Charles Barkley was on his NBA analyst-inspired pulpit this week as he offered some very candid opinions on race, politics, Peyton Manning’s retirement ambitions, the social standing of LeBron James and rich people oppressing the poor.
In between his profound deliveries of enlightenment, Chuck mentioned legendary rap master NAS as his hip-hop of choice. When asked to offer three things he would change if he ruled the world, Barley said, "I would give everybody common sense, because common sense is not so common."
A lack of common sense, Barkley says, is why Americans are misdiagnosing the core problems plaguing our country.
"I talk about this political process and everybody talks about white and black," said Barkley. "They want racism, because what they really should be talking about is the fact that America is divided by economics. There’s racism. Always has been. Always will be. "
"One thing we fall for is, rich people do a great job at making poor people not like each other. If the poor people (of all races) would get together and realize they are all in the same shitty schools, they’re all in the same shitty neighborhoods and stop fighting with each other, they could make a difference. The biggest problem with racism is the class system. Rich people keeping poor people down, but the poor people are too stupid to realize they are getting played."
The conversation shifted to his life’s greatest lesson and how he attacks the haters.
Chuck: No matter how hard you work or how successful you are, the more success you have, the more people don’t like you. But they’re haters and I always think about that every morning. I say I’m going to be successful just to stick it up your ass. You can hate on me. It’s interesting though. The weirdest thing for me to learn when I became successful was how many people dislike you because you’re successful. A lot of them are your friends and your family.
This hate, Barkley says, deeply affects African-American youth.
Chuck: There’s a lot of animosity in the black community towards other successful blacks. Black kids are told that if they go to school and do good in school and speak correct, they are trying to act white. We should tell more black kids that they should do well in school. They should speak correctly. I’m not afraid to say it. I’ve said it many times. One of the biggest problems with black people is other black people hating on us.
In between his classroom lectures, Barkley did field some college basketball questions. He's a huge proponent of making it mandatory for a player to do two years of college before turning pro.
Chuck: Kids leaving early is hurting the NBA. You see the trash I’m watching. It’s awful basketball. These kids coming in are not ready to play. Now you’re taking a kid who you hope in three or four years is a good player. The problem is that you’re in the pros and if you’re a bad team, you’re not supposed to get a guy who’s going to be good in four f****** years. You need a player that’s going to help you right now.
You got five good teams and the rest of them are awful. I feel bad for our fans. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture. Me and Grant Hill were talking earlier...Let’s be realistic. How many NBA teams would you buy season tickets for? There’s five. You got OKC, Golden State, Spurs, Clippers, Cavs and maybe Toronto if you want to stretch it. If you’re a hardworking man, I feel bad for you. Why would you buy tickets to those other teams. I would not.
Makes total sense, but Chuck’s views on the world and the people that make it go are much more intriguing than his basketball knowledge.
His view on LeBron James is fair.
Chuck: LeBron’s made some mistakes going back to the decision, so I think that’s where some of the resentment towards him comes from. But LeBron’s a great guy and a great player, but he’s made some mistakes now.
He also has some first-hand advice for Peyton Manning, who may enter broadcasting now that he's retired.
Chuck: I've only met Peyton three or four times in a casual hello, but I hear he’s a really funny guy. I know a bunch of guys who played with him. But you have to open up your personality on television. You can’t just X and O people, so it’s up to Peyton if he wants to open up. Our job is not easy because we have to criticize people. You can’t sit there and watch bad basketball and say it was good basketball. If one of the players do something stupid, you have to call him stupid.
When you think of the greatest interview subjects of all-time, Barkley is aging like a fine wine and getting better with time. There’s no mystery why his table is always the one with a flock of reporters crammed together and hanging on to his every word. Maybe he has a future in politics and he is warming America up to his style, beliefs and platforms.
After a few hours of providing reporters with some of the best soundbites of their careers, one daring youngster asked Barkley the question of the day.
“You remind me of my grandmother," the reporter said, leaning across the table to get his mic closer to Barkley’s immediate vicinity, "because you don’t give a damn. That being said, how old were you when you realized that you really just do not give a damn?”
Chuck: It took me a while to realize that I can’t make everybody happy. So I feel an obligation to try to be honest. That was difficult for me in the beginning. I think I was probably 24 or 25 when I took over the Sixers team and I wanted everybody to like me. Then I realized that you can’t make everybody happy.
The first time it just hit me like rock was when I was watching the Phillies play. I was sitting there watching Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra in (a press conference) and they were saying things like, ‘We have to get better. We are not good enough yet top to bottom. This is going to be a building process. We just have to get better players. It’s going to take some time.’ I thought to myself, ‘That’s what I want to be. I want to be a leader.’ So I got up the next day and repeated that and the headline the next day was ‘Barkley Blasts Teammates' (laughter). So that started the learning process of I can’t make everyone happy.
Maybe Sir Charles can't please the world, but he's a reporter's dream and you certainly couldn't shut him up at this point if you tried.