This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Sir Charles’ in charge

Feb. 5, 2005

By Ed Odeven

In his college days, they called him the “Round Mound of Rebound.” When he became a superstar in the NBA, he was affectionately dubbed “Sir Charles.”

These days, Charles Barkley is recognized wherever he goes. He works for TNT as an NBA analyst, enjoys his time on the golf course near his Scottsdale home and travels the country to help with a number of charitable causes.

Barkley paid a visit to Northern Arizona University Saturday night to help raise money for the Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction, presented by the Flagstaff Family YMCA and the Arizona Daily Sun. It was his first visit to Flagstaff since he participated in the Phoenix Suns’ preseason training camp here in 1995.

“I think kids deserve an opportunity to be successful, and that’s what organizations like the YMCA provide,” Barkley, the keynote speaker, said at the Dubois Conference Center.

Proceeds from the dinner/auction, which organizers hope will bring in $25,000 to $30,000, will benefit the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign.

Steve Saville, a YMCA board member and the organization’s community relations chairman, said the YMCA plans to make this an annual fund-raiser.

In a brief interview with the local media before the evening’s festivities commenced, Barkley addressed a number of topics.

Named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996, he said he’d eventually like to be an NBA general manager or an owner. His love for the game is the same as it’s always been.

“I miss playing every day,” said Barkley, an 11-time All-Star, who retired in 2000. “I miss it more than anything in the world. There’s nothing like playing.”

Never one who’s been shy about expressing his opinions, Barkley explained why sports are such a valuable tool in the lives of youths.

“I think sports are a great motivator for your mental health (and) your physical health. It keeps you in shape,” he said. “But it’s stupid to think that every kid is going to do well in reading, writing and arithmetic. I think one thing about school that’s brutal is you need to get rid of some academics to teach more vocations.

“I owe basketball every single thing in my life, because I grew up a poor kid,” he continued. “… All these kids aren’t going to make it to the NBA, but one thing about sports is it can give you a chance to go to college. And that’s what I think more kids should use college for instead of trying to make it a profession.”

In recent weeks, Barkley’s been traveling the country to promote his latest book, “I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It.”

A recent appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” certainly didn’t hurt, he acknowledged.

While signing some copies of the book for the evening’s auction, Barkley casually remarked that “once you get on ‘Oprah’ you’re a best-seller.”

“She’s a cool chick,” he added with a smile.

Book tours keep him busy, but he has other concerns, too.

“My No. 1 priority is my teenage daughter,” he said, “trying to keep boys away from my house.”

Barkley, a fan favorite during his days with the Phoenix Suns (1992-96, which included the Suns’ appearance in the 1993 NBA Finals), said he’s happy his former team is playing so well this season. “Phoenix fans are fantastic. One of the reasons I love it in Phoenix is the fans made me enjoy the game of basketball …,” he added.

In three weeks, Barkley’s fifth book — “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?” — will be released. For this book, Barkley conducted interviews with numerous well-known individuals, including Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Morgan Freeman, rapper/actor Ice Cube and former President Bill Clinton.

“I wanted to write a positive book on race,” he said.

What was the most memorable interview?

“Probably Bill Clinton … because I had never met him before,” Barkley said. “I’m a huge fan and he’s a cool dude and it was really cool.”

Following Saturday’s festivities in Flagstaff, Barkley flew back to Las Vegas, where he’ll watch Super Bowl XXXIX.

Asked to offer his thoughts on today’s game, Barkley had this to say:

“I’m going to take Philadelphia.” The reason?

“Well, I’ve got a house in Philly, and I just think that Donovan McNabb is not going to let them lose,” he said.

“I think it’ll be really close, 20-17.”