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AXE FILES: One-on-One Interview with NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 31, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:0013] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight on the Axe Files --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's have some fun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always outspoken NBC hall of famer Charles Barkley on turmoil in the Trump era.
CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I have never been nor angry and disgusted at the situation I am now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Race relations in America.
BARKLEY: Anybody who say race relations on bail that is just idiotic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And his legendary basketball career.
BARKLEY: I said I will get you ten rebounds a night in my sleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to THE AXE FILES.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Charles, good to see you.
BARKLEY: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
AXELROD: Lots to talk about, but I want to start by going backward and talking about Leads, Alabama, where you grew up.
AXELROD: I read somewhere about the first day of Leads elementary school, and that there were some folks who weren't that happy that you were there because you were one of the first black students to integrate this school.
BARKLEY: I was a little kid. We don't understand how are stuff is going on. But it taught me a lot about life that I actually use today because there were more people who were nice to us and who weren't nice to us and I try to use that. Anytime I'm involved with a conversation on race, you can't blanket any group. I mean I'm very particular about that, when I have that conversation. You don't blanket. Like all Muslims are not terrorist. All Hispanics are not all illegal immigrants. I always parse my words because I think it's important.
AXELROD: I think I saw an interview year ago with your mom that you said that in those early days, maybe it was the first day that your grandmother took you to school and past some protesters and had a pistol in her purse just in case.
BARKLEY: Well, my grandmother is - she is the greatest person ever my life, but she's a regular --
AXELROD: Johnny May Edwards.
BARKLEY: Johnny May Edwards, and she was are regular Annie Oakley. She was always packing heat. My grandmother, she was tough. She didn't take any BS off anybody. But she always had her piece and was not afraid to use it if push came to shove.
AXELROD: You lived right near Birmingham.
AXELROD: She was involved in that civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s.
BARKLEY: My grandmother always growing up talked about civil rights, to talk about Martin Luther King, Medger Evers, even Malcolm X. But she always talked about always remember these people. I mean she always talked about. Even when I was a - especially when I was a little kid, but even when I became a teenager (INAUDIBLE), please don't forget because she is the reason that Mohamed Ali is the greatest sports influence in my life. I mean, she talked about these people all the time. And I really appreciate her giving me that foundation.
BARKLEY: She worked in a meat packing plant.
AXELROD: My mom was a maid and my grandmother worked in a meat packing factory. And they worked so hard. Because you know I have had two brothers who passed away, so it was four of us total in the beginning. But they worked so hard, obviously you are not making a lot of money as a maid, and you are not making a lot of money in a meat factory. But we didn't feel like we were poor. We didn't know it, but we were. But we never felt like that. We always had meals. We always had good clothing. They did an amazing job.
AXELROD: But race was -- you were born in the year the four little girls were in Birmingham -- killed in the church in Birmingham. So there had to be some sense of edge.
BARKLEY: There was always an edge, but you didn't know what it was until you started getting older. You know, the really sad thing about all this stuff is they bomb the church the year I was born, and now in 2018 we are still having race problems. So I just turned 55 so I can count. So for 55 years we still have this the BS or racism going on.
We should grow as people. We should grow as a country. You know, Mohamed Ali, I was reading up on him when he passed away, and he said if you are the same person at 50 than you were at 20, you wasted 30 years.
AXELROD: And then you did an interview in 2005 with my old boss, Barack Obama, just after he got elected to the Senate. And he wrote some very and said some very nice things about him. And you said he has the qualities of someone who could run for president of the United States. But you didn't believe that he could get elected president of the United States.
[19:05:09] BARKLEY: I never thought in my lifetime we would have a black president. Never thought that. But what I said was he has the "it" factor. When you talk to him you are like, he is the smartest guy in the room. He has charisma. He has personality. And I can't remember verbatim, I said he's going to be something amazing one day.
I never thought he was going to be president. I never thought of lifetime I would see a black president. And I remember the night he got elected. I was sitting around with a bunch of my friends. And I got really emotional and teary-eyed, and they are like, dude, are you all right? And I said you guys don't understand. I'm from the south. And the notion that in my lifetime there's a black president, I'm in shock. I mean I just couldn't believe it.
AXELROD: Let me ask you, do you think that Trump is kind of a reaction to Obama?
BARKLEY: No question. No question the people -- it's kind of like an overreaction. The situation with President Trump is a total overreaction. And I just feel bad because you see anti-Semitism, racism. People feel emboldened to do things and say things now.
AXELROD: Do you think he encourages that?
BARKLEY: Yes, of course, he does encourage it. The way he talks about Muslims, the way he talks about pass panics, some of his interactions with blacks, he definitely encourages it. And I feel bad because --.
AXELROD: Why do you think he does it?
BARKLEY: Well, I think he panders to his base. I don't know if he won the presidency. I think they were voting against Miss Clinton more than anything. I really believe that. I think it's like they had two choices and they are like we don't like her. And this guy here is out of the norm. He wants to quote-unquote "drain the swamp." I think that's why she lost the election. She lost it and he didn't win it. But his actions, the way he has treated minorities has emboldened these other racists to be more bold, plain and simple.
AXELROD: You said other racists. You feel he is a racist?
BARKLEY: You know, I'm leery to call anybody a racist but some of the things he has said - because, you know, if you really pay attention because I pay attention to politics.
AXELROD: I know you do. BARKLEY: When a certain minority does something, he calls them out.
But when that white kid shot up that church in Charleston, he didn't say let's deport all white. When he got shot at the church down in Texas, he doesn't say let's get rid all whites. He only talks about his immigration plan when it concerns minorities. But when some whites have done some crazy things, he never says, hey, let's deport all these white people. Even you go back to Charlottesville, he did condemn white supremacists.
AXELROD: What impact do you think that has on the country?
BARKLEY: Well, it makes minorities feel like they aren't welcome. I actually -- I live in Arizona. I think the Hispanics are amazing people. I think they do a lot of work - the blacks and whites don't want to do, I think they would behind, though. Do they have some bad Hispanics? Of course they do. Do we have the bad Muslims? Of course we do. But I believe that most of majority of Muslim, people in this country are amazing and hardworking people. But the President has done an awful job or trying to be inclusive.
When you talk about building a wall, when you talk about deporting -- like right now we are spending all our time talking about Stormy Daniels, Russia. We got all these kids with DACA who we need, who are amazing people, who we need to stay here, we never talk about them.
I mean I'm so disgusted with the whole thing to be honest with you. Because, like, we got the worst public school system in the world. You know, people talk about economic opportunity. There's only economic opportunity if you are rich.
AXELROD: One of the reasons that you are so popular, beloved is you say whatever the hell you want.
BARKLEY: Yes, sir.
AXELROD: You know, you don't edit yourself.
BARKLEY: I do not.
AXELROD: And people say that guy is authentic. I may not believe in him but I believe him.
BARKLEY: That's important to me. My job on television is to be honest. Because if somebody in Montana, South Dakota, L.A., Maine, Rhode Island, they are supposed to believe what I say. And I take great pride in that.
AXELROD: The reason I ask this is Trump supporters say he speaks his mind. He is authentic. Do you think that is part of his appeal?
[19:10:03] BARKLEY: I think that's some of his appeal. But I think nobody ever wants to look in the mirror and say it's my fault. I think he reached a demographic that won't look in the mirror and says my life sucks because of me. Then he came right after President Obama and some people are like, wow, we got a black president. They're not happy with that. And I think it was just a perfect storm. And listen, I never talk about bad about the President. Like I'm
going to be factual. I have never been more angry and disgusted at this situation than I am now. This turmoil every single day, the tweeting, the hiring and firing, like, dude, I'm blessed and you are, too. Like it really isn't going to have a big effect on our life, but I actually have humanity.
I want everybody to have a good life. I want everybody to have a good job. I want their kids to go to school. I want their kids to be safe. I want everybody to have economic opportunity. And I want to make sure we don't forget about DACA. Our public schools -- I don't want to forget about those poor people in Puerto Rico, either. You know, I was watching the news last night and still six months out they don't have power. We don't even mentioned them anymore. And we are wasting all our time on Russia and Stormy Daniels. It is ridiculous.
AXELROD: You don't think Russia thing is an issue?
BARKLEY: I do not. I think it's probably true -- but I'm pretty sure in area election, state, local, national, somebody can get some dirt on somebody if they wanted to. What good --
AXELROD: Isn't that a concern, though?
BARKLEY: What's the end game, is my question. Is he going to get -- is he going to lose his job? Is he going to be impeached? First of all, I don't want Russia interfering in our election, and I'm pretty sure they did. And we just wasted --.
AXELROD: So you think it is a distraction?
BARKLEY: It's definitely a distraction. We have spent the last year talking about Russia every single day. Now we got Stormy. Now we got another girl. And I'm sitting here saying when are we actually going to help the people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up next on THE AXE FILES.
BARKLEY: Everybody in my life have voted Democrat our entire life. And now we are starting to like, how much has it really helped them?
[19:16:49] You have done a series of shows on race and you travel around the country talking to people about race. And you hear that things are worse than they were before --
BARKLEY: No, that's not true.
AXELROD: Then I think about your childhood in Alabama and what was going on back then, and, you know, I wonder if -- BARKLEY: Yes. First of all, anyone who says race relations aren't
better, that's just idiotic. Racism does exist and always will, but for people to say things aren't better that's just ridiculous.
I mean I can actually enter a restaurant I want to. I can go to the same bathroom and drink out of the same water fountain. That stuff, but what I talk about is economic racism, when you don't give people economic opportunity. And I actually think that we spend too much time talking about race.
America is divided by economics. Racism does exist. I'm not giving anybody a pass on that. But what America has become, rich people against poor people. We put all the poor people in bad neighborhoods. We send them to bad schools. We don't give them economic opportunity. We spend so much time talking about racism. We are over here like wait a minute, somebody is calling me a name and things like that, that's just ignorant. I ignore that. But how do we balance the economic situation? That to me is the biggest problem we've got in this country right now.
AXELROD: One of the things that I remember from that series is you went to Baltimore where the issuing of policing is really --
BARKLEY: Yes. You know, I was bothered by that because some people in the black community say I support the cops. And I say you damn right I support the cops. I always support the cops. That does not mean I want unarmed black men killed or police doing anything illegal. Two things can be correct. First of all, if it wasn't for the cops, we would be living in the wild, wild west. But some of my critics have tried to say just because I support the cops I'm for unarmed black men getting killed and things like that, and that's really unfair. That's just really unfair.
And I can deal with the criticism. Like I say I'm going to always support the cops because we need them. That being said, I don't ever want any unarmed black men getting killed or being abused or anything like that.
AXELROD: There was this horrific massacre in Florida that sort of captivated the country. I come from Chicago. There are communities that are killing fields every day. And, you know, you talked earlier about your grandmother being Annie Oakley. And you got famously pulled aside once with a gun in your car.
BARKLEY: I'm always carry my gun.
AXELROD: You're not armed now?
BARKLEY: No, not right now.
AXELROD: I might have to edit some of my questions if --
BARKLEY: No, I believe in carrying a gun. I do. And I'm never going to apologize for that. That being said, when it comes to guns they should do a comprehensive background check on everybody. I can't even believe we are having this conversation. Like if I walked into a Mercedes dealership and say give me that Mercedes, they wouldn't say go ahead and take it, we are about to credit later. They would do a background check and see if I can afford it.
We should be able to buy guns but we can click a button to find out every single thing you have done in your life but they don't even do that and that's ridiculous. They should be able to find out everything you have did in any state, any country and that's the least we could do.
[19:20:31] AXELROD: What about these semiautomatic weapons?
BARKLEY: Nobody needs that. There is no need for anybody to have a semiautomatic weapon, zero. They are just to kill people.
AXELROD: So most of America agrees on the things that you are saying. Certainly the background checks, majority never changes. Why?
BARKLEY: Well, because -- you know, these last couple presidential elections they cost a billion dollars for a job to pay $400,000. It's so much money involved in this stuff that's crazy. But there's so much money coming from all these special-interest groups. Our politics are so corrupt now. I don't even know if you can put the toothpaste back in the tube, but the NRA is so powerful.
AXELROD: You got involved in the Alabama Senate race --.
AXELROD: Between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. Why did you decide to go down and get involved?
BARKLEY: I was embarrassed for my state. You know, when I went down there, every news organization in the country was there. And why were they there? To see if we were stupid enough to vote for Roy Moore. They don't care about no Alabama Senate election. They were there to see the train wreck. And as a proud Alabamian, you know, I was disgusted and embarrassed that we were looking like idiots to the world.
Doug Jones was a good man. I don't know Roy Moore. I'm not a Roy Moore fan. But I was just embarrassed that my state was looking like it is around the country. When he brought in Steve Bannon, to me that was the last straw.
AXELROD: Why is that?
BARKLEY: Because he is a white separatist. We can't have a politician running for office that we know is white separatist. We can't have that. He brings in Steve Bannon, and I'm like, wait, you can't bring in a white separatist and run for a state office. You are supposed to represent everybody.
AXELROD: I remember on election night you said that Democrats had taken black voters for granted.
BARKLEY: You are Democrats, and I told Mr. Jones this and I love Doug, they have taken the black vote and the poor vote for granted for a long time.
I voted Democrat for 55 straight years. And first of all I want to make clear, I don't think Republicans are better. But I think we as black people have not held Democrats accountable for taking our votes for all these years. I look in my hometown, I don't think other than the fact I was able to dunk a basketball. And I don't see a lot of change in my neighborhood or my state.
I have an issue with both parties. But I think speaking as a democrat we -- we have not held the Democrats accountable. Like, I would say everybody in my life has voted Democrat our entire life. And now we are starting like, well, how much has it really helped us? Like I say we know the Republicans aren't better, let's get that out the way. But if you are going to have us vote for you, we got to held them accountable. Our neighborhoods are not better. Our schools are not better. Crime is not better. So we have got to start holding these politicians accountable.
AXELROD: While that race was going on in Alabama Trump launched this attack on Colin Kaepernick.
BARKLEY: Yes, I think what Colin Kaepernick did was amazing. Now, he is going to pay his black role. We is probably never going to play in the NFL again. The President hijacked the entire conversation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now out? He is fired.
BARKLEY: I don't think Colin had any disrespect for the flag. It's a really awful situation.
AXELROD: You know he was raising the issue you were speaking about before which is about police abuse of power.
BARKLEY: Yes. And the President hijacked the entire scenario. See, he did that in Alabama because he knew that was his red meat, you know. He plays to his audience very well.
[19:25:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ahead on THE AXE FILES.
BARKLEY: I hear these guys get on TV and talk about we got to play these players. I said, OK, how are you going to do it?
[19:29:36] AXELROD: You have talked before about athletes not being role models.
BARKLEY: I am not a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models.
AXELROD: Should athletes be political models, I mean?
BARKLEY: Well, I think it's up to each individual. First of all, that role model commercial is probably the best thing I ever did in my whole life because it sparked a nationwide debate. And what I was trying to do is get a conversation going. Because I noticed something, every black kid was thinking they were going to play pro- sports, and it was driving me crazy because, you know, we still have segregated schools in this country. So I have been to all these schools. And I noticed there is terrible trend. So I'm going to this white school and I say, hey, you guys what do you guys want to do? I said how many want to play pro-sports? It was only like five or seven percent raised their hands. I said what you want to do? I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be an engineer.
So then I go to a black school. I say how many of y'all want to play sports, they are like me, me, me, like 95 percent of them. So then, the group I got with me, they are like, dude, it's the same in every school. And as when I went to Nike, I say this is going to be controversial but I want to do it. I say but I can take a heat but it will start a dialogue. And even to this day I have people come up with me and say great commercial. Even today.
[19:31:00] AXELROD: I remember I was with you at the dedication of Bill Russell statue.
AXELROD: And I know he is sort of a mentor of yours.
BARKLEY: Bill Russel called me one time. And you know, Bill. I mean, I call him Mr. Russell. Everybody does. He says to me, he calls me one day and I saw his number come up. He says Charles Barkley, I said yes, sir, Mr. Russell. He says, hey you grew up in Alabama, right? I said, yes, sir. He says, did you go to public school? I say, yes, sir. He says, did the cops every come to your neighborhood? I say yes, sir. He says, OK, did a house catch on fire and the fire people come? He says. I say, yes, sir. He says, well, I do see your black ass on TV and complain about taxes (INAUDIBLE). And I says, what do you mean?" He says, so now you got money, you don't want to help other people out. But when you were four, other people took care of you. And I says, you know what, Mr. Russell, you will never hear my complain about my taxes again. And it was a very interesting lesson for me, because I do think rich people should pay more taxes. I'm blessed to me one of them and we should pay more in taxes. But I learned my lesson. I never complained about taxes.
AXELROD: The thing that was interesting about that was, you know, he was resistant to having a statue in Boston in part because he dealt with racism there. When he finally agreed to have the statue built he asked it be put outside the public library not the arena. And when you spoke there you talked about education, not about basketball. And you said you never talked to him about basketball. Is education a civil rights issue of our time?
BARKLEY: Education -- the problem is with black kids, they have brainwashed our kids to think they can only be great in athletics and entertainment. And 99.9 percent of people have to go out and get a real job. I never talk to these kids about athletics. Because like I say they are not going to be a Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan or Lebron James, Bill Russell.
I say, first of all, if you are, bless you. But the truth of the matter is most people in the world have to go out and get an education. And that goes on something else I talk about a lot. You know, the college system is not 100 percent great. But you know what? It's great to get a free education. Is everything perfect -- you know I hear these guys get on TV and talk about we got to pay these players. I said, OK, how are you doing it? Are you paying the basketball team? Are you paying the football team? Are you paying the swimming team? Are you paying the diving team? Are you paying girls teams? It is not there something. I don't want to hear anybody ever tell young black kids, getting a free education is not a great thing.
AXELROD: You start talked about the NCAA and should players be paid and so on. There is this sense at a lot of schools these kids are tremendous assets to the school. They make a lot of money. But the question is how much do the schools invest in them as students and not as athletes? You saw the thing at North Carolina a few years ago where they were creating phony and so on. So it is a great opportunity for these young kids to get scholarships. But if the school treats them as professional athletes rather than as students and most of them aren't going to be in the NBA as you say, isn't the NCAA letting them down?
BARKLEY: The NCAA has not done a great job. Going back to my time, we have not done - a lot time, they just give you classes to keep you eligible. So that's got to be fixed. But like I said the notion you can get a free education, that's a big deal.
You know, everybody says, well, we should pay these kids, but they don't give you a solid plan. Because you can't just pay the basketball or football team. You have got to pay everybody. And another point (ph), and people say, well, why wont you let a guy sell his (INAUDIBLE). I say, well, that's great if you are the quarterback and running back. Nobody is buying a big ugly defensive of lineman and offensive lineman's jersey.
And let me tell you some, if I'm in the locker room and I'm Charles Barkley and I look at the stands and there's 10,000 Charles Barkley Jersey and I'm making extra half to be in a year, and I'm looking around the locker room, these guys are looking at me like, you don't know one working out here?
[19:35:20] AXELROD: Yes.
BARKLEY: It's going to bring a ton of resentment from the other players. If I'm offense of lineman and I'm open holes for the running back and blocking for the quarterback and they are making an extra mill a year with their jerseys and I'm not getting a dime, I'm not going to be happy with that.
AXELROD: Yes. You are such a champion of education, and a lot of these kids you say they are not going anywhere.
BARKLEY: Ninety-nine percent of them.
AXELROD: Right. So if they don't take that seriously and the school doesn't take it seriously for them --.
BARKLEY: That's the school - we got to start making the schools pay for not graduating players. When I first started doing March madness, that was the number one thing I said. Because I was happy just doing the NBA. And they said, will you do March madness? And I said, I'm not that big of a deal. If I don't do it they are like, we want you to do it and it turned into a blessing. It's been amazing.
But I said this is what I want in return. I need you to start graduating more of these players. And I think they are getting better. They are not where I want them to be. Any player who doesn't make it -- who wants to graduate, they should keep a scholarship as long as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up next on THE AXE FILES.
BARKLEY: You know that's one of the great sorrows of my life that we are not friends.
[19:40:51] AXELROD: Let me ask you about your own amazing career. Because now that I know that you are unarmed right now, let me just say you are a undersized, plump kid, and you became one of the greatest athletes of all-time. But back in leads you told your mom I'm going to be an NBA player and I'm going to get you anything that you want and you did. What made you different?
BARKLEY: Well, I grew from 5'10" to 6'5", that's the main thing. And I grew from 5'10" to 6'5" in one year.
AXELROD: But you didn't make the team.
BARKLEY: I did not make the team, I would not good.
BARKLEY: I did not. But when I grew up from 5'10" to 6'5", the best thing that happened to me was being 5'10" because I played point guard. The best ability I had was to be able dribble the ball. So even though everybody I played, the guys were bigger, I had the advantage because they didn't want to get out on the floor. The big guys always want to stay around the basket. So my ability to dribble was the best thing ever happened to me.
AXELROD: But you also worked that, are you?
AXELROD: After shooting day and night, jumps over a four-foot wall, is that right?
BARKLEY: I did. Because I want to get my legs as strong as possible. But in the beginning, all I did -- what's really ironic it's come full term. I just wanted to go to college for free. I just wanted to get a free scholarship.
AXELROD: And you dad left.
BARKLEY: My dad left way long time ago. But I just want to go to college for free because I knew that my mother and grandmother couldn't afford it, and I didn't want to borrow a lot of money. And even up until my sophomore year in college I'm not even thinking about the NBA. I'm a 6'5" power forward, but I'm going to get a quality education. And then, I have a unique skills that been able to get rebound. Rebound was my thing. And my coach said, hey, if you get 10 -- he showed me the stats one day. He says how many guys in the NBA you think averaging double digit rebounds? I said 30, 40? He says, no. That's about ten. He says can you get me ten rebounds a night? I said I can get you ten rebound a night in my sleep. And he said if you get me ten rebounds a night you will play in the NBA for ten years or more. I said, coach, you got me, you know, like Jerry McGuire, you had me at hello and the rest was history.
AXELROD: Yes. So how does the 6'5" guy get double digit rebound.
BARKLEY: You got to go get it.
AXELROD: You played with a kind of fury.
BARKLEY: I had to. I was always the shortest guy out there in the post. And I had to play with a -- but it got me in trouble, though. It got me in trouble because, you know, I was mad at the world for a long time. I was mad at my dad. My junior year I got hurt, we lost for the state championship my junior year. My senior year we were like undefeated. And then I got hurt again and we lost again. I was totally depressed. So I quit school for like a week. I was just -- I was just fried. I couldn't believe we had lost. So I got it back together, but I ended up flunking Spanish. So I didn't get to graduate. So in my hometown we graduated outside on a football field. My dad actually came to town and he ripped me a new one, and I was already in a fog. I was out of it. So I went to the baseball stadium. It was next door. And I stood on the top rung and cried for two hours.
AXELROD: And watched the graduation that you weren't involved in.
BARKLEY: And I said this is the last time in my life I'm going to let anyone control my destiny. And my first x amount of years in the NBA I was mad at my dad. I mad at Ms. Gomez for flunking me in Spanish. And I played. I was out of control. And then I had the spit incident in New Jersey.
[19:45:10] AXELROD: Spitting on a fan. BARKLEY: Yes, with Lauren. And that changed my whole life. A
negative thing changed my whole life because I had to sit down and say, you, man, you got to let this thing with your dad go. I don't know why you are mad at Ms. Gomez. It was your fault for flunking Spanish. First of all, it was your fault for taking Spanish.
BARKLEY: And I said you need to take a step back and just want to be great at basketball for yourself. It was -- it was my moment of truth. It was my moment of truth. And I said you can play basketball to try to stick it to everybody else. You know all those kids who laughed at you in high school you didn't graduate when they graduated, you need to let that go. And I sit down and I cried. It was emotional. I said, OK, from this day forward I'm just going to be a great player for myself.
And that was the turning point in my life that night in New Jersey. Because at that point I was saying I want to be great to stick it to these people, these people, these people. And I had to take it a look in the mirror and that was the turning point.
AXELROD: Let me ask you about being great in professional sports, in the NBA, there are a bunch of elite athletes. But then there are the sort of the Charles Barkleys, the Michael Jordans, who I watched for 13 years. What is it that separates those people who are physically gifted, it seems like there's a mental component, too. Like I never thought when Michael was on the court, that the Bulls would ever lose.
AXELROD: You always thought he'd figure out a way.
BARKLEY: Yes. Well, there's a tremendous amount of pressure is what it is. Because it's a double-edged sword. Like I'm not on Michael Jordan's level. I'm a step below. I'm man enough to admit that.
AXELROD: Is there anybody on his level?
BARKLEY: No, Coby's a step below. Lebron is a step below, but Michael's here. But you get all the credit and you get all the blame. So that is mental pressure, first of all, very few people can handle it. Because even today, this thing is like, well, Charles Barkley has never won a championship. And I got to live with that. But I don't go crazy. I wouldn't plan by myself. But the point about being great, it's kind of a double-edged sword. You get all the credit but you also get all the blame. And that's that thing that drives you.
AXELROD: So my supposition is that the ability to take pressure and deal with it -- because there are a lot of guys who say I want the ball when the game is on the line. I don't want to take the last shot. And the guys who are great are the ones who say, you know, I will take care of this.
BARKLEY: Basketball players, we are like full time relief pitchers. Because I know every night, like a great closer -- you have to have a very tough mind. Because you have to be like, damn, I missed that shot last night. And you feel that pressure internally, but also you feel like you let the rest of the guys down. But you have to have that mentality, we have got a game tomorrow. And thus -- the mental part is the thing you have to master more than anything.
AXELROD: Jordan is famously hyper-competitive guy.
AXELROD: I heard that he was unhappy with you when you criticized his management of the Charlotte franchise.
BARKLEY: Yes. You know, that's one of the great sorrows of my life that we are not friends.
AXELROD: Because that ended your friendship.
BARKLEY: Yes. And I love the guy like a brother. He was like a brother to me. And that hurt a lot, number one. But you know, I think it's important in my job to be fair and honest because if you have a double standard -- because I say stuff about other people, too.
BARKLEY: You can't say things about other general managers' coaches and don't say it about your friends. Because the one thing about basketball it's such a close-knit community. And I have had players call me, I have coaches call me, I have general managers call me, and I say listen, I'll explain to you why I said it. And it works out most of the time. But that's one of the great sorrows of my life losing a friend like that.
[19:50:05] AXELROD: You guys were all on this dream team 1992 at the Olympics.
AXELROD: If you put a great group of athletes, basketball players together, they have the greatest players in the NBA, could they have beaten that team?
BARKLEY: Not even close because we didn't have any weaknesses. Like everyone in the team is a hall of famers (INAUDIBLE). We were two deep in the position. We were big. We were athletic. We had it all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up next, on THE AXE FILES.
BARKLEY: I just hope when I keel over people say he had a good run. We are going to miss him and that's it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) [19:55:23] AXELROD: Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, he has talked about running for president. What do you think about that and the whole celebrity candidate thing?
BARKLEY: Well, I think, first of all, I think Mark -- first of all, I'm bias. He is a great friend. I think his heart's in the right place. I think he would do a good job as president. You know, once a toothpaste is out of the tube, we are going to have more celebrity presidents going forward.
AXELROD: Is that good?
BARKLEY: It depends on the celebrity. You know, I think when you look at President Trump, and I was trying to explain his personality to my friends, like --.
AXELROD: I'm eager to hear this.
BARKLEY: OK. This is just my personal opinion and I'm an amateur psychologist right now. So he goes to school. He was successful. Gets out of school. His family helps him start a business. He's 21, 22, somewhere in there, so he has got millions of dollars right out of the gate and turns that into, quote-unquote "billions." He's 20- something years old. Thou he is 70. He has never worked for another person a day in his life. He has always been the boss. Guarantee anybody who ever said something he didn't like, they were really fired. So you can see how he has developed this mentality, I'm also right. I don't have to listen to other people. I mean, think about it. For 50 years he has always been the king. And now you are the president of the free world, and you can see why he is an ego maniac run amok.
AXELROD: What about you? You know, you said a few years ago, I really believe I was put on earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money. I really want to help people improve their lives and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that. And you and I have talked before about politics.
AXELROD: And the potential of you have talked about running for governor of Alabama at one time. Is that something that you would still consider?
BARKLEY: Not really because I'm disgusted in the political process. What I mean by that is I don't want to go to work and argue with somebody every day. I'm --
AXELROD: That's what you do on inside the NBA.
BARKLEY: But they pay better. They pay better on that. Like, when I'm watching television every day, the Republicans and Democrats disagree on every subject. That's impossible. That's impossible. I can bring a guy in here from the Ku Klux Klan, and I'll guarantee you we can agree on something. And we might have totally different lives and whatever, but we are not going to disagree on every single subject.
But when I'm watching television every day, I'm, like, come on, man. You can't disagree on every subject. And that's the reason I don't want to get involved in politics.
AXELROD: When you are done, hopefully, a long time from now, what do you want people to say about Charles Barkley?
BARKLEY: You know, I'm not even worried about a long time. Listen, I'm 55. If I haven't done nothing good by now, it don't matter. I tell people that all of the time, and they look at me, like, I don't want to die. But I have had a 55-year good run. I have exceeded all my expectations. Trust me, when you are growing up in the projects of Lees, Alabama, your mom's a maid, your grandmother worked at a meat packing factory and you grow up to be Charles Barkley. I have been all over the world. I met the most amazing people. You and the president brought me to the White House a couple of times, I was like --.
And it was so funny. There was a picture when I was there one time, was there a picture and I have got it on my wall of me and President Obama standing in the oval office. I must have got 25 phone calls from people in my hometown. It's a very small hometown and they are like, we can't believe you are in the White House in the oval office with President Obama and that shook me. They were so excited that somebody in their little small town was in the White House with president Obama in the oval office, but to get back to your point, man, I think I've done some stupid things in my life.
But to get back to your point, I mean, I think I have done some stupid things in my life, I have done some great things in my life. I always joke about this and it's a joke, but it's true. Like, everybody at the live funerals can say what a great guy and let's be honest and there are some people that die and you are like, I'm glad they are gone.
[20:00:10] BARKLEY: I'm glad they are gone. I just hope when I keel over, people say he had a good run, gonna miss him, and that's it.
AXELROD: That's guaranteed, my friend.
BARKLEY: Thank you.
AXELROD: Thank you for being here.
BARKLEY: Thank you for having me.
That was awesome.
AXELROD: For more of my conversation with Charles Barkley, go to CNN.com/TheAxeFiles.