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Barkley Announces Retirement


This time he means it. No joke.

Charles Barkley even had a halftime ceremony before the hometown fans at Sunday night's Houston Rockets-Detroit Pistons exhibition game to prove it.

This season, his 16th in the NBA, will be his last.

Barkley, who has teased fans a number of times in recent years with the threat of calling it quits, formally announced his pending retirement in the Birmingham Civic Center, just a half-hour drive from his hometown of Leeds.

With his trademark flourish, he announced he would give $1 million each to alma maters Leeds High School and Auburn University and to a program for inner-city Birmingham youth called Cornerstone Schools.

"I don't think God gave me this gift so I could play basketball and have $50 million in the bank and live happily ever after," Barkley, 36, said. "I don't think that's what my life is for.

"I made up my mind that I was going to retire last season," he told the crowd at halftime of the Rockets' 98-96 victory in which he had 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. "A reporter asked me, `You have athletes making absurd amounts of money but why aren't they doing great things with it?' It really annoyed me, because it was true."

He was joined at center court by his mother, Charcey Glenn, and grandmother, Johnnie Mae Mickens, who raised him together.

"It's time for me to do something else," he said. "It's time for me to have some fun now. I don't think my life could get any better. But it's time to do something else."

The 11-time All-Star has gained fame for his game he was named one of the NBA's 50 best all-time players in 1997 and infamy for his mouth. Barkley has been one of the league's most colorful players on and off the court, known for everything from denouncing athletes as role models to once throwing a man through a barroom window.

"There's been some negative things that have happened that people are going to accentuate," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He's a really good player with a great heart. I love the guy."

"He's going to be missed," added Pistons guard Grant Hill. "There's not going to be another Charles."

The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Barkley once remarked, "If I weren't earning $3 million a year to dunk a basketball, most people on the street would run in the other direction if they saw me coming."

He is a season-long farewell tour from his final NBA dunk, though. Barkley signed a one-year contract estimated at $9 million on Oct. 4.

"I'm glad it's over with," he said. "This is the last night I'm going to talk about retiring. I'm not going to let everyone ask abot it every city I go to."

Barkley is one of only three players in NBA history with more than 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

He ranks 13th in career scoring (23,468) and is fourth among active players.

Barkley led the Olympic Dream Team in scoring in 1992 and 1996.

He hasn't lost his skills either, averaging 16.7 points and 12.4 rebounds last year. Only Sacramento's Chris Webber averaged more rebounds.

Barkley's coach at Auburn, Sonny Smith, was on hand Sunday.

"This was not one of those flirtations where he comes off the cuff and says something," said Smith, adding that Barkley talked about possibly retiring over the summer. "This is something he's planned out, how he wants to go out and when he's going out."

Smith said Barkley first talked to him over the summer about making this season his last. He said the NBA would be a more boring place without the loquacious Sir Charles.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Smith said. "Charles has developed marketing both himself and basketball."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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