(CBS) Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley used to be close friends during their heyday in the NBA, but that relationship is still as fractured as it has ever been despite a photo that surfaced of them together a few months back, Barkley said this week in an interview on the Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio.
Save for running into each other randomly at a function weeks back, Barkley and Jordan hadn’t seen or spoken to one another “in years,” Barkley said. The root of the rift is Barkley, in his role as a TNT analyst, criticizing Jordan for his work in running the Hornets as their team owner.
“I love Michael, I miss Michael’s friendship,” Barkley said. “He was a great friend to me for a long period of time, and I love him and I miss him like a brother. But we just happened to be at the same place (in that photo and chance encounter).
“Some people, when you’re their friend, they expect you to have their back no matter what. And part of my job sucks sometimes when I have to criticize people I like or a friend. And what I said about Michael was he had to do a better job of putting people around him, because I thought he had too many people around him who just did what he said to do. And he took it personal. He got really angry.”
Kenny Smith, also a TNT analyst and a former teammate of Jordan’s at North Carolina, posted the picture of the three of them together. Barkley and Jordan were the NBA’s leading stars in the early 1990s, helping Team USA to a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and squaring off in a classic 1993 NBA Finals series won by Jordan’s Bulls over Barkley’s Suns.
“I would love to mend that relationship, but we just happened to be at the same place to take the picture together,” Barkley told Le Batard. “It was a public forum. And like I said, I wish Michael nothing but the best. I love him like a brother, but we are not back to where we used to be.
“I would love to be friend with Michael again. I miss his friendship. He was like a brother to me. Like I said I miss that, but hey man, I feel like I have to do my job.
“He got upset at me, and we haven’t spoken.”