NBA legend and current television personality Charles Barkley delivered a speech as only he could Monday during the 32nd annual Stake & Burger fundraiser benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County.
Hundreds of guests laughed and interacted with the 11-time NBA All-Star, who shared his journey from an unknown basketball player from Leeds, Ala., to one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.
Barkley’s life changed when he grew about seven inches in one year during high school, which propelled him to be a top-five player in the state his senior year. He said he luckily ended up at the University of Auburn due to his first choices - University of Alabama at Birmingham and The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) were loaded with returning talent.
Barkley said he visited Auburn University and chose the school that had little hope, but presented a chance for him to see playing time his freshmen year.
“I said, ‘Coach, you got a pen on you?’ He said, ‘Why do you need a pen?’ I said, “I hate to come college here but these guys suck.’”
Barkley became the No. 5 overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft and started his career in Philadelphia with the legendary Moses Malone. He said he approached Malone one day about his role on the team.
“I said, ‘Moses, why am I not getting to play?’ He said, ‘Well, young fella, you’re fat and you’re lazy,’” said Barkley, noting Malone helped him lose about 40 pounds his rookie season, leading to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA.
Barkley touched on several topics and took questions during his speech, which included some light-hearted jabs at his NBA on TNT co-analyst Shaquille O’Neal, his take on the current and future NBA landscape, a shout out to MTSU basketball and advice for young adults and children.
Barkley said he gets discouraged when he hears about young people harming themselves because of bullying.
“You never give anybody that power where you take time out of your life to argue with them. You have to accept the fact some people are not going to like you. That’s alright. Everybody’s not going to like you,” he said.
He said young adults should “keep it moving” when dealing with bullying and hardships and focus on their education.
“It’s really important to get your education. I wish every kid in here could play a pro sport. It’s the greatest job in the world. But, when you look at your mom and dad and they’re both 5’6”, let’s go to plan B,” he said.
Barkley, an avid golfer known for his hitched swing, said his swing is progressing with the help of a new trainer, and he plans to lose about 50 pounds before the start of the NBA season. He said he hopes to play more golf, travel and fish after his planned retirement from television in about four years.
“I’m not going to work until the day I die. That’s stupid,” said Barkley, noting four years would put him at 60 years old. “I know I’m going to offend some people, and I apologize for that, but I’m going to offend them. You ain’t going to be having a lot of fun at 70 and 80. Your life is just winding down.”
Barkley, often labeled controversial and outspoken, said he does have some regrets in life, but it won’t stop him from living it to the fullest.
“I have a lot of regrets and all you can do is say, ‘I’m sorry and I’ve learned from it.’ I’m 56 now. I hope all the stupidity is behind me, but it could rear it’s ugly head any day now,” he said.
Barkley joins University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, NFL legend Peyton Manning and more as former speakers of the event, which proceeds go toward the Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County to serve more than 2,500 children in Rutherford and Bedford counties.