When former NBA star Charles Barkley made his professional debut with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984, he was a star in the making. When his Philadelphia career ended in 1995, Barkley had established himself as one of the game’s most explosive scorers and one of the most hated players in the league. But Barkley’s NBA career didn’t end so much as it just slowed down. After retiring, Barkley set his sights on a new task: helping out the families of his former teammates.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, Charles Barkley is truly one of a kind. In today’s post, I’ll tell you the story of how he took me under his wing when I arrived in Phoenix and how he gave me and my teammates a big surprise after our big win over the Lakers in the 1998 NBA Finals.

As an NBA player, Charles Barkley set the standard in many ways. A 6-foot-4 forward, Barkley played his way through life. After retiring as a TV analyst, Chuck started doing the same thing. But behind all this genius is Barkley’s true humanitarian spirit.

Barkley’s former teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers was preferred as a rookie, without being drafted himself. And Scott Brooks, recently coach of the Washington Wizards, witnessed one of the most touching moments of Barkley’s generosity.

Charles Barkley is surprisingly complex, to say the least. He’s also an absolute original.

Charles Barkley Conflicting messages

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Throughout his career, Charles Barkley has displayed his sometimes less than ideal behavior. He even capitalized on that reputation by starring in a Nike commercial – not a role model.

But Barkley has also been generous in some cases. He let Brooks, an unknown recruit from the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association, stay home for a few months. Brooks also told the Washington Post that Barkley let him use cars, gave him money and took him under his larger-than-life wings.

Of course, it wasn’t just philanthropy. Barkley and Brooks have left some of the past in the past.

I won’t tell you most of the things we did, to be honest.

Charles Barkley

Think of it this way: I couldn’t live his lifestyle and play the next day.

Scott Brooks

Brooks told a story that captures the spirit of Charles Barkley’s gift.

get basket, dummy

Charles Barkley (L) doesn’t have the image of a role model, but former teammate Scott Brooks knows Barkley’s generosity firsthand. | Icon Sportswire Mike Powell/Getty Images

After practice, Charles Barkley stopped at a grocery store on his way home. Barkley gestures Brooks to take the cart (but not so politely), and the two men begin to walk around the store.

First: Brooks had a bad idea about shopping.

I have a big basket, he has a basket, and then we go down the aisles and put things in it. And I say to myself: This guy is living up to his reputation as a round ball rebounder. We have everything: Bread, Oreos, milk, cookies, crackers; everything. This thing is stacked.

Scott Brooks

The couple left and put the prize in the trunk of Barkley’s car. Barkley then left the store and drove in the opposite direction to his home. Brooks, as he often does, asked no questions.

We stopped under an underpass, and suddenly, I swear, 30, 40 or even 50 homeless people threw themselves at our car. (Barkley) opens his trunk and hands over the supplies. And it was that day that left an indelible impression on me about who he is and what it means to be a professional athlete.

Charles Barkley

When the roommate relationship ended during Brooks’ debut season, it didn’t mean the end of Charles Barkley and Scott Brooks’ relationship.

From an unlikely pair, a long friendship developed between Charles Barkley and Scott Brooks

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Charles Barkley had never invited anyone to his home before Scott Brooks in 1988. He didn’t do it again. But Barkley noticed the 6-foot-2 man from the University of California, Irvine.

I love this little guy. He is a good little boy who wishes everyone success in life. People want to see the man who goes against the norm, an outsider. I call him Wonder Dog.

Charles Barkley

The nickname Wonderdog is the only nickname that appears on Brooks’ Basketball-Reference player page.

Their careers could not have been more different. Barkley built a Hall of Fame resume, was voted NBA MVP in 1992-93 and made 11 All-NBA teams. Brooks has established himself as a backup point guard, able to shoot with enough accuracy to keep defenses at bay and with enough poise to not intercept the ball.

That culminated in a 10-year NBA career in which he played for six different teams.

Brooks got his first NBA coaching job as an assistant to Jeff Bzdelik with the Denver Nuggets in 2003. George Karl succeeded him after a change of head coach. After a season as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, Brooks transferred to the Seattle Supersonics (and then the Oklahoma City Thunder). He worked for P.J. Carlesimo and Brooks replaced him at the start of the 2008-09 season, the Thunder’s first season.

Under Brooks, the Thunder went 338-207 from 2008 to 2015 and made it to the NBA Finals in 2012. In 2009/10 he was elected coach of the year. Brooks was recently fired by the Washington Wizards and went 183-207 in five seasons.

Brooks had a career in the NBA. At least in part, thanks to Charles Barkley’s invaluable help to an unknown recruit.

COMPARED TO: Charles Barkley may have the key to Aaron Rodgers secret he’s been hiding from the Packers

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