First, Barkley—who weighed as much as 278 pounds as a player at Auburn but now struts a svelte, muscular 253-pound physique—is a role model. "I know there were doubters in his case, just like there were in mine," says Jones. "And Charles remains an inspiration, because he was so big in college and lost the weight for the pros. He realized the sky was the limit if he really worked at it."
Second, Barkley's success prompted a generation of recruiters to take a chance on portly schoolboys. "Before Barkley, not many 6'5", 225-pounders were given a shot," says Georgia coach Hugh Durham. "Coaches thought they were too small to be effective rebounders. Now they say, 'Well, Barkley did it. Maybe this guy can too.' "
And, recruiters being recruiters, they're forever throwing nervous side-glances at each other. Thus, says Auburn coach Tommy Joe Eagles, "when one school gets a widebody, people have got to recruit one to play against him." And so on and so on and so on—a binge, you might call it.
Great Moments in Fat-Guy History, 1984.
Minutes before Auburn is to play Tennessee in Knoxville, a Domino's deliveryman dispatched by a witty Volunteer fan finds Barkley in the Tiger layup line and offers to take his pizza order. As Miller knows, variations on this seminal prank are now commonplace.
"Body type should not be how you're judged as a player," says Barkley. "If you can play, you can play; if you can't, you can't. No matter how tall, short, skinny or fat someone is, you can't measure athletic ability or a person's heart."
Utah lost only four games last season with 6'8", 265-pound Walter Watts in the middle. Virtually everyone but Watts returned this season, and at week's end the Utes had already stumbled into the loss column five times. "There was a mind-set Walt had, a willingness to use his body," Utah coach Rick Majerus says ruefully. "He was an enforcer with heart. Sure, guys 6'8" and 200 can look mean, but with 65 more pounds, you can be mean."
Majerus is currently eyeing a prospect in Indiana. "He's 6'7" and 295," he says, "and Number One on his high school tennis team."
A detail like that puts a glint in a coach's eye. It suggests that a recruit might prove to be an athletic widebody, not an immobile tub of lard. But there are no guarantees. "It takes more than being 6'5" and 230-plus," says Durham. "You've got to have skill."
Those with skill fall into various categories. There are: