Charles Barkley wasn't born here, but he's as Philadelphia as it gets.
The Hall of Famer, former Sixer and current analyst spent Thursday hanging out at 97.5 The Fanatic's studios in Bala Cynwyd. He co-hosted with Mike Missanelli for the entire four-hour show.
He talked about his love for the fans, the city, the Sixers and all things Philly … except cheesesteaks (He had one when he was drafted in 1984 and hasn't been back for one since.)
There was never dull moment during the entire Mike Missanelli Show Thursday.
Ben and Jo's accountability
Of course the hottest topic for Barkley was the Sixers and his thoughts on the teams two young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
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Barkley lavished the pair with praise, saying he thought they were the most talented duo since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
Him and Ben together, could be the new Shaq and Kobe," Barkley said. "Now, Ben's not on Kobe's level and Joel's not on Shaq's level, but I think it's fair to say … I'll say this: I think Ben Simmons, in his third year, I think you can say – people forget, Kobe is one of the five or six greatest players ever, but he struggled early in his career. I think you can say Ben is at least – and I'm not saying he's going to be greater than Kobe, don't mix up my words – but he's got potential to be one of the best to ever do it. And Joel, ain't nothing he can't do if he stays off that three-point line.
Barkley believes in both young players, but also acknowledged that both players are flawed and need to be held accountable. Embiid's issues have been his health and fitness – something Barkley can relate to from early in his career.
Sir Charles was glad to see that Embiid cried and felt the pain of losing that Game 7 in Toronto, but wants someone with the Sixers to do what Moses Malone and Billy Cunningham did for a young Barkley.
I've told this story before, the most important person in my life was Moses Malone," Barkley said. "I remember talking to him one day and I said, ‘Moses, why am I not getting to play?' He said ‘You're fat and you're lazy.' I said, ‘What do you mean?' ‘You're fat and you're lazy.' He said, ‘Charles, you can't play in the NBA at 300 pounds. … I know you led your conference in rebounding all three years, but you're not going to be in good enough shape and you can't work hard enough to play in the NBA.' And this guy, who I called ‘dad,' met me every day before practice, after practice. He made me lose 10 pounds – 290, 280, 270, 260, 250. I actually got to 240 but I had no strength or energy and he said, ‘250 is your playing weight.'
Barkley recalled that then-owner Harold Katz traded away Marc Iavaroni to free up playing time. Cunningham, the Sixers' coach at that time, told Barkley bluntly, "Your fat a- ain't playing because you don't work hard enough."
The rest, as they, is history.
As for Simmons, Barkley said he's done with the shooting videos against "waiters and bartenders." He's ready for Simmons to shoot in an actual NBA game.
But he's bullish on the Sixers as a whole. He believes Tobias Harris will be better with Jimmy Butler gone and he loves the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. He's already made his bet on the NBA Finals.
"I'm already out on the limb, brother," Barkley said to Missanelli. "World champions."
‘They sent me to war with a BB gun'
Barkley was unceremoniously traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992 for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. There are several reasons why the return wasn't great.
One of which is that Barkley wanted out after a couple dismal seasons. Another is that the Sixers' front office at the time "didn't know what the hell they were doing," according to Barkley.
[Sixers owner] Harold [Katz] comes in, wants to know what's going on, why we stink so bad. Everybody lies – ‘Well, we're not playing good enough defense. … We need to get some better outside shooters. … We got to do a better job on the boards.' Like seven, eight bogus excuses. And I'm steaming at this point and all the sudden Harold turns to me, ‘Charles, you don't have anything to say?' I said, ‘You don't want to hear what I got to say.' He says, ‘Oh yeah, you're the captain, I want to hear what you got to say.' I said, ‘The reason we no good because that guy right there and that guy right there suck at basketball. Them two suck, right there.' And they stand up and I stand up and grab my stool and I said, ‘If you come over here I'm going to break this damn stool across your damn head.'
One of "them two" was Charles Shackleford. Barkley recalled when Katz initially told him the team acquired Shackleford.
I remember I was having dinner with Harold Katz and he says, ‘We got Charles Shackleford.' And I'm like, ‘From N.C. State?' He says, ‘Yeah, he led the Italian league in rebounding.' I said, ‘Dude, if I want Italian, I'll have pasta or something. I'm not looking for no basketball players. No disrespect to Italians, but I want some Italian food, I ain't looking for no basketball players over in Italy.'
Barkley said it had gotten so bad that Shackleford would purposely pick up fouls early in games because the Philly crowd was too rough on him.
Man of the people
Speaking of people not being able to handle the Philly crowd, Barkley weighed in on the recent entitled comments made by Phillies utilityman Sean Rodriguez.
"Listen, Mr. Rodriguez: Stay off that grenade. Leave the fans alone."
Barkley remembers hearing about Sixers first-round pick Shawn Bradley's wife getting into it with fans. He also referenced Simmons' comments during the playoffs last season. Though he said the fans never booed him, he told all players to expect it and not take it personally.
If there is anyone that understands the Philadelphia fan, it's Barkley. He still feels the love whenever he's in the city.
A big part of that is probably the way he treats people. He was gracious with every single person he came across and grateful for every caller with a story of how they met him at a nightclub back in the day or just how much he meant to the city. He saw a woman with cleaning supplies picking up around the studio. He asked her how she was doing, asked her for her name and said, "Hi, I'm Charles."
As he left the studio, a few fans were waiting outside hoping to snag an autograph and a picture.
Barkley yelled out affectionately, "Oh, you mother f-ers!"
He then proceeded to sign all their autographs and take pictures.
As Philadelphia as it gets.
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