When I interviewed Charles Barkley for my oral history of Dirk Nowitzki, one of the conditions of the interview was that I speak to Chuck about the All-Star Game, since TNT broadcasts it and they’re the ones who set up the chat. So I did. After the jump, you’ll find a handful of Qs and As that — I’ll be honest — I sort of raced through to get to the Dirk stuff. One genuinely funny response from Barkley about a former NBA ref had to be excised, because I promised a panicked TNT publicist in the heat of the moment. Stupid ethics.
[Note: I had a slow trigger finger that day for some reason, so we begin mid-conversation. Just imagine I had a dazzling icebreaker that got Barkley talking. Or a sort of awkward stumbling intro, and he just started talking because he can’t stop. Either way.]
CHARLES BARKLEY: You know, I hope they open up the roof; I just think it’ll lend a really cool element to the All-Star Game. I tried to get them to do it in Phoenix last year, and I hope they do it in Dallas this year. I got a couple friends down there. Tim Cowlishaw tells me it’s spectacular in there, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
ZC: Do you think maybe this time you can take on referee Dick Bavetta in a marathon, running around the stadium?
CB: No, because I think he might beat me. He might beat me sprinting, big as I am now.
ZC: Maybe you guys can just compete on punting balls off the scoreboard.
CB: The way things are going I might be competing against replacement officials.
ZC: Right. What do you think the league is going to be like if they have to use replacements?
CB: [Redacted by TNT’s PR team. But it was funny. I know: weak. But I needed the interview for the story on Dirk. So deal with it.]
ZC: What’s your favorite All-Star Game so far as a broadcaster?
CB: Um, they’re not fun for me. We work like a damn dog. They’re not fun for me. I’ve lost my voice every year, because, well, we start out doing the game on Thursday, then I have to do the satellite tour all day Friday, then we have to do the Rookie Game, then Saturday is the slam dunk and all the pre-game shows. I mean, I’ve lost my voice pretty much every year. It’s a lot of work…it’s a lot of work. So it ain’t a lot of fun for me, Kenny [Smith] and Ernie [Johnson].
ZC: What’s your favorite as a player?
CB: [ignores the question] You know what, I’m gonna go out on a limb here … no, it’s not the same, but we probably work more doing All-Star Weekend than we work doing the regular season almost combined.
CB: During the season, we on like five minutes before the game, three to five minutes at halftime. Normally we don’t have time in between games so just five minutes at half time. We’re only on TV probably 15 minutes. And then those four days at All-Star Weekend we’re probably on TV like 10 hours, basically. And it’s a long weekend.
ZC: Like a telethon.
ZC: [trying again to ask anything ASG-related] Well, what was your favorite as a player?
CB: Oh, I think probably my first one. I think it was in Seattle. Because it’s really a cool event for the players. ‘Cause, you know, even though the guys are your friends, you only see them once a year when you play, and it’s like, “Hello, how’s your family, blah, blah, blah.” During the All-Star Game you get everybody together and talk about what the whole weekend is gonna be like and you can hang out with your friends, practice together, so it’s a really cool thing for the players.