In the 1995 NBA playoffs, Charles Barkley entered a game against the Denver Nuggets dressed as Shaq. After an altercation with some of his teammates, he was fined and suspended for two games by head coach Chuck Daly.
One of the best players in NBA history with a career best 27.7 points per game, Charles Barkley was never known for his defense. In fact, he notoriously didn’t even have any interest in playing defense at all – most famously when O’Neal shocked him by going straight up on offense and dunking over him during a regular season matchup between the two teams.
The “when did shaq retire” is a question that has been asked for years. Shaquille O’Neal retired in 2011, but Charles Barkley looked like him during the 1995 NBA Playoffs.
Charles Barkley would have like to have the same athletic prowess as Shaquille O’Neal, his partner on Inside the NBA. During the 1995 NBA Playoffs, Chuck, on the other hand, resembled the worst part of Shaq.
In the Western Conference semifinals, the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets faced off. Barkley had a chance to be a hero and help the Suns advance to the NBA Finals, but he faltered from the charity line in a game that turned out to be the series’ turning moment.
The Suns have a 3-1 series lead over the Rockets thanks to Charles Barkley.
In October 1993, during the McDonald’s Open, Charles Barkley was awarded with a trophy | Leonhardt Frank/Picture Alliance via Getty Images
During the 1994-95 season, the Suns enjoyed a fantastic season and looked every bit the NBA Finals candidates.
During the regular season, Paul Westphal’s club won 59 games, good enough for the No. 2 seed in the West. The Phoenix Suns swept their first-round opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers, with ease.
The Suns seemed to be on their way to defeating the reigning champion Houston Rockets as well. Barkley scored an efficient 26 points in Game 1 before pouring in a game-high 30 points in Game 2. Phoenix took a 2-0 series lead. Following the Rockets’ triumph in Game 3, the Suns responded with a win in Game 4 behind Kevin Johnson’s 46 points.
The Suns seemed to be on their way to dethroning the Rockets. Throughout the first few games, Houston was unable to stop Barkley and KJ. On the boards, A.C. Green provided the Suns a huge lift. Danny Ainge and Wayman Tisdale both had strong bench efforts for Phoenix.
The series, however, took a turn in Game 5 when Barkley transformed into Shaquille O’Neal at the foul line.
In Game 5, Barkley missed many late free-throw tries and vanished down the stretch.
Early in Game 5, the Suns seemed to have a grip on the series. Barkley scored 14 points in the first half, while Rockets guard Clyde Drexler was ineffective due to a stomach virus outbreak.
The Rockets, on the other hand, hung in there. Barkley’s bizarre disappearance aided Houston as well.
When the two teams returned from the halfway break, Chuck was nowhere to be seen. He struggled to regain his stride, scoring only three points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Even worse for the Suns, at the charity stripe, Barkley changed into Shaq.
In the waning minutes, the 1993 NBA MVP, who had a lifetime free throw percentage of 73.5 percent, inexplicably missed three of four free shots. He only made one of six shots in the contest. Those misses were crucial.
Houston forced overtime, when it kept Barkley in check and won a shocking win. Despite outreboundeding the Rockets 68-49, the Suns fumbled the game away.
Barkley’s bizarre metamorphosis into Shaquille O’Neal at the free-throw line cost Phoenix a huge opportunity to win the series. The Suns eventually lost control of the whole series.
The Rockets used Game 5 as a rallying cry, as they defeated Barkley and the Suns in seven games.
Going into Game 5, the Suns were quite optimistic about their prospects. However, their failure to put the Rockets away gave them confidence.
Former Rockets guard Robert Horry told the Baltimore Sun after Game 5 that “A. C. Green stated we’d never win them three games in a row.” “Now we have faith in ourselves.” Without Clyde, we were able to win, and we’ll have him back in Houston. I believe we will be able to get one at home. It isn’t over yet.”
By winning Game 6 at home, the Rockets were able to claw their way back into the series. The Rockets hit 56.3 percent from the field, including 12-of-25 from beyond the arc, despite Barkley’s 34 points.
Game 7 was a nail-biter from start to finish. While the Round Mound of Rebound failed to score, he grabbed 23 rebounds and maintained possession of the paint.
The Suns, on the other hand, run out of options. The Rockets shot the ball well once again, and Mario Elie’s iconic “Kiss of Death” clinched a spectacular comeback.
Barkley’s last major opportunity to reach the NBA Finals came in the 1994-95 season. When he joined the Rockets for the 1996-97 season, he helped them reach the Western Conference Finals, but they couldn’t beat a more well-rounded Utah Jazz squad.
If Chuck hadn’t taken on Shaq’s free-throw shooting at the worst possible moment, Barkley and the Suns may have had a Finals run.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
RELATED: During the 1992 Olympic Games, Charles Barkley instantly regretted drinking beer with Larry Bird and the Dream Team: ‘My Head Hurt for Like 2 Days.’
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