The day after
Barkley 'down and depressed' after injury ends career
Posted: Thursday December 09, 1999 10:14 PM
Charles Barkley is still unsure of his future after knee surgery, but he does know one thing -- it will not involve playing basketball. AP
BOSTON (AP) -- A little disheartened but still as entertaining as ever, Charles Barkley said Thursday that he hadn't changed his mind about retiring even though his farewell tour was interrupted by a career-ending knee injury.
"My heart is broken. My spirit is broken. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, I'm down and depressed," the Houston Rockets forward said a day after tearing a tendon in his left knee against Philadelphia, where his career began in 1984. "[But] I stand by what I said last night."
Wearing a full-leg brace on the outside of his pants, Barkley limped into the conference room at the Ritz-Carlton, where the Rockets were staying for Friday night's game against Boston. He said he came with the team out of respect for the Celtics, who had planned a halftime ceremony to honor him and give him a piece of the famous parquet floor.
"Basketball starts with the Lakers and Celtics. And the golden age of basketball started with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson," he said. "I make sure every time I see those guys they understand that I appreciate what they did for me."
Although he called himself depressed, during a 45-minute news conference Barkley sounded upbeat, and his comments were as frank and funny as ever. He joked about sex, he joked about golf, and he joked about his feuds with fans, opponents -- and former teammates.
Asked if he had heard from Scottie Pippen, with whom he exchanged very public insults this fall, Barkley quipped, "I think Scottie's on my voice mail."
But others did call to wish him well: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, Karl Malone and John Stockton, Greg Ostertag and even NBA vice president Rod Thorn, who meted out many of the fines and suspensions Barkley accrued during a Hall of Fame career in the NBA.
Despite measuring a shade under 6-foot-5, Barkley established himself as a force under the basket in two gold medal-winning Olympics and 16 NBA seasons. He averaged 22 points and almost 12 rebounds while earning 11 All-Star selections, and he won the NBA MVP while with Phoenix in 1993.
He was selected one of the 50 best players in NBA history. But he never won a championship.
And he said it doesn't bother him that he never will.
"I don't foresee the championship making my life any better. I don't know how my life could get any better," he said. "I tell you, my life has been a blast."
Barkley said he cried for three hours Wednesday night after tearing a tendon in the first quarter of his farewell to Philadelphia. That night, he didn't sleep at all.
"Me by myself in the middle of the night, it was hard," he said. "It was hard, it's still hard, and it's going to get harder."
But he hasn't seen the videotape of him wrenching his knee while trying to block a shot.
"I haven't seen the replay, and I'm not sure I want to," he said. "It doesn't do me any good to do that."
The 36-year-old Barkley repeated that he would be interested in being a general manager but not a coach -- he doesn't like the travel -- and he would consider television, movies, and politics. Years ago, he had said he would like to be governor of Alabama.
"I'm open for suggestions," he said. "My No. 1 priority right now is to rehab. This is an injury that's very serious, and you can't mess around with the rehab."
So for the next six months there will be no golf. And even after that, he doesn't expect to be playing any basketball on any level.
"I started playing basketball when I was 9, and I've played every day since then," he said. "But I'm not one of those guys who's going to play in the church league for faded glory or anything. I won't play anymore.
"And that's the thing I'm going to miss most," he said. "Because basketball has given me everything in life."
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