Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were good friends despite some heated battles on the court when both were still playing.
But it was an episode in their next jobs — Jordan running the Charlotte Bobcats and Barkley criticizing him as a TNT analyst eight years ago — that caused a rift, which Barkley doesn’t see thawing anytime soon.
“The guy was like a brother to me for, shoot, 20-something years,” Barkley said Tuesday on the “Waddle and Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “At least 20-something years. And I do, I feel sadness. But to me he’s still the greatest basketball player ever. I wish him nothing but the best. But, there’s nothing I can do about it, brother.”
Asked if there was any hope for their relationship could come back, Barkley didn’t sound optimistic.
“Oh, he got my number,” Barkley said. “He can call me.”
Barkley was on the same radio show in Chicago in 2012 when he evaluated Jordan’s poor performance as part-owner and the boss of basketball operations for the Bobcats.
The Hall of Fame forward, whose Suns lost during Barkley’s MVP season to Jordan’s Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, still believes his comments weren’t overly hurtful.
“The thing that bothered me the most about that whole thing, I don’t think that I said anything that bad,” Barkley said. “I’m pretty sure I said, ‘As much as I love Michael, until he stops hiring them kiss-asses, and his best friends, he’s never going to be successful as a general manager.’ And I remember pretty much verbatim I said that. And the thing that really pissed me off about it later is Phil Jackson said the exact same thing.”
Jordan hasn’t talked to him since, Barkley said.
Since Jordan got involved with the Bobcats (now the Hornets) in 2006, the franchise has made the playoffs just three times — their only three winning seasons in that span.
Barkley believes he was just doing his job and providing an honesty he said other friends wouldn’t.
“Listen, if you’re famous, and Michael at one point was the most famous person in the world, everybody around you is either on the payroll or letting you buy drinks and dinner and flying around on your private jet,” Barkley said. “Very few of your friends are going to be honest with you. And that’s very hard for any celebrity, but especially somebody of his stature.
“But I thought that was one of the reasons we were great friends. Like, ‘I can ask Charles anything and I know he’s going to give me a straight answer.’ But part of my job [as an analyst] is, because I can’t go on TV and say ‘Another general manager sucks’ and then just because Michael’s like a brother to me say ‘He’s doing a fantastic job.’ That would be disingenuous.”
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