Playing in the same American Century Celebrity Golf Championship as Jimmer Fredette, Charles Barkley heads into the tournament with 500-1 odds. Arguably the most entertaining basketball personality on television, Barkley has no reservations about speaking his mind. I caught up with Chuck yesterday to talk about Jordan, LeBron, Shaq, gambling and the looming NBA lockout.
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Dime: Why do you think LeBron has struggled in the NBA Finals thus far?
Charles Barkley: Well, people overreacted to that one game to be honest with you. I mean he played similar in Game 3 and nobody said anything. You know I think people are being a little bit unfair to LeBron right now…there’s a lot of LeBron hate going on right now. I think…LeBron…people always trying to compare him to Michael Jordan, and that’s just a little bit unfair. I don’t think he has the killer, try to-kill-at-all-costs mentality. I think he’s more like Magic Johnson…more of a facilitator. He wants to pass the ball first. You know, Michael Jordan, he wanted to kill you, and I don’t think that’s LeBron’s personality. And sometimes when Dwyane [Wade] gets going, he becomes a little passive. But I think a lot of the criticism was a bit unfair. If they had made one or two plays here or there, they might’ve been up 3-1.
Dime: With Shaq officially retired, where do you feel he falls on the list of the greatest centers of all time? How would you feel about working with him over at TNT?
CB: Well, he’s the fourth greatest center in NBA history. And the thing that’s funny, I don’t even think…to be honest with you…no matter how well he played, he can’t get to those top three. I mean, Wilt, Kareem and Bill Russell…I don’t think anybody can break into that group. But Shaquille to me is the fourth greatest center of all time. I gotta tell ya, I played in the NBA for 16 years, and Shaq is the only guy who I ever met where I said, “Man, that’s a big dude.” But I’ll tell ya one thing that I will say…we want him at TNT. It would be an honor and a pleasure to work with him. I welcome him to TNT with open arms…it’d be great ’cause we know each other really, really well.
But I will tell you the most amazing thing about Shaquille O’Neal. You look at Greg Oden, you look at Bill Walton, you look at Sam Bowie…for Shaquille O’Neal to be as big as he was and really not get hurt ’til he was past his prime, I think that’s one of the most remarkable things I think I’ve ever seen to be honest with you. That dude is huge, man. That dude is huge.
Dime: What are your thoughts on Jimmer Fredette as a potential NBA player?
CB: Well, I’m pulling for him. I got a chance to meet him…he’s one of those kids you pull for. I think the question has go to be…can he play the point? It’s gonna be a transition for him. And I think the biggest question is, are they gonna try to make him a point or bring him off the bench for instant offense? ‘Cause that’s what you see with a guy who was a terrific player like [Russell] Westrbook. You know, it’s not easy to play the point. It’s one of the most important positions on the team, and the reason is you have to get the ball to the other players. The point guard has the ball on most teams probably 80% or 90% of the time. I don’t think he’s big enough to play the two, cause he can’t guard the two guards in the NBA.
Dime: If Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks go on to lose these Finals, has Dirk still gone a long way in this postseason to change the way people look at his career?
CB: You know I’ve been kinda torn for this series, to be honest with you…because Dirk and Jason [Kidd] and LeBron are really the three guys that got something to lose, because the loser of this series is still gonna be on that list that I’m on – and I always feel bad for those guys. Dirk is one of the greatest players, and he already was before this year. All three of these guys are Hall of Famers. They’re legends. But, until you win a championship, you just gotta stay on the list with me and Karl [Malone], and Patrick Ewing and John Stockton and those guys…that’s just the way it is.
Dime: What would be the right circumstances for you to get involved with a team as an owner?
CB: Well, I might do it just as an investment to be honest with you…uh, I don’t have enough money like a Michael to just take complete control of an organization…I don’t have that type of money. Whether it’s in Philadelphia or Phoneix, to put a few million dollars there to be…not a speaking owner, but just you know, a fun, good investment. I mean, but I don’t have enough money to buy my own team. Maybe if I win Lake Tahoe if I put enough money on myself, you never know. 500-1. So if I put down a million dollars, I think I could make this thing work!