One of the main criticisms about Barkley's work as a Turner Sports analyst is that he pretty much calls it as he sees it. Often, this is an endearing quality, as Charles has no filter. Just as often, though, Barkley comes off as a guy who doesn't really watch much more NBA basketball than the games he's charged with covering that night -- to say nothing of outside research in the days leading up to the TNT Thursday night doubleheader. Though he's often chafed at being termed an NBA "expert," that hasn't stopped some from accusing Charles of stealing money, even if he makes us laugh 27 times every Thursday night.
Well, Barkley has a solution for that. He might give his entire 2011-12 season salary, assuming there is a season, to charity. At least according to Charles, who spoke with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman on ESPN Radio 1000 on Tuesday:
"I haven't told anybody, but I'm actually -- believe it or not -- I'm leaning toward donating it to charity," Barkley said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I don't think it's cool for me to take money I haven't earned.
"The problem I have is if these guys hold out all season, it's going to be a lot of money," Barkley said."That's why I have to make that decision. I haven't made the final decision.
"I don't feel comfortable taking money for not working. I'll either defer it or give it to charity."
I do hope that Charles is referring to the owners as the "guys" that are holding out, and not the players. Tell your grandparents, tell your mailman -- it isn't a strike. It's a lockout.
But beyond that? Charles has earned his 2011-12 salary already. Even if there aren't any games.
To a lot of us NBA junkies, Thursday nights are essentially nights off. We obsess over the 12-game Wednesday nights, make room for the big Monday evenings, and watch the full slate of Friday and Saturday night games until our better half's tapping foot tells us that it's time to get up from the couch and fully commit to date night.
But Thursday? Even if the Lakers or Heat are playing another great team, that two-game schedule should be a time to relax, and possibly excuse ourselves from the NBA proceedings.
Because of Charles' work on TNT, though, we tune in. Ernie Johnson Jr. and Kenny Smith are obviously fantastic at what they do, and the entire Turner setup is clearly top-notch, but since his cameos on set late in the 1999-00 season, Barkley has made the Turner broadcasts appointment viewing. Sure, he might not know that the Portland Trail Blazers aren't a running team, and he might not be familiar with whatever the heck base-year compensation is, but that isn't his gig. His gig is to tell it like he sees it, even if he's just watched 96 minutes of hoops that particular week.
And he's helped raise an entire generation of insomniacs who wouldn't dare switch off "Inside the NBA" until the final chortle has been broadcast, even past two in the morning on the East Coast. He's also nearly driven other televised outlets to relative bankruptcy as they attempt to harness the same chemistry that EJ, Kenny and Charles have so effortlessly (even if there is quite a bit of work that goes into it) effused since April of 2000. And I didn't have to Wikipedia "April of 2000" to find out when those three first appeared on a television set, because I have a pretty clear memory of when the sports studio show changed forever.
So defer that salary, Charles. Or give it to charity. Or cash all those checks and then blow it all on slow horses and strong drink. But do understand that you've earned it. And all without having to wear a tie.
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- Charles Barkley