By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Though Charles Barkley and Michael Vick played different sports, with different degrees of success in Philadelphia, they will both go down in Philadelphia sports history together in one particular category: lightning rods.
Barkley was, and still is, known as one of the most honest, direct, and hilarious athletes of his generation. Though his skill and success on the court cannot be questioned, his interviews were always championship level. Charles will always let you know what he thinks, regardless of who it may enrage. And in his time, he’s enraged quite a few people. Thankfully for Charles, he’s made twice as many people smile.
Vick, known first for his video game like ability in Atlanta, became a lightning rod for another reason before he ever arrived in Philadelphia. His arrest and subsequent jail time and association with a dog fighting ring made many angry at the simple mention of his name. When Andy Reid and the Eagles decided they’d be the first team to give him a chance in the NFL after his release, the reaction was shock, disgust, and some fascination as well. Vick eventually became the toast of the town for a few months, as Reid’s reclamation project hit its peak in 2010, when Vick’s stretch of dominance earned him runner-up honors in NFL MVP voting.
On Thursday, the two took part in a joint interview on 94WIP with Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow, and the result was as fascinating as you’d imagine.
The topics ranged from the Sixers (Barkley says they won’t set the record for futlity, but won’t win 20 games either), to the St. Louis Rams quarterback situation, to hamstring recovery.
Barkley said his greatest influence as a professional basketball player was Moses Malone, who encouraged Barkley to drop from 300 pounds to 250. While Vick didn’t skip a beat when he answered Andy Reid, who taught him what it takes to put in the kind of work needed to be a successful NFL player.
Barkley, along time Eagles fan, made it clear he’s keeping tabs on the current quarterback situation.
“The week you’re out, going to Tampa Bay, Nick [Foles] plays well,” Barkley said. “First of all, I thought the way you guys handled that press conference last week was amazing. So I had to watch all this stuff and I’m listening to all these radio shows, and they’re trying to run you out of town. Nick Foles is the new savior of the team. Then I watched that game Sunday, hurry back please.”
“You know, I’m doing everything I can to get back. It’s a grind every day, you know what it’s like to be hurt,” Vick said. “The one thing you hate the most, is not being out there when you feel like your teammates need you the most. I’m doing everything in my power to get back out there this weekend. Like you say, whatever it takes man, if I got to back out there with a cane I’m gonna do that.”
“Number one, the thing that sucks about the hamstrings, if you rush back and don’t get that thing healthy it’s just going to be a recurring thing all season,” Barkley responded. “So take your time man, get healthy. They know they need you now!”
“I just always want to make my presence known, and my presence felt,” Vick said. “This city has been great to me, I love the city of Philadelphia and there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help my football team win every Sunday.”
As the 45 minute interview winded down, Gargano and Macnow hit Barkley and Vick with some rapid fire questions, that seemed to inspire the most genuine answers of the session.
“For me I would have been John Stockton. No, John never played [in the Olympics]. He got hurt,” Barkley said when asked who is the one player he’d always wanted to take the court with. “The one guy I never got to play with I wanted to, you Sixers people screwed it up and traded the number one pick in the draft like idiots, Brad Daugherty.”
Vick’s response is one that makes you think about how amazing it really could have been if it had come true.
“I always wanted to play with Randy Moss,” Vick said. “Nothing like having a big, tall, fast receiver that you know you can count on, make plays. It’s good to have the other guys that can run the short, intermediate, and I got a great version of that in DeSean Jackson, don’t get me wrong, but Randy Moss is 6-5, 6-6. He’s just a difference maker, he dictates how the defense play.”
As for the toughest players each had played with and against…
“The toughest guy I played with probably was Warrick Dunn. The guy was only 5-8, 5-9, maybe 190 pounds and he ran like he was 6-4, 250 pounds,” Vick said. “The toughest guy I ever played against, and I only got to play against him once, was John Randle. He was a headache, but I enjoyed every minute of it even thought I was shaking in my boots.”
“The toughest guy I ever played with was Derek Smith because he was a man. He was a man. He was a man. I mean it was a honor and priveledge, God rest his sole, but he was a man. Nobody gonna grab that guy,” Barkley said. “I was for as guys I played against, I wouldn’t say a guy, but I will tell you this. That bad boy Pistons team, when they had Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Dennis Rodman down low, and Bill Laimbeer. Every time I went in there, there was a chance—at least I would say, there’s a chance you could die.”
The interview itself made you miss Charles Barkley, and wonder what could have been. At the same time, it makes you wonder if we’ll feel some of the same things about Vick in a decade.