Work in Sports
HOUSTON (Ticker) -- When Charles Barkley said he wanted to leave the game on his own terms, he couldn't have had this in mind.
Overweight and out of shape, Barkley came onto the court, lost the ball a couple times and threw up an airball or two before finally going back to the bench to watch his Houston Rockets lose, 96-92, to the Vancouver Grizzlies.
While Barkley was on the floor, the Grizzles went on a 16-4 run to open up a 48-35 lead with 2:08 to go in the first half as Shareef Abdur-Rahim connected on a hook shot. Houston (34-48) never regained the lead.
Barkley made the walk to the scorer's table with very little notice from the fans but received a standing ovation when it was finally announced at 7:26 of the second quarter that he was entering the game. He scored two points on 1-of-3 shooting, collecting one rebound and one assist during his six minutes in the game.
His one basket came after he grabbed an offensive rebound, which made sense to Barkley himself and to Vancouver coach Lionel Hollins.
"He will go down as one of the greatest rebounders of all time," Hollins said. "His greatest forte was rebounding, and I thought it was very fitting that he scored his last basket on an offensive rebound. This was a meaingless game, but Sir Charles had the opportunity to finish the game that he did so much for."
An 11-time All-Star, Barkley, was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players and is an original "Dream Team" member. He ruptured a tendon in his knee on November 8 and since he had declared before the season that this would be his last campaign, it was assumed that he had played his last game.
But last week, the outspoken forward said he wanted to walk out onto the court one more time and play again so he could walk off on his own terms rather than forced off by injury. He was activated from the injured list this afternoon.
"I can't explain what tonight meant," Barkley said. "I did it for me. I've won and lost a lot of games, but the last memory I had was being carried off the court. I couldn't get over the mental block of being carried off the court. It was important psychologically to walk off the court on my own."
"This has been a sad week for me, because it's hit me that I'm not going to play basketball anymore," Barkley said. "I've played since I was 9 years old. I played with Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), with Doctor J (Julius Erving), Magic (Johnson), Larry Bird, Michael (Jordan), and later with Grant Hill. It won't be the same down at the rec."
It wasn't exactly the same tonight, either. The other players on the floor were a far cry from some of the great names who have been on floor at the same time as Barkley, either as teammates or opponents. And if Barkley himself looked anything like the player who averaged 22.3 points and 11.7 rebounds over his career, it wasn't about to spoil the evening.
"I feel privileged just to have witnessed this occasion," said Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon. "For everything he has done for basketball, just to see him come back and walk off the court is a great accomplishment."