The Last Dance: Barkley thought he was world’s best player until 1993 Finals

Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley (Photo by BRIAN BAHR / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns lost to the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals and although Charles Barkley and played with Michael Jordan a lot before then, it was Game-2 of this series when Barkley realized who the better player was.

Charles Barkley is awesome, but his constant presence on TNT in the modern media makes it easy for you to forget (or young people to realize) that he was an absolute beast back in his playing days, and his pinnacle was 1993 with the Phoenix Suns.

Barkley won the MVP that year and faced off against Michael Jordan‘s Bulls in the Finals. Episode 6 of The Last Dance chronicled that matchup and provided some juicy behind-the-scenes commentary.

Going into the series, Jordan recalled:

"“I was a little bit upset I didn’t get MVP that year and they gave it to Charles Barkely, but with that said, I was like, ‘Okay, fine. You can have that, I’m gonna get this.'”"

By “this,” of course, he meant his third straight NBA Championship.

You can say a lot about Charles Barkley, but no one can say he’s not honest. The Bulls beat the Suns in Game-1 and Game-2, of which Barkley said:

"“We lost Game-1 because we were so nervous, but in Game-2 I played as well as I could play, and Michael just out-played me. That was the first time in my life I felt there was a better basketball player in the world than me, to be honest with you.”"

Granted, Chuck did just win the MVP, but he also played with Jordan on the 1992 Dream Team, and come on, it’s Michael Jordan. How did he think he was better than him? Evidently he did, and as he did to countless others, Jordan proved him wrong.

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That led to Game-3 where the Phoenix Suns won in triple overtime. Of that game, Barkley said, “Not to brag on myself, but I wasn’t going to let us lose that game.” And he didn’t. Barkley had 24 points and 19 rebounds in the Game-3 victory.

But the Suns gave up Game-4, the Bulls had a chance to lose it out in Chicago in Game-5 and the city was already prepping for the celebration. Barkley remembered like this:

"“They were boarding up the windows. They want you to celebrate with class. By the time you got to the arena, you’re steaming to be honest with you. Like, guys, we cannot lose this game.”"

Once again, they didn’t, and it really annoyed the Bulls. Sure, they were upset they lost the game, but Jordan and Phil Jackson made it sound like they really didn’t want to have to fly back to Phoenix.

That’s when Jordan got on the plane and addressed his team:

"“Everyone’s dreading getting back on the plane and going back to Phoenix. So I just say, “Look, man. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m only packing one suit. We going back to win one game. I’m to going back there to play two games.”"

Only one suit. That is some confidence. Of course, the worst thing that could happen is that he wears the same suit two games in a row or have to run out and get another between games, but still, the man believed in himself. And why not? Despite what Mikal Bridges might think, he was probably the best to play the game.

Charles Barkley seems to think so. Looking back at his Finals loss, he said:

"“Michael had that ability that he was not going to let them lose. I have no shame in losing to Michael. Losing to Michael, there’s no shame in that. Sports are like a gunfight, and we lost to the fastest gun.”"

Since this quote came right after they showed highlights of John Paxson‘s game-winning 3-pointer in Game-6, I kept waiting for him to say something like, “But losing to John Paxton was like losing to a water pistol,” but he didn’t. That was my own internal monologue.

For a guy as confident as Sir Charles, it sounds like the 1993 Finals humbled him. Still, he is one of the best players to ever grace a Suns jersey and while every Phoenix Suns fan wish they would have won it all in 1993, like he said, there’s no shame in losing to Michael Jordan.

Next. Michael Jordan's history against the Phoenix Suns. dark