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Charles Barkley Arizona

The approval meter always had two ends and no center, just the way Charles Barkley liked it. You either enjoyed Barkley's rough and tumble basketball style and his shoot-from-the-hip mouth, or you hated it. The wide-bodied forward left no room for middle ground. A perennial All-Star, All-NBA and All-Interview selection during his 16 seasons in the NBA, Barkley made a career of outmaneuvering and outsmarting bigger players, while also overpowering smaller opponents. "He's an emotional player, and that emotion is what makes him great," said Philadelphia 76ers coach, Jimmy Lynam.

After graduating high school, Barkley attended Auburn University. During his three-year career at Auburn, Charles set school records in field goal percentage and blocked shots and continues to be ranked among the Tigers' all-time leaders in rebounding and scoring. He was nicknamed "the Round Mound of Rebound" for his hefty size and for his powerful rebounding style and was selected as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 1984.

Forgoing his senior season to become a pro, Barkley was chosen number five by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 1984 draft, which also included legendary players Michael Jordan, Akeem Olajuwon and John Stockton. Barkley played at a more consistent weight as a pro and made an instant impact. Starting 60 of 82 games, he averaged 14 points and 8.6 rebounds, and made the NBA All-Rookie Team. The Sixers lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals that season, beginning Barkley's most disappointing legacy: Never winning an NBA championship.

Despite his weight, Charles had a 39-inch vertical leap, terrific quickness and unique physical talent. In his second season, he averaged 12.8 rebounds - the second-best in the league. His third year with the Sixers brought a rebound title and the first of eleven consecutive All-Star Game honors. By the 1987-88 season, he was a first-team all-league choice and on his way to superstardom.

Barkley spent eight impressive seasons in Philadelphia, earning seven All-NBA selections, six All-Star game berths and the 1991 All-Star MVP award. His awe-inspiring play demanded full respect and earned him a new nickname: Sir Charles. Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992, the same year he won a gold medal as the leading scorer for the United States' Dream Team at the Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Barkley found new life in Phoenix and won the NBA MVP award in his first season with the Suns. Although he struggled with nagging injuries over the next two seasons, Barkley maintained a high level of play. Charles was selected for his eighth consecutive NBA All-Star Game in 1994 but chose not to play due to injury. After four seasons in the Valley of the Sun, Barkley was traded to the Houston Rockets in 1996.

That year would prove to be an historic one for Barkley. In the summer, he joined his former Dream Team teammates at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, delivering another gold medal-winning performance. During the season, Charles scored his 20,000th point and grabbed his 10,000th rebound, joining the elite company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone as the only players to do so. Barkley was further honored in 1996 by being named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

Barkley was rejuvenated when he joined the Rockets, but the chance to grab that elusive championship ring never materialized. After announcing that his fourth season in Houston would be his last in the NBA, his time on the court ended sooner than expected. In December of 1999, Charles suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his left knee that would sideline him until the final game of the season in April when he came back to play one last time before the home fans in Houston.

After his official retirement, Barkley continued to earn honors. His jersey number (34) was retired in 2001 by the Sixers and by Auburn University. He was named the Sports Illustrated 2002 "Personality of the Year" and joined other renowned players in the Suns Ring of Honor when Phoenix retired his jersey number (34) in 2004.

Off the court, he has appeared in many innovative and memorable television commercials and remains a much sought-after endorser. He has written two books, appeared in several motion pictures and has his own Nike shoe called "CB4." Barkley remains an integral part of the game as a critically acclaimed and popular studio commentator on TNT's Emmy Award-winning post-game show Inside the NBA. He is also a frequent color commentator and a regular contributor to CNN's TalkBack Live.

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