This article originally appeared in the December 20, 1999 issue of The Sporting News.

Rare numbers: 20,000 points, 12,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists. An exclusive club with only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley. The wonder is that Barkley did it from under the clouds. Officially listed at 6-6 but actually 6-4 with a body and will of iron, he worked with such ferocity and strength that Celtics center Robert Parish once said, “When Charles leans on you, it’s like get crushed by a trash compactor. “

Did any other superstars go around kissing teammates who made game-winning shots? Take free throws with your eyes closed? Play the furty pets second banana? Barkley, whose NBA career ended last week with a serious knee injury, was the Muhammad Ali of his game. He loved being who he was. “I will not kill myself,” he said when asked about the danger of carrying a gun. “I am one of my favorite people.”

Ours too. When he wasn’t throwing a belligerent out a window or spitting on a fan, he provided enough insults, ideas, and nonsense to keep a group of sports journalists laughing all the way to the typewriter, where it was almost impossible to decide whether the quotes were born out of ignorance. , the genius or both.

Here you decide …

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20. “I heard Tonya Harding call herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating. I was going to sue her for libel of character, but then I realized I have no character.”

19. “The ability to run and dump or hit 40 home runs or rush for 1,000 yards doesn’t make you Almighty God. And secondly, (kids) shouldn’t look up to someone they can’t be. They can’t score and rebound like I. They can’t run and jump like Michael Jordan. They can’t pass the ball like Earvin Johnson. There’s one or two guys, the other 99 percent have to get a job, they have to get an education. They should look up to their parents. “

18. “Ex-teams are like ex-wives. Deep down, deep down, you know you can’t stand them.”

17. “You can be as successful as you want, but you have to push yourself and the only way to do that is through education. You can’t blame your mom, you can’t blame your dad, you can. ” To blame the whites You have to take control of your own life and achieve success. “

16. Before Dream Team’s match against Angola at the 1992 Olympics: “All I know about Angola is that Angola is in trouble.”

15. “It’s really wrong for blacks to be racist, because two mistakes don’t do good. Whites don’t know any better, that’s how they were taught, but blacks know how it feels.”

14. Elbowing an Angolan man: “Well, he could have thrown me with a spear.”

13. “We (athletes) are held to such a high standard, and we should be. But come on, don’t freak out. Don’t make us Public Enemy No. 1 because we do one thing wrong. Athletes do 99 percent. of good things and 1 percent are bad, and people never let you forget that 1 percent. “

12. On Chris Mullin, who had passed out: “If it’s your brain, you’ll be fine. That’s the smallest organ in your body.”

11. “Unless you are a doctor, there is nothing important that they are eager to call you later. How many 19 or 20 year olds have something really important going on? We have had pagers in the middle of meetings just before the game.”

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10. There are people who hide everything inside, and it’s guys like that who kill entire families. “

9. “Any idiot can score.”

8. “Rick (Mahom) and I are not the only players who hit guys with their elbows, or knock guys down hard. But the NBA is really image conscious. They make those who want to be good, do who want to want to be mean. But I’m not going to be Joe Bob, the all-American role model who tells people what they want to hear. You can talk without saying anything, and I never want to be considered that type. person “.

MORE: Barkley tops the list of the best players to never win an NBA title

7. On mentoring Moses Malone: ​​”He taught me the ropes on what it takes to be good. He would say, ‘Hey, if you want to be the Man, you have to be the Man. You have to feel like you’re going to score. Almost every game goes to the fourth quarter, and he’s the one who has the most guts. “

6. On oversized Oliver Miller: “You can’t even jump high enough to touch the rim, unless they put a Big Mac on it.” s will yield

5. Two years ago: “The NBA turns everyone into a star because they just want to make money. There are guys who can’t even play and have jerseys, shoes and everything.”

4. On a 1990 fight against Pistons hit man Bill Laimbeer: “I don’t know why he wants to challenge my heavyweight title. He’s not even in the top 10 contenders.”

3. “Dennis (Rodman) likes to wear a dress, I don’t like to wear a dress. I tried it on a couple of times at home, but I do it in private: not in public.”

2. “I like spicy stuff, to start the discussions. Whether we’re talking about role models or racism, rookies or Rodman. I was chosen for some reason to live this life, and if all I do is make a lot of money and I never speak for anyone or myself, that would be a waste. I have said and done some things wrong, but I can honestly say that I have done more good than bad. Am I going to heaven? It’s going to be a real close vote. “

1. On Retirement: “In four years, I will be the first black governor of Alabama. In eight years, I will be the first black president.”