Charles Barkley Talks Hoops and Wows Wounded Warriors
By Elaine Sanchez
Brooke Army Medical Center
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas , June 5, 2012 A group of wounded warriors put Charles Barkley’s basketball knowledge to the test yesterday during his visit to the Center for the Intrepid medical facility here.
Charles Barkley poses with wounded warriors during a visit to the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, June 4, 2012. The Center for the Intrepid is a state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility for wounded service members. U.S. Army photo by Maria Gallegos
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“What up guys!” Barkley called out as he entered the military’s state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center, just steps away from the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
A few dozen troops -- some in wheelchairs and others standing on prosthetic limbs -- gathered around to grill the former professional National Basketball Association player on everything, from Barkley’s opinion about the Spurs’ playoff chances, to his pick of LeBron James as the best player in the league.
A few of the soldiers ribbed Barkley, an analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” about some of his past predictions, particularly regarding San Antonio’s beloved Spurs, but “Sir Charles” took it in stride. He joked with the troops, taking time to pose for pictures and sign basketballs and gym towels. One amputee soldier even decided to pull off his prosthetic to be the “third wheel” in a picture.
“He’s a really great guy,” said Army Sgt. Ken Patterson, who bantered with Barkley for several minutes after they met. “And I can tell he really cares about soldiers. Plus, I admire the way he sticks to his convictions.”
Army Spc. Chris Haley, who also chatted with Barkley for several minutes, agreed.
“He doesn’t hold anything back,” Haley said of Barkley. “He’s one of my favorite commentators.”
Barkley invited the wounded warriors to ask him anything, but, with the playoffs heating up and some avid sports fans in the room, the topic centered solely on basketball. Barkley talked about how he researches teams and players before each game and his fondness for his co-host, fellow former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal.
“It’s great how he treats [wounded warriors] like fellow sports enthusiasts,” Rebecca Hooper, the Intrepid center’s program manager, said. “He looks at them as people, not as people to worry about.”
Maj. Gen. M. Ted Wong, commander of Brooke Army Medical Center, stopped by to give Barkley, also nicknamed the “Round Mound of Rebound,” a commander’s coin as a gesture of gratitude.
“Thank you for taking time out to share some joy and cheer,” the general told Barkley to resounding applause.
As he departed to prepare for coverage of the evening’s game, Barkley said he was the one who was grateful. In his opinion, he said, there are only five real jobs: teacher, fireman, police officer, doctor and a member of the armed forces.
“I appreciate and respect what these guys do,” he said, “and I’m happy to take time out of my day to come here.”