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Thursday, April 19, 2001
Barkley says Sixers not in his future

PHILADELPHIA – Retiring Charles Barkley's number is an honor, but apparently not such a big honor that he would consider returning to the team where he became a star.

Charles Barkley
Former Sixers star Charles Barkley, his daughter, Christiana, 11, and his wife, Maureen watch as his number is lifted to the rafters.

He said there is a chance he would return to the NBA -- but not in Philadelphia.

"There's only one situation that could end my retirement. The Sixers are not it," Barkley said Friday, though he wouldn't say what would make him come back.

"It would take extraordinary circumstances for me to come back and play. Right now, I would probably say I'm not going to play."

Barkley, 38, returned to the town where he became a star Friday to become the seventh player in 76ers history to have his number retired, joining the ranks of Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving.

Barkley's eyed watered as his No. 34 jersey was lifted to the rafters during halftime of the Sixers' game against the Golden State Warriors at the First Union Center. Former 76ers teammate Moses Malone and former coach Billy Cunningham also were on the floor during the ceremony.

"This is the greatest night of my life and I'm so glad to be sharing it here," Barkley said Friday night in front of a sellout crowd. "Philadelphia will always be a special place for me. It's where my career started and where it ended."

Despite measuring a shade under 6-foot-5, Barkley established himself as a force under the basket in two gold medal-winning Olympics and 16 NBA seasons. He averaged 22 points and almost 12 rebounds while earning nine All-Star selections, and he won the NBA MVP while with Phoenix in 1993.

He was selected one of the 50 best players in NBA history. But he never won a championship.

Barkley retired last season after rupturing a knee tendon during the first quarter in a Rockets-76ers game that was to be his farewell to Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 1999. He officially retired April 19, 2000, after playing six token minutes with the Rockets, his third NBA team.

Barkley said he will always feel most like a 76ers and said if (or, when) he is inducted into the Hall of Fame it will be as a Sixer. He said his only regret was that he was never surrounded by enough good players while he was in Philadelphia to win a championship.

"When I got to Philadelphia in the beginning, we had a lot of the older guys. Then when I was getting good, we didn't have any players," Barkley said. "I was a lot better player in Philadelphia than I ever was in Phoenix or in Houston."

Barkley was drafted from Auburn in 1984 by Philadelphia, where he played eight seasons. He was traded to the Suns in 1992, and led them to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Bulls in 1993.

Barkley was in his fourth season with the Rockets when he was injured in Philadelphia.

"I'm just a man who's done some good things, some great things and some bad things," Barkley said. "That just makes me normal."

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