The player with whom Charles will march lockstep into history, though, is another Dream Team mate—Karl Malone. Understand that Barkley’s comments should be prefaced by this: He and Malone are good friends. They both have complimentary things to say about each other, on and off the record, and it’s not forced. But here is Charles’s take on his talents compared to Malone’s.
“Look, I’m in the top twenty of players who ever lived,” says Charles. “When I first started out, they said, ‘He’ll never make it. Too short.’ That never even concerned me. Because you know what? I could get all my stuff on my own.
“You take Karl. Karl needed John Stockton. That’s not a knock on Karl; it’s just a fact. I could get mine any time I wanted to. So I’ll say it on the record: I was better than Karl. Nothing against Karl. He was great. But I was better. The only thing he did better than me was score, and that came down to John Stockton.
I ask Charles how much better he would’ve been had he dedicated himself to conditioning like Malone. (In Dream Team Clyde Drexler gives a fascinating answer to that question.)
“I always laugh when I hear that,” says Charles. “There are four guys who got 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. So I’m saying, ‘What the **** else could I have done if only four guys did the **** I did?’ Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem and me.”
(Actually, Charles has the number right but the players wrong—Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Malone and Barkley are the only ones in this exclusive club.)
I express my own opinion about the Charles-or-Karl debate in Dream Team. But there is little doubt that the Barkley of Barcelona was the best Barkley ever.
Barkley was more talented than Malone but I don't think he was better unless you want to completely ignore intangibles, work-ethic, teammate, etc. If Barkley did work as hard as Malone and was as good of a teammate Malone and so on, he probably wouldn't just be better than Malone, he would probably be better than Duncan.
I'll take Malone though due to superior longevity, superior defense, and superior intangibles (much superior here).
Which I forgot to say, I find it hilarious how he forgot to add that Malone was a much better defender than he was.
Chuck says the only thing Karl did better than him was score...well I'd disagree with that as Barkley was a better go to guy for sure, but Charles sure as hell wasn't a better defensive player than Malone, so he's wrong when he says "the only thing he did better than me was score" either way.
So Malone had Stockton, Hornacek and a bunch of scrubs.
Barkley in Philly had Moses Malone(late 20's early 30's), Dr J(past prime), Cheeks(late 20's and early 30's), then had young Hawkins and Cliff Robinson.
Barkley in Phoenix had Kevin Johnson, Majerle, Ainge, Chambers, Manning.
Besides Stockton and Hornacek, Malone played with a lot of scrubs and was able to get to two Finals. Barkley played with more Hall of Famers and better role players, yet only managed to play in one Finals.
Charles is right, Malone never reached the level Barkley was at from '88-'93.
Charles was a better scorer, passer and rebounder, plus he was more athletic and more versatile. Charles was just the better and more dominant offensive player, that's why he was double teamed so often. In fact, out of players in Barkley's era or later, the only players I can think of who were doubled teamed as much as Charles was in his prime are Shaq and Hakeem. It's always been surprising to me how dominant he was in the post with his power game at only 6'5"-6'6". He's easily among the greatest power players of all time, and played both forward positions during his career. He played small forward in '90 and '91 alongside Mike Gminski and Rick Mahorn, and later at times when he played with AC Green in Phoenix.
Malone was definitely a better defensive player than Barkley, he developed until a great post defender around '94 or so. Remember Malone shutting down Robinson in the playoffs? He also developed into a very good passer around that same time, and he improved his jump shot while also becoming more polished in the post.
I actually really like Malone's game from '94-'00, but he was usually a disappointment in the playoffs, even when he became more polished. And Charles is right that be benefited greatly from Stockton, particularly late 80's/early 90's Malone. Though the same can be said about Stockton.
Malone got a lot of easy baskets running the floor, in screen/rolls with Stockton, and early on from lob passes over the top when defenders fronted him. Even the more skilled version of Malone was usually a disappointment in the playoffs, while Barkley showed quite a bit more dominance in the playoffs. Malone had more team success, but Charles was only on 1 contending team in his prime back in '93.
Late 80's/early 90's Karl Malone was still one of the league's best players, though. His post game was effective based on his quickness and strength. He was a great power player, and he did already have a jump shot, plus no 4 ran the floor better.
There's a common misconception about Barkley that he lacked longevity, but that's not true, we can't forget that he turned 30 in the '93 season, most players start to decline a bit shortly after that. He didn't remain at his prime level consistently due to injuries, and perhaps age, but he was still the second best power forward, and easily a top 10 player in '94 and '95. And he showed dominance even before his prime started in '88. Despite being raw in his second year in '86, he already probably established himself among the top players in the league.
His conditioning is also a misconception, his weight was not really an issue after his first year or 2 until he got to Houston. And even in Houston in '97, he averaged about 19/14/5 while sharing the ball with Olajuwon and Drexler and having his offensive game limited by the system. He was averaging 20/15 the first 2 months before injuries.
Malone's longevity was just superhuman, it was really only rivaled by Kareem and Robert Parish.
This isn't to say that Barkley didn't have his flaws as well. it's common knowledge that he was not exactly fond on playing defense, and he also had a habit of holding the ball too much which often led to turnovers because he'd leave his feet for cross court passes because he had trouble seeing over the double at times. He cut down on holding the ball by the time he got to Phoenix, and also improved his jumper. Though I don't think he had the same explosiveness despite getting in the best shape of his career and still being a very good athlete.