Barkley serious about running for Alabama governor

PHOENIX -- Charles Barkley insists he's serious about running for governor of Alabama, but he's got to move back there first.

"I can't run until 2014," he said. "I have to live there for seven years, so I'm looking for a house there as we speak."

And he said he is an independent, not a Democrat as previously reported.

"The Republicans are full of it," Barkley said. "The Democrats are a little less full of it."

Asked if he had ever been in the governor's office in Montgomery, Barkley said no.

"They don't let many black people in the governor's mansion in Alabama," he said, "unless they're cleaning."

The quip came in a wide-ranging interview with reporters at US Airways Center on Tuesday, leading up to his induction into the basketball Hall of Fame this weekend in Springfield, Mass. Barkley, 43, retired in 2000 after 16 seasons in the NBA. He made the All-Star team 11 times and is one of only four players with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists.

"I want to speak for people who can't speak for themselves," he said. "America discriminates against poor people. America's divided by economics. If you're born poor, whether you're white, black or Spanish, you're going to be in a bad neighborhood and you're going to a bad school. That's not right."

Barkley said he felt he needs to give something back.

"I've been really blessed in my life," he said, "and if I was just to be rich and famous and have a big house and a big car and live happily ever after, I think I would let the big fella down who gave me the gift to get to the Hall of Fame."

Barkley said he's donating $1 million to build houses in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"That was a really big deal for me," he said, "because I cannot believe in the United States I see people on television for two or three days begging for food and water. That shouldn't happen here."

He said that he drives through any city and hears people talk about the bad part of town.

"It's only bad because poor people live there,' he said. "That's what they mean. People try to make it about race. It's really about economics."

Barkley has decided to have ex-Philadelphia teammate Moses Malone and Phoenix Suns chairman and former owner Jerry Colangelo introduce him at the Hall of Fame ceremony. The decision to select Colangelo shows how far the two have come in their reconciliation after hard feelings surrounded Barkley's' trade from Phoenix to Houston at the end of his career.

"Jerry gave me the opportunity," Barkley said.

He said that while he was a "much better player" in his early days with Philadelphia, his greatest team success came in Phoenix.

Barkley said he's friends with a couple of people who made the leap from celebrity to politics -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

"They're like, 'Hey man, this ain't like you think it is,'" Barkley said. "'These people, all of them, sold their souls to special interest groups. They're not trying to do good things here.'

"Then I say, `You know what, if I don't try to do something, it's never going to change,'" he said.

He said all political parties should be eliminated.

"You shouldn't belong to a political affiliation. Everybody should be an independent," he said. "The way it is now you're hamstrung to a particular party. That's not right."