Every year, the American Century Championship at Edgewood in Lake Tahoe gets bigger, attracting more celebrities to the event that takes place this Friday-Sunday.
But the one constant each year is the popularity of former NBA superstar Charles Barkley. Although he will never be a threat to win the event, he remains one of the fan favorites.
He also takes time each year to talk with the media via conference call leading into the tournament. Here are excerpts from this years’ interview, done during the NBA finals and well before Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors for the Nets.
As usual, Barkley holds nothing back when he talks golf, basketball and even hockey! Here are excerpts from the interview.
Q Charles, we’re here in New York, and I’m wondering if you were a free agent and you were choosing between the Knicks and the Nets as a free agent destination, which team would you choose and why?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, I probably would take the Nets because I think they’re more stable. I think they’ve got a better supporting cast. I think Sean Marks has done a fabulous job, and Coach Atkinson has done a fabulous job. Nobody thought that team would make the playoffs. And they did a fabulous job. They play hard every night.
So, listen, they’re just more stable than the Knicks. Obviously, the Knicks are the Knicks. But from a strictly basketball standpoint, the Nets are clearly a more stable organization.
Q If Kevin Durant came to you June 30th and said, hey, Charles, I’m thinking of signing with the Knicks, I’m looking for your advice, what would you tell him?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, I’d say, Kevin, you’re one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. You’ve also got some of the thinnest skin I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you’re made for New York City.
I think that would be the toughest aspect. If he’s arguing with these teenagers online, he’s not going to be able to deal with that New York media. He’s a great person. He’s a great player. I don’t think he has the mental makeup to play in New York. That’s just my personal opinion.
Q Charles, the fans love you at Lake Tahoe, man. But you’ve been a little hard on the Warriors over the years. Do you get some cat calls from Warrior fans when you’re at Edgewood?
CHARLES BARKLEY: It’s interesting you say that because I said the Warriors couldn’t win shooting jumpers all the time, I think that was like five years ago. And people still act like I said it last week.
The Warriors are a great organization. There are some fans that tell me the Warriors are good. I’m, like, really? No shit. Everybody knows that. But the fans in Tahoe…the first thing I put on my schedule is the American Century Championship. It’s the best week of the year.
I’m so glad that I’m done with basketball; I finished up Game 2 in Toronto. I played golf every day since then. I’m going to play golf every day until Lake Tahoe. It’s the best time of the year, and I love coming to Lake Tahoe.
It was great 25 years ago and it’s incredible now. The only difference is the crowds are bigger, and we get bigger‑name celebrities. That’s probably the only negative. I get at least 30 celebrities a year who used to play at Tahoe who can’t get in. And they call me, I’m like, dude, it’s not like I’m the commission; it’s not like I get to invite anybody.
But I get at least 25 or 30 calls a year from guys, and, listen, everybody ‑‑ it passes everybody by.
But now some of the stars we’re getting today, I mean, Aaron Rogers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan. I just talked to Joe Mauer, I hope I get his name ‑‑ the catcher for the Minnesota Twins. He was talking to me. I’m, dude, this is going to be the best week of your life. Because he said, I’m nervous. I said, dude, don’t worry about being nervous. It’s going to be great weather, the fans are going to be great ‑‑ because he’s going to be a great addition to the tournament.
But it’s the highlight of my summer, first thing I put on my schedule.
Q You mentioned you played 25 out of 30 tournaments. That means you’ve played as many of these events as almost anyone. Do you think there’s a difference now with arguably bigger‑name guys like Tony Romo and John Smoltz actually contending to win the tournament, has that changed anything?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, I think we’ve got ‑‑ we’ve got more guys who can win it now. I mean, Mark Mulder is a stud – I mean, he’s a stud.
But in fairness, he only works one day a week. So, he has four other days ‑‑ he has six other days to work on his golf game. I’m just kidding. But Mark’s a great player, obviously.
But Tony Romo, John Smoltz, you know all them hockey players, they’re really good. It’s amazing that the baseball pitchers and the hockey players, they’re always up there.
Steph and Ray Allen, they’re probably the best two basketball players. Steph always gets a late start because he’s busy in the playoffs. But him and Ray Allen are probably two of the best basketball players in my opinion.
Q Charles, there’s a funny video going around, I think it’s from Sportsnet in Canada where you say Brad Marchand (of the Boston Bruins), the way he plays kind of makes you want to punch him in the face sometimes. What exactly is it about him, what does he do that makes you feel that way? Does it go back to when he was licking players last year in the playoffs?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, I call him the Draymond Green of hockey. He’s a heck of a player and an annoying guy. Draymond is a hell of a player and he’s an annoying guy.
I compare those guys ‑‑ there’s a bunch of really good players who are really annoying to play against, and you would want to play with them. So, I look at Draymond and Marchand as the same type of players, just terrific players who would be really annoying to play against and you really want to punch them in the face.
Q Marchand was also in the interview. He said he might reach out to you after the series. Would you want to meet him, would you want to meet him?
CHARLES BARKLEY: It would be an honor. I think people know how much hockey I watch. I had a couple nice parties up in Toronto ‑‑ well, Game 3 really sucked because it was over after the first period. And I had a nice get‑together with my friends last night. And that was a heck of a game.
Q Charles, you’re a Hall of Fame player and hall of fame commentator as well. If you were given the opportunity would you do commentary for a PGA TOUR event? And if yes, is there any particular one, any one you would like to call?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Thank you for the compliments earlier. I don’t want to be one of those jackasses on TV who acts like he knows everything about every sport. That drives me crazy when guys who never played sports try to talk about all the sports like they actually ever played football or hockey. We’re all just fans if you didn’t play it.
It would be fun to do a golf event. But like I say, I want people to know I’m not an expert. First of all there’s no such thing as an expert. But I would have fun with it. I wouldn’t take it, like the same thing I do with basketball. It ain’t life or death. It’s just basketball.
We’re not teachers, firemen or policemen or anybody like that. We’re just guys who dribble a stupid ball around and make a lot of money. It should be fun.
But if I did do a golf event I want to be like a combination of David Feherty and Roger Maltbie, guys who are hilarious on television and great at their job. I could listen to Feherty and Maltbie do golf all the time because that’s what you try to do when you do basketball. You want to be half serious and have fun, because if you are always serious it’s not going to work.
People don’t turn on golf for all the technical stuff. They want somebody who has some type of personality. And Feherty is great at it. And Roger Maltbie is great at it.
Q What about the swing, what can we see out of the swing this year?
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know, I feel like I’m getting better. I really do feel like I’m getting better. If I make five or six pars a day, I’ll be content. My only goal is not to come in last place. I set my goals very low. I just don’t want to come in last place.
By Dennis Miller