After testing positive for COVID-19 last month, former Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley had to quarantine in his Atlanta apartment for two weeks. But since his recovery, he’s ingratiated himself back in the Phoenix community in a way that is rare during the NBA season, when he travels frequently and hosts Inside the NBA from TNT’s Atlanta studios.
In a call with the local media on Tuesday morning, Barkley talked extensively about the 1992-93 season, which is expected to be featured in episode 5 or 6 of ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” but also about Valley sports.
Though he said he’s “absolutely bored out of my mind” with no sports to take his mind off things, Barkley also noted he’s been in touch with the other “old jocks” in his life to try to cut back on their alcohol consumption in quarantine, and golfing with local friends like Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet.
Maybe it’s the extra time in Arizona that has Barkley thinking on the topic, but without even being asked, Barkley offered up his take on the best athlete in Arizona sports history. He didn’t select himself, nor Steve Nash or any other Suns great, but Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Don’t be surprised if that’s because Fitzgerald is also part of the local jock golf crew, and Chuck’s just been charmed by him lately. That’s just my hunch. Anyone who’s spent time with Fitzgerald would would be inclined to pick him, even if the selection is not the most objective one ever.
Barkley doesn’t underestimate his own imprint on the city, though. After being traded to Phoenix from the 76ers in 1993, Barkley took to the fan base immediately.
“Philadelphia is a great sports city, but I’ve never heard anything like the noise and the energy as I heard from America West from Day One,” he said.
However, he dispelled the notion that a preseason trip to Prescott organized by head coach Paul Westphal brought the team closer together.
“There’s no team bonding in Prescott,” Barkley said. “There’s nothing to do in Prescott. Let’s get that out of the way.”
Jokes aside, the reason Barkley said his primary residence is still in Arizona is because, “This is a Suns town. The reason I live here is they love the Phoenix Suns.” Barkley said local fans still treat him really well and talk with him about the NBA. He’s been, like many of us, trying to frequent his local eateries to give them business and has started a fund in his home state of Alabama to help hospitality and service industry workers maintain their livelihood during this time.
Barkley was actually relatively measured in his takes this time around, even going so far as to hit the brakes on praise of the 1992-93 Suns (they were a “very good” team, not a “great” one, though they still could have beat the Bulls if they played better in Game 1).
Maybe he’s spreading out the fire over the course of the week, as he’s scheduled to appear on this week’s installment of “Valley Chatz” on Fox Sports Arizona, as well as doing the postgame show for broadcasts from the 1993 playoffs on the station.