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'Once you come to Auburn, you're part of the family' - Charles Barkley statue unveiled
Charles Barkley says everyone who has played basketball at Auburn deserves a piece of his statue. Photo: Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics
Nov. 29, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - When Charles Barkley delivers a speech, of course the opening line will be a punchline.

"I appreciate the skinny version," Barkley said, moments after his statue was unveiled Saturday outside Auburn Arena.

After drawing laughs, the 1984 SEC Player of the Year turned serious.

"Everybody who ever played basketball at Auburn deserves a piece of this statue," Barkley said. "Anytime you accomplish anything in life, it's a group effort."
Barkely Statue

Barkley's basketball accomplishments are statue-worthy. He led Auburn to the program's first NCAA Tournament berth and was the MVP of the SEC Tournament in 1984.

In 84 games at Auburn, Barkley averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. Beginning with Barkley's final season, Auburn made five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

"I made the best decision of my life in 1981 coming here," said Barkley, the No. 5 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. "I tell people, `This is the greatest place in the world.' It's a wonderful place. Every time I come here, I feel like I'm going to a family reunion."

His statue serving as a backdrop, Barkley addressed Auburn's Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs ("I want to thank Auburn. Jay, thank you for everything you did for Auburn and for me") and former Auburn coach Sonny Smith ("Coach Smith, you know I love you like a father. You mean the world to me, you and your wife, Jan").

Barkley introduced his wife and daughter, recognized one of his teachers from Leeds High School near Birmingham, acknowledged his former teammates, and complimented Auburn coach Bruce Pearl and the current Auburn basketball players, seated nearby.

He then saluted Bo Jackson ("The greatest thing in my life I've seen is watching Bo Jackson play in high school and college").

After leaving Auburn 33 years ago, Barkley played 16 seasons in the NBA, made 11 All-Star teams and won two Olympic gold medals.

"When I got here in '81, I never expected my life to turn out like it did today," Barkley said, concluding his remarks. "I've fulfilled all of my goals, dreams and ambitions, and it all started here. From the bottom of my heart, I just want to thank everybody, and to the day I die, `War Eagle!'"

<em> Charles Barkley takes part in Tiger Walk before Auburn's Iron Bowl win. Photo: Dakota Sumpter/Auburn Athletics</em>
Charles Barkley takes part in Tiger Walk before Auburn's Iron Bowl win. Photo: Dakota Sumpter/Auburn Athletics

It's been nearly 18 years since Barkley's final NBA game, yet he remains one of the game's most influential voices. Barkley uses his broadcasting platform to serve as a brand ambassador for Auburn.

"I travel around with the Auburn brand on the front of my chest and on my back also," he said. "It just means a great deal to me and my family."

Barkley supports Auburn with his words and his wallet. A member of The Oaks Society, he's contributed more than $1 million to Auburn Athletics through Tigers Unlimited.

Speaking to reporters a few feet in front of his statue, Barkley shared what he hopes his statue will represent to the next generation of Auburn people.

"I want them to think that once you come to Auburn, you're part of the family," he said. "I've been gone since 1984, but any time I come to Auburn, they make me feel like it's a family reunion. You look at Pat Sullivan, you look at Bo, you look at Cam, guys who have statues, you're always part of the Auburn family. And I want everybody who comes here to know that."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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