 in a first-round playoff series
where Barkley averaged 24.6 points and 12.6 rebounds.
year, his first as co-captain of the Sixers, proved to be one
of his most productive seasons. He finished fourth in the NBA
in scoring (28.3 ppg), sixth in rebounding (11.9 rpg), third in
field-goal percentage (.587) and was named to the All-NBA First
Team for the first time in his career. It was a bittersweet season,
however as he also missed the playoffs for the first time.
Barkley was a true
superstar by the end of the 1988-89 season. He was named to the
All-NBA First Team for the second consecutive season and made
his third straight All-Star Game appearance. Starting at one forward
spot for the East squad, Barkley scored 17 points in the midseason
classic. During the regular season he averaged 25.8 points and
12.5 rebounds, good for eighth and second, respectively, in the
NBA. But the New York Knicks swept Philadelphia in the first round
of the playoffs.
Despite the team's
sagging prospects of winning a NBA title, Barkley's individual
recognition rose. In 1990, he finished second in MVP voting behind
Magic Johnson, was The Sporting News and Basketball Weekly Player
of the Year as well as being named to the All-NBA First Team for
the third straight year.
He posted numbers befitting
a MVP: 25.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and a .600 field-goal
percentage, to rank sixth, third and second, respectively. Philadelphia
won 53 regular-season games but lost to the Chicago Bulls 4-1
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals although Barkley averaged
24.7 points and 15.5 rebounds during the playoffs.
The following season,
Barkley garnered MVP honors at the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte
as he led the East to a 116-114 win over the West. He scored 17
points and hauled in 22 rebounds, the most rebounds in an All-Star
Game since Wilt Chamberlain’s 22 in 1967. Barkley was also
named to the All-NBA First Team for a fourth straight year. But
again, the 76ers lost 4-1 to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference
Semifinals with Barkley contributing 24.9 points and 10.5 rebounds
per game in eight postseason contests.
His eighth season in
Philly was his last, and it didn't include a trip to the postseason.
But Barkley finished his 76ers career ranked fourth in team history
in total points (14,184), third in scoring average (23.3 ppg),
third in rebounds (7,079), eighth in assists (2,276) and second
in field-goal percentage (.576). He led the club in rebounding
and field-goal percentage for seven consecutive seasons each and
paced Philadelphia in scoring for six straight years.
The summer of 1992
was a memorable one for Barkley. On June 17, almost immediately
after being legally cleared of criminal charges resulting from
an earlier barroom brawl, Barkley was traded to Phoenix, renewing
his hope for an NBA title. Later that summer, he was the leading
scorer with 18.0 ppg for the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics in
In Barkley's first
season with the Suns, the team had the NBA's best record and he
became only the third player to win league MVP honors in the season
after being traded. For the year, Barkley averaged 25.6 points
and 12.2 rebounds to rank fifth and sixth, respectively. The nine-year
veteran then carried Phoenix all the way to the NBA Finals. Chicago
defeated Phoenix 4-2, but Barkley was brilliant, averaging 26.6
points and 13.6 rebounds in 42.8 minutes per game in the postseason.
He also scored 44 points and hauled down 24 rebounds in Game 7
of the Western Conference Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics.
Injuries would befall
Barkley for the remainder of his career. Because of an aching
back, Barkley vowed that the 1993–94 season would be his
last. Despite suffering through the worst injury problems of his
career to date, he still managed 21.6 points and 11.2 rebounds
per game and shot .495 from the floor. He was selected to play
in his eighth consecutive NBA All-Star Game (which he opted out
of because of a torn quadriceps tendon in his right leg).
Barkley appeared in
only 65 games and the Suns bowed out in the Western Conference
Semifinals, losing to the Rockets in seven games. In July, perhaps
feeling that he still had things to accomplish in his pro career,
Barkley announced that he would fight through his chronic back
pain and play the following season.
Barkley showed that
he was still one of the NBA’s best in 1994–95. He
began the season on the injured list but returned to lead the
Suns to a Pacific Division title with a 59-23 record. In demolishing
the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs,
Barkley averaged 33.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in a three-game
In the conference semifinals,
the Suns jumped to a 3-1 lead over the defending NBA champion
Rockets but lost in seven games. It was the second time in as
many years that the Suns bowed to the Rockets after going up 3-1.
Barkley averaged 22.3 points and 13.3 rebounds in the series,
but a leg injury hampered his performance in Game 7.
After one more season
in Phoenix, which ended with Barkley averaging 23.2 ppg and 11.6
rpg but a 41-41 team record and a first-round playoff loss, he
was traded to Houston.
Barkley was the Rockets'
second-leading scorer that first season behind Olajuwon, with
a 19.2 ppg and a resurgent 13.5 rpg, the second best of his career.
Injuries limited him to just 53 games, but the team had a 57-25
record and made it to the Western Conference Finals, where it
fell to the Utah Jazz in six games.
The trio of Olajuwon,
Drexler and Barkley would play together one more season in 1997-98
-- but at diminishing returns. Barkley's production slipped to
15.2 ppg and 11.7 rpg and the team played to a mediocre 41-41
record. This rare constellation of superstars had a short two-year
life span as, after losing in five games to Utah in the first-round,
Drexler walked away into retirement.
One last gasp for that
ring was breathed into Barkley when, before the 1998-99 season,
the Rockets acquired Scottie Pippen, the owner of six rings earned
with Chicago. Barkley played 42 games in the lockout-shortened
season and the Rockets went out in the first round of the playoffs
to the Los Angeles Lakers. The mixture of Barkley and Pippen proved
to be oil and water. In the offseason, the two exchanged harsh
words through the media and Pippen was dealt to the Portland.
Barkley returned for
his announced farewell season, but it ended prematurely because
of a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his left knee. For the next
two years, speculation continued that Barkley would return to
the court. However, he remained on the sidelines for good.
Barkley remains an
integral part of the game as a critically acclaimed and popular
studio commentator on TNT's coverage of the NBA.