Charles Barkley has long supported the political career of President Barack Obama — he digs America's first black president, and he's never been shy about saying so. It is fair to say, however, that Chuck doesn't have quite the same level of respect for the president's floor game.
During a guest appearance Tuesday on Conan O'Brien's new TBS late-night talk show, the host asked Barkley for his take on Obama as a basketball player, then asked how Barkley felt he'd fare against the president in a one-on-one game. The answer will literally not surprise you in the slightest.
"I'm an old, fat guy, but I'll kick his ass." It doesn't sing quite like Hemingway's clipped diction, but boy, it sure does zing like nobody's business. Sometimes, Chuck's brevity packs a punch all its own.
Hit the jump for full video of the interview, plus more of Barkley breaking down the commander in chief's basketball skills.
As trash talk goes, saying on national television that you'll kick your friend's ass is a pretty decent shot across the proverbial bow. And Barkley does call Obama a friend — the two met when Barkley interviewed Obama for his 2005 book, "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?," which features a number of prominent Americans speaking frankly about race. After that introduction, Barkley became one of Obama's most vocal public backers.
When the then-Illinois senator was mounting his 2008 presidential campaign, Barkley filmed a 2007 video endorsement, calling Obama a "shining star." Later, during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Barkley told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that he thought Obama "would make a fantastic president." The open support of a Democrat was emblematic of a political shift that saw Barkley, an NBA Hall of Famer and TNT studio analyst, transform from a staunch longtime Republican who had pondered a run for the party's nomination in the 1998 Alabama gubernatorial election into an independent who left the Republicans in 2006. Barkley rejected what he saw as a central change in the party's ideology — "I was a Republican until they lost their minds," he said.
While Barkley's switch from right to left earned headlines at the time, as Sir Charles told O'Brien, it's the president's inability to do the opposite that makes him a liability on the basketball court.
"He's a lefty. He always goes left," Barkley said. "If you just stand there, I'm not sure if you opened up the right side, he could go right at all ... There are certain guys who could go either way, they say you're ambidextrous. But he's a one-handed basketball player."
Ouch. We didn't hear that kind of biting criticism from the galaxy of stars who balled with Obama in the greatest pick-up hoops game ever. Maybe that's why those guys actually got asked to play; as Chuck told Conan, he hasn't yet gotten on the court with the prez (despite the fact, as O'Brien noted, that it seems like everyone else has).
Then again, maybe it's because Barkley would play a little too rough. At the start of the interview — which also touches on the Tea Party, losing weight and various other Round Mound-related topics of hilarity — O'Brien asks Barkley about the post-Thanksgiving pick-up game that resulted in the president taking an elbow in the chops, opening a cut that required 12 stitches to close. Barkley said he'd "be terrified" about causing the same type of situation, "because I'm an elbow-thrower."
"So you think if you played with President Obama, and you're friends, but if you played with him, you might forget for a second that he's the leader of the free world and throw an elbow into his face? Is that what you're saying?" O'Brien asked.
"I would definitely do that," Barkley replied.
Pro tip for the Chuckster: Saying before you ever even lace 'em up that you would definitely throw an elbow into the face of the president of the United States is unlikely to get you a golden ticket invite to his regular run. It's not so much that I think Obama minds a little physical play in the paint; it's more that those dudes in the black suits with the earpieces tend to frown upon cats swinging on El Jefe.
We've been through this before, Charles. Try a little tenderness, and you'll be baggy-track-pants-ing it up in no time flat.
Hat-tip to Politico.