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Charles Barkley never forgot where he came from

On the basketball court, Charles Barkley was known as an undersized rebounding force, 11-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Fame player. However, his best move may not have come in the post but after his 16-year playing career where his big personality made him one of the most recognizable sports analysts on TV.

Berkley has called live TV “the most dangerous thing in the world” and his ambiguity is a central part of his brand. When 60 Minutes profiled him for Sunday’s broadcast, correspondent John Wertheim asked Barkley why people tune in to hear him speak.

“I think they know I’m going to be honest, I’m going to be fair, I have no hidden agenda,” Barkley told Wertheim. “(On TV) there aren’t many people you can say that about.”

The 60 Minutes team followed Barkley to a taping of “Inside the NBA,” where he has served as a regular studio analyst since 2000. But to get a true sense of the man, Wertheim also visited Berkeley in Leeds, Alabama. , where he recalled growing up poor.

“We had to pool money. So I got a pair of shoes (for one season), Barkley told Wertheim.” “My mom brought them to games and right after the game she knocked on the door and took them home. I could only wear them during the season because they had to last me.”


John Wertheim and Charles Barkley walk through Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, where he still maintains a home.

Matthew Magrattan/60 Minutes

A pair of sneakers turned into a week when Barkley was drafted into the NBA and Nike came calling.

“I was like, ‘That’s amazing… wait, are you going to pay me too?'” Barkley recalled with a laugh. “I said, ‘This is the greatest job in the world. You all give me a pair of sneakers a week and you all give me money?'”

Despite the sneaker stipend, countless accolades, and huge paychecks both during and after his playing days, Barkley hasn’t forgotten his roots. At age 60, he is a frequent philanthropist and has donated millions of dollars to support higher education and college scholarships for Leeds students.

“The way I give money is, I want to try to help people succeed,” Berkley told Wertheim. “Now not everyone is going to succeed. I can only give them a chance to succeed.”

Breakthrough for Berkley came after his life changed due to a 6-inch growth spurt during his senior year at Leeds High School.

“His stock rose astronomically in the college basketball market,” wrote Rubin Grant in the Birmingham Post-Herald in 1981. But just a year and a half ago, brokers would have advised against buying. bad risk Do not bring any dividends.

At the time Charles Barkley – by his own admission – short and fat at 5 feet, 11 inches, tried out for the Leeds Green Wave varsity team before his junior season. He was too slow to play guard and too short to play forward.

Forty years later, his friends from Berkeley and Leeds still gather to relive stories of the past. With John Wertheim joining them one February afternoon, the group recalls a 1980 high school match between Berkeley and future University of Alabama star Bobby Lee Hart.


Charles Barkley and his hometown friends gathered in February, reminiscing about their high school days.

60 minutes

“That was actually the turning point of my high school career,” Barkley said. “We played against the best high school player in the country (Bobby Lee Hart) in the minor Christmas tournament. And at that time, I didn’t get any letters from any major schools. It’s Christmas my senior year. , ‘He’s too young. He’s in junior college or junior high school.’ Gotta go.'”

Barkley’s friends witnessed his 24 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots. Leeds won 74-72 and doubters became believers. A few months later, Barkley committed to Auburn University, where he played three seasons before the Philadelphia 76ers took him in the first round of the 1984 NBA Draft.

Classic Olympics

Charles Barkley (center) won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 as part of the Dream Team.

Getty Images

Charles Barkley’s playing career included an MVP award and a pair of gold medals. His broadcasting career earned him four Emmys for his work as an analyst. But when John Wertheim asked Berkeley about his success, he wasn’t willing to take all the credit.

“I chose to be Charles Barkley,” the 60-year-old said. “I’m just lucky and blessed with a great body. When I’m in a hotel, the people who clean the hotel work three times harder than me and any other jock in the world. We’re just lucky straws. And if you think I’m good or I work hard, you’re just stupid.”

Berkley shared with Wertheim that he believes the true measure of success comes from the legacy we leave behind.

“Two things are important here: Number one, you want to make your parents proud. And number two, when you die, you don’t want them to say, ‘I’m glad that SOB’s gone,'” Wertheim said in Berkeley. “I want them to say, ‘Man, I’m going to miss Charles.'”

You can see Charles Barkley’s full profile of John Wertheim below.

Charles Barkley: 60 Minutes Interview


The video at the top was produced by Keith Zubrow and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.


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