You probably know Charles Barkley best for his days on the court with one of several teams. Or, perhaps you’re more familiar with him behind a desk commentating on basketball games. Yet, you might not know that he’s as big a fan of cigars as basketball. That’s right. The former 76er and often infamously outspoken Sir Charles is a lover of fine cigars. But, of course, he’s in good company, too, with fellow NBA stars like Michael Jordan and Lebron James.
Charles Barkley: The Early Years
Before charging across the court like a man half his size, Barkley was just a kid from Leeds, Alabama. After a tumultuous childhood, Barkley would pay to play basketball at the local recreation center. But unfortunately, he was too small and uncoordinated to make his high school’s varsity team.
As luck had it, the summer after his junior year, Barkley grew six inches, stood 6’ 4”, and weighed over 200 lbs. The high school basketball coach immediately granted him a spot on the team. From there, he went on to attend Auburn University in Alabama.
At Auburn University, he developed his skills and led the SEC in rebounds each year while earning nicknames. Some called him The Round Mound of Rebound or The Crisco Kid for his issues with his weight. Since then, he has become one of the most athletic big men in the NBA, but Barkley didn’t stop there.
The Philadelphia 76ers later drafted him as the fifth pick in the 1984 draft. Here is where Barkley gained widespread notoriety and fame.
Barkley’s Brash and Outspoken Personality
Today, Charles Barkley is known for his lighthearted jabs and off-the-cuff remarks. That’s especially true for fellow NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. When Barkley began his career, however, the story was different. Back then, he became known for a particularly aggressive play style that often resulted in contact with opposing players; This included several on-court brawls, one of which landed him a record-setting fine in 1990.
Barkley’s most significant incident involved a fan hurling insults and racial slurs at him. When Barkley caught wind of the offenses, he spat at the fan and inadvertently hit a little girl. He received a fine and suspension for his action. Barkley later made amends with the girl and her family. He also credited the incident for teaching him to play the game correctly and with more respect.
Despite all his negative publicity, Barkley played for the United States twice in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. He received gold medals both times. Barkley is also a two-time Hall of Fame inductee. One of his inductions was for recognition as an individual player. The other induction was from when he played on the “Dream Team” during his time in the Olympics.
Charles Barkley and the Cigar Lifestyle
Throughout his basketball career, Barkley won many awards. He also played successfully for two other teams: the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets. His retirement in 2000 slowed the multi-time All-Star down. Although, he continues philanthropic work and has become a role model to kids across the country.
In his downtime, Barkley likes two things, in particular: golf and cigars. He often smokes three to four cigars a day. When he “decides to light up,” you’ll find him puffing away on a Cuban Churchill while teeing up for a swing.
Barkley claims he began smoking after watching his former rival and friend, Michael Jordan puffing away every time they met. From there, Barkley tried his first cigar and liked it. After that, Jordan became his cigar teacher and had him smoking lower-tier cigars until Barkley moved up to the Cubans he favors today.
If asked about it, Barkley says that he learned two from Jordan. First, the process of smoking a cigar is to learn to enjoy the smoke itself. Second, “always have two humidors,” one for smokers who know what they’re doing and one for those who don’t. This philosophy taught Barkley to enjoy his cigar lifestyle as a way to relax and unwind rather than smoke for the sake of smoking.
Barkley reportedly possesses four humidors and is a collector and smoker. He favors Cuban cigars like the Churchills he often smokes. Yet, he also likes hand-crafted Padron Cigars. Barkley is fond of the idea of treating cigars well. He always stores his premium cigars properly and enjoys each one.
Barkley is Still Making Waves
Since his retirement, Barkley has done a good deal of civic work. He mentors kids and speaks on behalf of the National Basketball Players Association. Yet, he also does endorsements for products and other promotions.
Today, you’ll still find Barkley as a color commentator for the TNT network’s coverage of basketball games. He also continues to enjoy making light of his former teammates and fellow players regularly. So undoubtedly, everyone will see plenty more of this former kid from Leeds, Alabama.
Photo Credit: “Charles Barkley at 2019 NBA Finals,” by Chensiyuan, Wikimedia Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0.