Charles Barkley’s place in NBA history is largely defined by Michael Jordan. Barkley, like many superstars of the 1990s, never won a championship because he happened to run into Jordan in the middle of his best chance. Barkley’s Phoenix Suns lost the 1993 NBA Finals to Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and he never made it back there.
Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing all fall in the same boat. Jordan was such a relentless competitor that he managed to deny all of them championships and their proper places in history. That competitiveness was not limited to the basketball court, though. Barkley went on “SportsCenter” on Sunday night after episodes 5 and 6 of “The Last Dance” aired and told a story about Jordan’s habits as a card player during the 1992 Olympics. No matter what, Jordan always made a habit of trying to “buy the pot,” or making an enormous bet that nobody could match. Why? He just wanted to see where everyone’s breaking point was.
“Every night, not one night, not two nights, not 10 nights, me, Magic, Scottie and Michael played cards every single night,” Barkley said. “But Michael tried to buy the pot every single night. It was really awesome. Me and Scottie don’t have as much money as Michael and Magic, but we knew that no matter what the cards were, at the end of the night, or three or four times per night, Michael was always gonna try to buy the pot, and just like he always says, ‘what’s your breaking point of going all in.'”
That was Jordan’s strategy. He didn’t just want to beat his opponents, he wanted to break them. “That’s what made him the GOAT,” Barkley said of his competitive nature.
“He takes everything personally,” Barkley said. “It was an honor and a privilege to compete against him. Like I said, 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 was the best I’ve ever seen.”