Watching "The Last Dance" documentary has to be somewhat bittersweet for NBA legend Charles Barkley. He and Michael Jordan were great friends during their playing days after both were selected in the 1984 NBA Draft. The two played together on the 1992 Dream Team, and would commonly hit the golf links as a duo. However, their friendship has soured in recent years after Barkley, now an NBA analyst with TNT, publicly criticized the way that Jordan was running the then-Charlotte Bobcats several years back -- something that didn't sit well with Jordan.
The two may not be on speaking terms at this point in time, but that hasn't stopped Barkley from enjoying Jordan's 10-part documentary, which chronicles his final season with the Chicago Bulls. In fact, he still holds Jordan in the highest regard.
"You got to see Michael Jordan as the greatest competitor I've ever been around," Barkley said during an appearance Monday on "The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz" on ESPN radio. "And it's amazing to play against him. And you can see at times he can be like a bully. It's giving us something different to watch."
"The Last Dance" focuses heavily on Jordan's fierce competitive drive -- as any honest documentary about Jordan would -- which often manifested itself as intensity as a teammate, or being "a bully" as Barkley put it. And while Jordan's brash style of leadership was obviously effective for his Bulls teams, it only worked because Jordan used "selective prosecution," according to Barkley. In other words, Jordan basically knew which players he could pick on, and which ones he couldn't.
"You know he has selective prosecution over there, right? He knows who to pick on," Barkley said. "Michael is awesome, but there's certain guys you can't treat like that. You have to know what guys you can treat badly and they're gonna accept it. Screaming at guys all the time and punching guys? Come on, man. there's certain guys that would whoop the hell out of you if you tried doing that. He has selective prosecution. I mean, Scott Burrell and Steve Kerr. I mean, come on, man."
While Barkley maintains the utmost respect for Jordan, he doesn't think that the fractured relationship between the two will ever be mended at this point.
"That's never going to happen," Barkley said of a potential reconciliation. "You can let that go. Stop it. We're good. Michael Jordan is great. Chuck is doing great. I'm too stubborn for that. I'm never going to admit that I'm wrong if I'm not wrong. That's never going to happen."
To this day, Barkley still doesn't think that he was wrong in his assessment of Jordan. He says being impartial is part of his job as an analyst.
"The thing that bothered me the most about that whole thing, I don't think that I said anything that bad," Barkley said of the situation last week. "... 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. Very few of your friends are going to be honest with you. And that's very hard for any celebrity, but especially somebody of his stature.
"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."
Perhaps one day Barkley and Jordan will be open to the idea of sitting down and putting their differences behind them, like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas did, but for now Barkley seems content either way.