Phoenix Suns MVP, Charles Barkley really is a role model

Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Charles Barkley (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Charles Barkley is one of the greatest Phoenix Suns players to ever suit up in the purple and orange but he is an even better person.

Contrary to his “I am not a role model” Nike ad, Phoenix Suns legend, Charles Barkley, has become one.

We have all heard the stories of Charles Barkley’s off-court, younger-day antics, and now we get to hear his great insight on TNT every week. But after working with the Suns for 18 years, I have had the opportunity to meet, get to know some great people and players.

Barkley is one of them.

Phoenix Suns legend, Charles Barkley, really is a role model.

Phoenix exploded with the news that Jerry Colangelo and their Suns had just traded for a bonafide superstar…not an Allstar, one of the best! The Valley was transformed, from the long and distant days of the historic “Madhouse” on McDowell to the new home of the Suns, the Purple Palace.

If you were here in town that year, you know it wasn’t just where the Suns played, the city bled purple and orange everywhere, including Phoenix Suns colored cars, buildings, banners, flags, and posters of fans proclaiming their love for their team!

The “Knight” of the Phoenix Kingdom was Sir Charles.

But this is where the basketball Charles part of this story ends…for the most part.

Charles is one of those bigger-than-life stars that cares about everyone that he has had any meaningful contact with.

A great example is the scared-to-death 23-year-old assistant video coordinator, Jae, a former ballboy for the Suns who was asked to shave (for the first time ever) Barkley’s bald dome.

He shaved Barkleys head in the empty Suns’ locker room on New Year’s Eve day…then Barkley invited him to his New Year’s Eve party that night.

In Chicago, a nice night in June on Rush Street, the day before game-four of the NBA Finals of the 1992-1993 season. My wife and I get out of our rental, as I was shutting her door I hear, “Kenny Glenn!”

I turned and it was Charles walking up the sidewalk. We chatted and he said “Let’s get a drink,” so we ducked into a popular Chicago bar.

As we walked in, it was jammed packed…but just like Moses, Barkley led the way and the crowd parted very wide. We arrived at the end of the bar and grabbed some drinks. Around the corner of the bar were Chicago Cub players, drinking and talking to fans.

Of course, the fans left their Chicago heroes and all gathered around us…er…Charles. He’s literally a magnet to sports fans and they love him.

But there is so much more to Charles Barkley.

We had a fiery marketing assistant in the Suns’ office named Marliss. She would end up being Charles’ “bodyguard” as we would joke about it, Marliss handled a lot of his local appearances.

Charles had arranged with her a secret appearance, one that would end up being an annual appearance going forward. No media were allowed, which was always the case when Barkley visited sick kids in the hospital and the like, but this was different.

Every Christmas with Barkley, Marliss would arrange for a bus that would pick her and Charles up, they would travel to a local homeless shelter. Once there, they would pick up all the kids in the shelter and they all would head to Toys R Us. The kids could grab as many toys as they and their parents could hold and Barkley would cover the costs.

He did this not for media attention, it is who he is as a person.

One of the things I admire most about Charles the person is he’s a good friend. At a drop of that, Charles would drop what he was doing to help or be with a friend.

Related Story. Barkley thought he was better than Michael Jordan until the 93 playoffs. light

Paola Boivin of AZ Central sports once wrote:

"“Before TNT broadcaster Craig Sager received a rare third bone marrow transplant on Wednesday to fight an aggressive form of leukemia, doctors sent his wife, Stacy, home from the hospital because they feared she could transmit her bad cold to her husband.According to the Associated Press, TNT colleague and Valley icon Charles Barkley heard she couldn’t stay, so he jumped on a plane from Phoenix to hang with Sager in his Houston hospital.”"

When Charles moved on from the Suns with a trade to the Houston Rockets, his “Bodyguard” because of her husband’s transfer, moved on to Alabama where she would end up working for the Unversity of Auburn.

At least once a year she would always hear a haunting voice from the crowd at the Auburn vs Alabama Iron Bowl game. “Marliss!”  It was Barkley back at his old University catching the big game.

In November of 2017, we lost a member of our Suns family, Marliss. It was relayed to me by my former boss that Charles had flown down a week before her death to be with her and her family.

That’s what friends do.

More from Valley of the Suns

Many of you know about what Phoenix Suns great, Paul Westphal, is currently going through for his brain cancer and treatment. His wife Cindy has been doing an amazing job of keeping us…family, friends, and fans all updated on what Westy’s progress on Facebook.

Like Mr. Rogers with people visiting his neighborhood, Paul has had family members and some amazing friends stopping by see him…from lifelong friends like Alvan Adams to Actor Jim Caviezel and of course Charles Barkley.

With a few days off from his TNT schedule, Charles jumped on a plane to come out to see his old coach and friend.

Cindy Westphal writes, “You got me out of jail,” Charles told Paul. As Kai and Maile’s (Paul’s grandkids) mouths dropped open, we had to quickly explain, “No, Charles wasn’t really in jail. He means *basketball jail,* kids. :)”

Cindy went on to explain that Westy was the first one to ever call Charles, “Chuck” and it stuck. Coach Westphal pretty much only used “Chuck” from that point on, at least when I would hear him.

After reminiscing for a couple of hours, Cindy finished with:

"“Charles to Paul…” I’ve said this before, but I want to say it again in front of your baby girl and your grandchildren. You are a really good person. Authentic. And it isn’t easy to find authentic in the NBA. They’re there, but it isn’t easy. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I love you.”"

Like Paul Westphal, Charles Barkley is a good person, authentic, and now a role model.

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