Charles Barkley spoke to the Rotary Club of Birmingham in August.
So why did I wait so long to write about his talk?
I invited him to be a guest blogger on ComebackTown, but have had no luck so far. In the meantime I thought it was important for everyone to hear what he had to say…and he did have a lot to say–particularly about Birmingham.
Very few Birmingham natives have been as successful as Charles Barkley and few have maintained their success for so long.
Barkley grew up in the projects in Leeds, Alabama with his two brothers. He was raised by his mother who was a maid and his grandmother who worked in a meat factory. He said “his life sucked”—but he didn’t realize it at the time.
Barkley played collegiate basketball at Auburn before being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was selected to the All-NBA First Team five times; earned eleven NBA All-Star Game appearances and was named the All-Star MVP in 1991. In 1993, he was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player and during the NBA’s 50th anniversary, named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He was a competitor in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games and won two gold medals as a member of the United States’ Dream Team. Since retiring as a player, Barkley has had a successful career as a television NBA analyst with Turner Network Television. (Wikipedia)
There was a huge crowd at Rotary to hear Barkley speak about the NBA, professional sports, Auburn and his career. He did talk about those things, but he mostly wanted to talk about Leeds and Birmingham where he grew up.
So what does Charles Barkley think about Birmingham?
I’m frustrated with Birmingham
“I am frustrated with Birmingham.” Barkley kept saying it over and over again. “Birmingham has such an historical reputation and to see what has happened here the past twenty years just makes me angry. It’s been embarrassing.”
Barkley likes Mayor William Bell, but is upset with his predecessors.
“The first thing when I tell people I’m from Alabama, Birmingham’s the first place they mention. They don’t talk about Montgomery, they don’t talk about Mobile. The only thing they know about Alabama is Birmingham. Obviously I think we’ve been struggling.”
“I have been very frustrated with the City of Birmingham. Going back to the last two Mayors, I’ve asked them for the last ten years or more, I would like to invest $20 million in Birmingham and both of them said to me, “Let’s do it,” and my phone never rings…and my people live here. And they’ve had a couple of meetings and it was a waste of my time and my energy…and I’ve been very frustrated with the leadership in Birmingham…because I own a lot of stuff, but I don’t own anything in Birmingham. All my financial people are here, been here for thirty years, but I don’t own anything in Birmingham. I own a business in Huntsville, I own stuff all over the country, but I don’t own anything in Birmingham. And like I say, do I want to make money, of course I want to make money, but being from here, I would like to have some economic development opportunity here.”
We should appreciate UAB more
“I just wish the City of Birmingham would appreciate UAB more. It’s the only asset we really have. Having an asset that’s that strong to build upon is an amazing thing.”
Barkley talked about his brother’s heart transplant at UAB. He said the UAB people have been amazing and he spends a lot of time with his UAB family. He talked about the black tie fund raiser he’s done every year for ten years and that he’s raised over $10 million.
I have great hope for Birmingham
“Birmingham is an amazing place and I think it’s real important and significant that Birmingham thrives.”
“I like Birmingham a lot. I’m here a lot–my family’s still here.”
“Birmingham’s not a bad place. We’ve had bad management. I’m hopeful.”
“Any time I’m traveling, when you say Alabama, you can’t say Leeds, I say Birmingham, and they say oh yea, everybody knows Birmingham. And I want this place to be like a jewel. I want it to be like–we’re going to Birmingham and it’s going to be exciting. They’ve got everything there. I’m encouraged.”
It’s clear that Charles Barkley really cares about Birmingham.
When asked, why he had such a successful basketball career, he said he had a special skill, “My thing was rebounding–that was my NBA talent. A coach once asked me if I could get ten rebounds a night. I responded, I could get anybody ten rebounds a night.”
Charles Barkley is an expert rebounder.
It’s now time for Birmingham to rebound. Charles, let’s rebound together.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).