Charles Barkley was about to be a Laker and he wanted to celebrate.
It was 1992 and Barkley’s time in Philadelphia was coming to an end; meanwhile, the post-Showtime Lakers needed another star (they still have James Worthy but needed much more). The two teams got together and a trade was nearly done. Barkley started drinking to celebrate… until everything fell through.
Barkley loves telling this story. He first told it to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated five years ago, then retold it on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018. He expanded on it during the Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe (hat tip Silver Screen and Roll).
“My agent calls me one morning and he says ‘hey, you’re going to get traded to the Lakers today. And me and my friends, we go out and celebrate and get drunk around noon….
“He calls me later and says ‘hey you’ve been traded to the Lakers, they’re going to finalize the deal and I’ll get back to you.’
“I’m on cloud nine, he calls me back three hours later, it’s like 3:30 now, he says, ‘The Sixers backed out of the deal.’ And I’m drunk as [bleeped expletive] and we got a game that night, and I’m like ‘what? What are you talking about?’ And he’s like ‘the Sixers were scared to pull the trigger.’ So I’m like ‘you’re kidding me, dude we got a game tonight and I’ve been drinking since noon.’ The one thing that’s funny, I don’t even know how I played that night. I think I might have played so bad because I was so angry the Sixers didn’t pull the trigger, and then it’s just suffering the next two or three years.”
There are not enough details to pinpoint the game in question (assuming the timeline is right and this is 1992). Barkley had a couple of home clunkers in early 1992, although it’s possible he didn’t play terribly that game. We may never know.
Barkley got traded that summer, being sent to Phoenix, where he was revitalized, won the MVP the next season and led the Suns to the NBA Finals (where he ran into Jordan’s Bulls).