Sept. 12, 2006
By PAT EATON-ROBB
Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Charles Barkley played the comedian Friday during his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But, behind the scenes, he also sounded a lot like a role model.
He drew laughs by thanking his financial adviser for protecting his money but threw in a little advice for today's players.
"I tell all these young kids, the money you make, save it, put it in the bank. That money has to last you the rest of your lifetime, don't waste it," he said.
At the pre-induction news conference, he also took those players to task for a selfish style, and pointed to his own highlight films for those looking for an example of how the game should be played.
"I always tried as hard as I possibly could," Barkley said. "I like seeing that on tape. Today, they want to be stars. They don't want to be great players. We wanted to be great players."
Barkley averaged 22 points and almost 12 rebounds in 16 NBA seasons that included stops in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston. But it was his charismatic personality and outspoken style that made him a superstar.
He put that style on display Friday night, with one-liners about not finishing his college education and being arrested several times.
"I was always acquitted," he said.
But there was a message behind the humor.
He made headlines in a 1993 Nike television spot, when he solemnly warned the audience, "I am not a role model. ... parents should be role models."
He said Friday that he was proud he started that conversation, and believes he is supposed to do great things with the fame that basketball has given him.
"Basketball is really important and significant in my life, but it's the least important thing," he said. "When I was able to give a million dollars to buy houses for the (Hurricane Katrina) evacuees, that was more important to me than anything I ever accomplished on the basketball court."
Barkley was enshrined with two other NBA greats, Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars, former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt, Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma and Italian coach Sandro Gamba.
Barkley, Auriemma and Gavitt were first-ballot selections.
Dumars was the good guy on the Bad Boys, the Detroit Pistons teams in 1989 and 1990 that won championships, and also included more high-profile stars, such as Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman.
"I wasn't concerned about the marquee board," said Dumars, who played his entire 14-year career in Detroit. "That's never mattered to me and I gladly let others step forward and do that. If there was a championship that year, then my whole focus was just that."
Like Barkley, Wilkins never won a championship. But he was a nine-time NBA All-Star and a two-time NBA Slam Dunk champion known as "the Human Highlight Film" for his above-the-rim acrobatics.
"At a time when our league was being elevated, he was iconic for what he could do with the basketball," said NBA commissioner David Stern.
Wilkins said he wants to be remembered for being a complete player.
"Dunking was just a small part of my game," he said. "Dunking was just an intimidating tool I used. I had a much more rounded game than just dunking. To get 26,000 points, you don't get them all on dunks."
Gamba began playing basketball to rehabilitate hands injured when he was hit by machine gun fire as a 12-year-old boy during World War II.
He coached European basketball for more than three decades, including four consecutive Italian Olympic teams from 1980-92. His team won a silver medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and gold at the 1983 European Championships.
Auriemma already has five national championship trophies at Connecticut and is closing in on winning his 600th career game next season. He joins UConn men's coach Jim Calhoun in the Hall of Fame.
On Friday, Auriemma said all Big East coaches owe their careers to Gavitt, who helped form the league in 1979 and served as its first commissioner.
Gavitt also was president of USA Basketball and is credited with putting together the original 1992 Dream Team that won the gold medal in Barcelona, a team that featured Barkley, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
"Barkley was the best player on that team," Gavitt said.
One of the night's most emotional moments came when Gavitt was escorted on stage by Hall of Fame coaches Calhoun, John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca and Jim Boeheim.
Gavitt used his speech to urge everyone in basketball to do more to ensure that players who do not make it to the NBA are given opportunities to continue their education and succeed in life.
"There are too many bodies beside the side of the road," he said.