AP Photo/John Swart
Charles Barkley led the Phoenix Suns team that rivaled Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals.
During episode six of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s docuseries about Jordan and the Bulls, Barkley said that facing the GOAT in that series made him realize “there was a better basketball player in the world than me.”
In an appearance on “SportsCenter” after the episode aired on Sunday, Barkley told Scott Van Pelt that “there’s no person in my life I ever met that I wanted to beat more in basketball” than Jordan.
“No disrespect to Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain,” Barkley added. “The best I’ve ever seen in my life is Michael Jordan, and it was an honor and a privilege to play against him.”
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Charles Barkley had never met his match on the basketball court until he faced off against Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals.
During the sixth episode of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s docuseries about Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Barkley reflected on the moment he realized that he wasn’t the best basketball player alive and that Jordan’s greatness was beyond measure.
JOHN SWART / AP
Barkley said he failed to prepare his Phoenix Suns “for the enormity of the situation” heading into Game 1 of their series against the Bulls. But by Game 2, the 1993 NBA MVP was ready for everything Jordan — who was already a three-time league MVP at that point — might throw his way.
Or so he thought.
Barkley remembered playing a great game in his own right — but even when he was firing on all cylinders, the 6-foot-5 power forward couldn’t compete against the GOAT.
“In Game 2, I played as well as I could play, and Michael just outplayed me,” Barkley said. “That was probably the first time in my life that I felt like there was a better basketball player in the world than me, to be honest with you.”
After the episode aired on Sunday, Barkley joined Scott Van Pelt on “SportsCenter” to reflect on the 1993 NBA Finals. Barkley said he was still hung up on the fact that he did not adequately prepare his teammates for the first game of the series.
“I think about it a lot,” Barkley said. “Game 1 is the only bad game we had during that entire series, and I’ll never get over that.
“I take full responsibility,” he added.
Barkley said Jordan’s fierce and well-documented competitiveness helped drive him on the court.
“You know if you lose to him, No. 1, you’re never going to hear the end of it,” Barkley said. “Listen, there’s no other person — as great as he was, there’s no person in my life I ever met that I wanted to beat more in basketball. Because when you lose to him, you’ve got to hear about it every day for the rest of your life.”
He added: “That’s what made him the GOAT. He takes everything personally.”
Even if he was bitter about losing a tight series to Jordan and the Bulls in 1993, Barkley had nothing but respect for His Airness and cherished his time playing opposite him.
“It was an honor and a privilege to compete against him,” Barkley said of Jordan. “No disrespect to Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain. The best I’ve ever seen in my life is Michael Jordan, and it was an honor and a privilege to play against him. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Check out the clip of Barkley from episode six of “The Last Dance” below:
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