As much as "The Last Dance" has provided us with unseen footage of Michael Jordan's glory days with the Chicago Bulls in the '90s, it's also drudged up some old grudges. Despite being friends for over 20 years, Charles Barkley said that since he criticized the way M.J. was managing the then-Charlotte Bobcats as the franchise's part owner, there's been a rift in their relationship, and he doesn't see their friendship repairing itself any time soon.
Barkley, Jordan's longtime NBA rival and Dream Team teammate, was heavily featured in of "The Last Dance" as the documentary focused on the dynamic 1992 Olympic team as well as the 1993 NBA Finals between the Bulls and the Phoenix Suns. Since those episodes aired, Barkley's during the '92 Olympic run playing cards with him, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen. However, when it comes to his friendship with Jordan today, it's very icy.
During an appearance on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Barkley said that Jordan hasn't talked to him since the NBA superstar-turned-sports commentator publicly criticized Jordan.
"The thing that bothered me the most about that whole thing, I don't think that I said anything that bad," Barkley said. "I'm pretty sure I said, 'As much as I love Michael, until he stops hiring them kiss-asses, and his best friends, he's never going to be successful as a general manager.' And I remember pretty much verbatim I said that. And the thing that really pissed me off about it later is Phil Jackson said the exact same thing."
Barkley was shocked that Jordan took his comments the wrong way, because while he was being critical of his long-time friend, he thought that's what was valued in their friendship.
"Listen, if you're famous, and Michael at one point was the most famous person in the world, everybody around you is either on the payroll or letting you buy drinks and dinner and flying around on your private jet," Barkley said. Very few of your friends are going to be honest with you. But I thought that was one of the reasons we were great friends. Like, 'I can ask Charles anything and I know he's going to give me a straight answer.' But part of my job [as an analyst] is, because I can't go on TV and say 'another general manager sucks' and then just because Michael's like a brother to me say 'He's doing a fantastic job.' That would be disingenuous."
In Barkley's defense, since Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte franchise in 2010, they've only made the playoffs three times, all of them first-round exits. The team hasn't been to the postseason in four years, and just let its star point guard in Kemba Walker walk in free agency last summer. It is part of Barkley's job to be critical, even if Jordan is his friend. While Barkley doesn't feel the need to apologize about the comments he made, he does feel bad that it ruined a decades-old friendship.
"The guy was like a brother to me for, shoot, 20-something years," Barkley said. "At least 20-something years. And I do, I feel sadness. But to me he's still the greatest basketball player ever. I wish him nothing but the best. But, there's nothing I can do about it."
There isn't much optimism about their friendship getting back to what it used to be, but Barkley said that if Jordan's willing to talk, he knows how to reach him. "Oh, he got my number. He can call me."