It can be said that Michael Jordan’s longtime friendship with Charles Barkley showcased one of the best things about playing sports, namely, building bonds that last a lifetime. Barkley’s honesty and free spirited nature and Jordan’s calm, cool and collected approach just make their friendship so enjoyable to watch.
However, after Barkley made unflattering comments regarding Jordan and his position as general manager of the Washington Wizards, the two had a falling out.
On more than one occasion, Barkley has defended his comments, stating that as an analyst he needs to do his job and not allow personal friendships to interfere with being honest. Also, back in 2020 when he appeared as a guest on the The Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000, Barkley made these comments.
“The thing that bothered me the most about that whole thing, I don’t think I said anything that bad.” Barkley stated. “Because I’m pretty sure I said as much as I love Michael, until he stops hiring them kiss-asses and his best friends he’s never going to be successful as a general manager. I remember, I pretty much verbatim said that. The thing that has pissed me off about it later is Phil Jackson said the exact same thing.”
So why should Barkley apologize to Jordan when it’s clear that he was just doing his job as an analyst?
Here are at least 3 reasons.
How things are said
Sometimes it becomes necessary to correct even good friends and when done right may actually strengthen that bond of friendship. However, when done wrong, it can destroy relationships. Such is the case with Barkley and Jordan. Jordan has worked hard and has made millions over several decades, and has no doubt had to take advice and correction from many individuals including relatives, coaches and friends. The problem with Barkley's comments is not what he said but more about how he said it and the implication of his words.
So, when Barkley said “until he stops hiring them kiss-asses and his best friends he’s never going to be successful as a general manager,” the implication is that Jordan lacks good judgment in decision making. However, it may not be that at all. Jordan undoubtedly vetted even friends before offering them a position with the Washington Wizards.
Now, what Barkley probably meant was that those “friends” are not going to be brave enough to counter Jordan on key decisions. However, from the initial look at the comment it seems like Barkley is unfairly questioning Jordan’s ability to hire knowledgeable and qualified people.
Barkley questioned Jordan's abilities as a general manager but should have really focused on Jordan’s need to hire staff who would not be afraid to challenge him.
Barkley also could have also tried to word things more professionally. Presentation is everything like when we go out to a restaurant. We like it when the chef knows how to present a dish in an appealing fashion. Likewise, Barkley could have worded his statement differently so as to make it more appealing to Jordan. Why should he worry about that? Because if they are really friends, Barkley would want to offer advice in a form that his friends would respect, appreciate and apply. To not give any consideration to how a message is presented to someone you call a friend is both immature and shows a lack of appropriate respect for the brotherhood.
Where things are said
Most would probably agree that a national platform is not the best place to give even a good friend needed correction. However, that is part of Barkley's job description, namely, to honestly comment on things relating to sports. That being the case Barkley could have called Jordan personally to let him know how he feels about his hiring choices and given him a heads up that if he is called on to make a public comment on the situation that he would speak the truth. A heads up to Jordan would have shown respect for the longtime friendship and made a more positive and lasting impression on Jordan.
Why things are said
Can Barkley honestly say that his motives in calling out Jordan on the air was done in a spirit of brotherhood or was it done in a spirit of irritation, anger or even clout? The only one who can honestly answer that is Barkley but from the outside looking in, it does not seem like Barkley's comments were stated in a spirit of brotherhood. In that Barkley stated that he had no intention of apologizing shows clearly that his motives were never about truly helping Jordan but more about venting and blowing off steam on how he felt about Jordan’s situation. Now, Barkley may have been within his full right to be frustrated over Jordan’s decisions and it may have been something he talked with Jordan about privately on other occasions concerning friendships, however, when things are said from a spirit of anger and frustration rather than love, even the best of friendships can be ruined.
Now, no one is saying that Barkley should stop being honest. Actually, one of the things that I love about Barkley the most is his pure honesty. It’s like a breath of fresh air to hear someone as real as Barkley speak on any subject. However, when he is speaking on subjects that concern his friends, he may want to give closer attention to how, where and why he says what he says.