Charles Barkley On All-Star Saturday Night Memories And Regrettable Fashion Choices

NBA All-Star Saturday Night often garners more hype than the game itself on Sunday. That’s because the All-Star Game itself can’t reach the same heights in terms of sheer excitement and entertainment as the Saturday night festivities when they are at their best.

Charles Barkley has been on-hand, as either a player or broadcaster, for nearly 40 years of All-Star Weekends. When asked of his favorite memories from Saturday’s festivities he recalls great Dunk Contests from the past, but his favorite memory is from 1986, when he went to support Sixers teammate Leon Wood in the Three-Point Contest and was there when Larry Bird delivered his legendary pre-contest trash talk in the locker room.

“I think for me personally, the Slam Dunk is always the highlight event — you know, Michael Jordan against Dominique [Wilkins], Jason Richardson, Vince Carter. The Three-Point Shooting Contest is pretty special also,” Barkley says. “One time I remember one of my teammates was in the Three-Point Shooting Contest, Leon Wood, and Larry Bird comes in and says, ‘Which one of you guys is gonna come in second place?’ And I was like, ‘Oh sh*t.’ It was one of the coolest, funniest, hilarious moments, but you could have heard a f*ckin’ pin drop in there.”

Getting the NBA’s best all together under one roof is what makes All-Star Weekend so special. All-Star Saturday is particularly special because it’s the one night where the best players in the world turn into fans and kids again, as they all gather courtside to watch the competitions, losing their minds over wild dunks and shooting performances like everyone else.

“It is pretty special, especially when one of your teammates is in one of the events,” Barkley says of the Saturday night atmosphere. “Getting to be out there and watch them, having everybody there, all the players, that doesn’t happen often. The highlight of the weekend has always been the Three-Point shooting contest and the Slam Dunk.”

On occasion, there’s a special event added into the mix, like this year’s shootout between Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu to determine the best shooter in the NBA and WNBA after Ionescu broke Curry’s contest record this past summer. Barkley has been part of one of those special events himself, although a very different kind of competition, as he raced Dick Bavetta at All-Star in 2007 in Las Vegas. That moment, complete with Barkley tumbling over at midcourt after running backwards and then giving Bavetta a kiss after, still lives on in All-Star lore.

It was also a moment that could only happen with Barkley, as it was borne out of an Inside the NBA tangent about how old Bavetta was and Kenny Smith prodding him about how Bavetta was probably faster than Chuck.

“It was fun. It started because I was joking during a game and said ‘how old is Dick Bavetta?,'” Barkley recalls. “And Kenny said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I said, ‘His old ass, it’s about time for him to retire.’ And then I think Kenny said Dick Bavetta probably can out-run you. And I said, Dick Bavetta cannot outrun me, he’s 102 years old.

I did not think I was gonna fall, I’m not gonna lie about that. But I wasn’t worried about that old man beating me.”

Aside from racing Bavetta in 2007, a moment that some fans will forever remember as a vintage Chuck moment from All-Star Saturday is from the year before when he was on the call for the Dunk Contest along with Magic Johnson and Kenny Smith and lost his mind over the coat Damon Jones was wearing courtside.

When I asked if he still thinks about Jones’ coat, Barkley let out a big laugh and pointed out that Jones is far from the first NBA player to make a regrettable fashion decision at All-Star.

“[Laughs.] No, I don’t think about that,” Chuck says. “But you know what’s so funny, looking back at some of those pictures sometimes you like — not just Damon, but you see some of the sh*t some of these guys are wearing, us included.

Like one year I had some sh*t on. I was hurt, it was like it was in the mid ’80s, I was hurt and I wore something that I thought looked really good. And then I saw it like 15 years later. I’m like, ‘What the f*ck was I thinking?'”

As we wrapped our conversation, I joked that’s the magic of having professional photographers around all the time, and he offered a parting word of wisdom (and warning) for players as they get set to make fashion statements this weekend.

“Nothing like it, brother. They’re around forever too. That’s what’s crazy.”