Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan were two of the most iconic figures in the NBA from the late ’80s through the ’90s, butting heads in the NBA Finals and playing together on the legendary 1992 Olympics Dream Team. Through all of that, they were good friends who golfed, drank and gambled together, but it was through their post-playing career jobs that the two had a falling out. According to Barkley, the two still haven’t reconciled, despite his continued love for Jordan.
Back when the Charlotte Hornets were the Bobcats, early in Michael’s ownership tenure, the team was one of the very worst in the NBA. Repeated seasons in the cellar were perpetuated by draft whiffs and poor free agency decision, and Barkley, from his position at Inside the NBA, was critical of Jordan’s stewardship. That criticism led Jordan to sever ties with Barkley, who’s still publicly campaigning to bury the hatchet, as he said on Dan Le Batard’s radio show.
Le Batard pointed out an Instagram photo posted by Barkley’s cohost, Kenny Smith, wherein the two are embracing, and assumed that they were on good terms again, but Charles unfortunately had to set the record straight:
I love Michael, I miss Michael’s friendship … I love him and I miss him like a brother, but we just happened to be in the same place. We have not — I would love to mend that relationship, but we just happened to be in the same place and took a picture together. It was a public forum, like I say I wish Michael nothing but the best, I love him like a brother, but we are not back to where we used to be.
Part of Jordan’s legendary competitiveness was the way he would hold onto grudges and remember slights so he could use them as fuel for his competitive fire on the basketball court. But that sort of behavior, like so much of what made Michael great, is pathological, so even in retirement, he’s apparently found it difficult to forget criticisms. Who knows how much effort Barkley has put in to mending fences in private, rather than through the media, but we’d like to see Jordan let go — he would probably be a heck of a guest on Inside the NBA.