The Last Dance: 93′ Finals Loss Was Segue Into Charles Barkley’s Defining Moment

On this day, 26 years ago, Charles Barkley cemented his legacy among NBA playoff immortals by scoring 56 points against Golden State to complete a first-round playoff sweep. Barkley shot 23-of-31 from the floor with 14 rebounds and 3 steals in a 140-133 Phoenix win. 

It stands as the third-highest point total in an NBA playoff game.

It was some personal redemption and a much need consolation prize for a 1993 season that not only saw him and his Phoenix Suns squad become Jordan victim No 3, but Barkley also got punked by Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell in a Nike commercial.

“Nike had made the Chris Webber commercial about him dunking on me,” Barkley said on ESPN this morning. “So they called me in the middle of the season and said, ‘Hey Charles, we want to do this commercial with you and Chris Webber.’  Hey, I love Chris Webber — who should have been in the Hall of Fame five years ago…But I didn’t know they were going to do a commercial of Chris Webber dunking on me. So when I saw the commercial I just started laughing and I said ‘I gotta get this dude back’.  And that’s the one thing I remember. I gotta get this guy back. 

That dope commercial was part of a 1993 Nike basketball campaign, directed by Joe Pytka, creative by Stacy Wall and Jelly Helm, featuring George Gervin, David Robinson, Artis Gilmore, Dennis Rodman, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell, Chris Mullin, Vernon Maxwell, Mitch Richmond, David Banks and comedian Joe Torry. 

When Chuck got a chance to get his sweet revenge the next season, he did so in emphatic fashion. That was Barkley. He was relentless.

We Were Great Too

One of the most satisfying aspects of The Last Dance — a 10-part docu-series about Michael Jordan and the dynasty Chicago Bulls’ final season together in 97-98 — is not so much the focus on Jordan’s greatness, but how the legacies of his teammates and fiercest rivals are being enhanced through this extensive doc. 

Youngsters can get a better understanding of the dynamics of the league. The relationship between the players and the NBA stars who helped enhance the league and boost its visibility and viability globally. Barkley’s role on that 1992 Olympic Dream Team, which is considered the greatest mix of basketball talent ever assembled, was pivotal on the court and his personality quickly elevated his notoriety as a player and helped his post-career success 

Magic Johnson raves about Barkley’s performance: ” Charles was our best player. He dominated all the opponents, he led us in scoring. He was amazing.” 

Most of post-millennials see Barkley as the fat guy from TNT always clowning with Shaq. Some who are aware of his NBA pass have unfathomably compared him to Draymond Green. 

The documentary offers insight and highlights and first-person accounts that hopefully enhances the understanding of how sensational the 6-foot-4 multi-faceted power forward was. And why he is considered amongst the greatest players of his era.  

Which unfortunately happens to be “The Jordan Era.” 

Charles Barkley was a beast on the court. We know this. That’s the basics. Not sure why we would entertain a conversation with anyone who would insinuate otherwise. Sure, he was another superstar that fell short against The GOAT Michael Jordan, but Chuck Wagon was at the height of his magnificence and undoubtedly, one of MJ’s competitive peers. 

Episode 5 & 6 of The Last Dance reinforced that. 

Barkley actually beat out Jordan for the League MVP in 93. After dipping from Philly, where his career began under the tutelage of Dr. J and Moses Malone, The “Mound Round of Rebound” had a career year with Phoenix, averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per game, led Phoenix to a 62-20 record and then to the NBA Finals. It would be the closest he ever came to a championship. 

“That year during the regular season I played better than he did, my team had the best record. Jordan was the best player but I deserved MVP,” Barkley said.

Jordan averaged 41 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists in the 1993 Finals. Barkley was also formidable, averaging 27.3 points and 13 rebounds. He also said that his biggest regret is that he didn’t have his team ready for Game 1 against Chicago. Barkley says “the moment was too big” for his team, who lost the series in six games (4-2).  

As the years passed, Barkley’s brand transcended the game of basketball and he’s become a leading character, sort of speak, in this media mosh pit. While his celebrity has grown, his legacy as an NBA player has unjustifiably taken a hit.

His Game 7 in the 1993 Western Conference Finals has also been somewhat forgotten, but it’s the stuff of legends.

People tend to credit Jordan with being the ultimate competitor because he would smack up an underperforming teammate, challenge guys aggressively, had an insatiable thirst for victory, and his team never lost in the Finals. As the Last Dance shows us, MJ took some lumps and lost some playoff series before all of the pieces fell into place. The Hall of Famers who went against Jordan and pushed him to his ultimate performance should also be acknowledged for their individual accomplishments. They had legendary moments too. Barkley certainly did.

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