Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that both Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley are celebrating their 50th birthdays this week (my baby bro is also celebrating his 27th, but guessing you may not have heard about that one).
As I watch hour after hour of coverage (what can I say – I was 12 and had season tickets when Sir Charles came to Phoenix and am still rabid when it comes to “the good old days” of the NBA) on both men’s lives to date, two things struck me – Jordan’s coverage focused on him being the greatest basketball player ever (duh) and feted the past, while Barkley’s focused on both his storied playing career as well as his steady rise to A-list celebrity status in the years since, as well.
In fact, the more I watched and listened to the Barkley coverage, I realize that he is the FACE of the NBA today, more than a decade after he stopped actually playing the game.
But, why him?
He’s funny – but other former players are funny.
The real reason why he resonates with everyone from passionate to bandwagon to occasional basketball fans – and transcends the sport as an actual pop culture icon – is because he seeks salvageables!
Allow me to explain.
In a blog post from last year, available in full here, I examined how, when communicating a message, there are really only THREE types of audiences:
Most people, however, focus too much of their time and attention on either saints (because they feed our need for acceptance), or sinners (because our egos tell us that we can crack even the toughest of nuts with our charm, brilliance and abilities).
In several interviews this week, Barkley was asked why he thought that he and his NBA on TNT program was still thriving – and gaining new fans –after more than 10 years.
“That’s easy. I realized a long time ago that diehard basketball fans were going to watch me – or anything having to do with the NBA – all the time. I also realized people who hate basketball – and mouthy knuckleheads like me – are going to keep on hating. So, I focused on all the rest of the people out there – casual fans who don’t want an hour of stats, but an hour of sports, entertainment, laughs and fun.”
I’ll say it again – he seeks salvagables, and is clearly converting many to saints.
Why else is Barkley even more relevant today then when he hoisted up the NBA MVP trophy (as a Phoenix Sun) in 1993?