Charles Barkley spoke his truth about the NBA, broadcasting, maintaining credibility and being assertive, frustration over young people who waste opportunities and some other things he said "drive me nuts."
Athleticism, humor and frankness define Barkley, the 2018 recipient of the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media award. And during a "student conversation" event Friday at Temple University's Performing Arts Center, the hall of famer, two-time Olympic gold medal winner and esteemed commentator told about 300 people that he lives to take jabs at Shaquille O'Neal, loves to read print newspapers and keeps his thumbs away from social media.
"I think social media is the worst thing that has happened to the world, the whole world," Barkley said to applause after a student mentioned to him an article she had read about NBA players using social media. "People know my stance on social media. I think it's awful. It's got some good points to it, probably, but I choose to do no social media. I think people are evil and mean-spirited when they sit at home behind their computer."
Klein College Dean David Boardman said the former Philadelphia 76er and champion rebounder may be best known for his work off the basketball court. The college's award, according to the dean, recognizes Barkley as a "multi-talented entertainer," sports analyst, author of four books and the host of a four-episode documentary series on TNT about the African-American experience. Additionally, Barkley co-hosts the Emmy-winning "Inside the NBA" on TNT and returns every March Madness to broadcast the NCAA Final Four. In his introduction, Boardman also noted Barkley's commitment to education and charitable works that include donating more than $1.25 million toward health and education programs to benefit African Americans.
"Charles Barkley, more than anyone, has done an outstanding job in broadcasting," Boardman said. "He's known for telling it like it is - which is important in an era of 'fake news.'"
Boardman recalled how Barkley famously declared in a Nike commercial that he was no role model.
"The irony of that," said Boardman, "he turned out to be a great role model."
Before turning the mic over to the students, the dean asked Barkley about the importance of being honest as a broadcaster, the preparation involved to work in the business as a host and about the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality of African Americans.
Honesty is a "big deal," Barkley said, adding he never wants to betray the viewers by being dishonest.
"I'm just going to tell my truth. I don't think I'm always right, but I'm going to tell my truth and some people will like it and some people won't like it."
As for the anthem protests, Barkley said he's grown "sick" of the talk about the anthem and would rather keep the conversation about what the protests are about because the protesters aren't trying to be disrespectful.
"President Trump is turning it into a patriotic thing," Barkley said. "He took the narrative and ruined it."
Students asked Barkley, a four-time host of "Saturday Night Live," about his comedic talents, achieving parity in the NBA, what are the elements of a good interview and at what point in his career did he decide to do more than play basketball and give back.
Barkley said he was about 26 years old when he decided that while money and a big house were nice, there was too much going on in the world not to take notice and do something.
"The one thing that was bugging me was when I was speaking to schools," he said, recalling how he would notice a few students at predominantly white schools aspiring to be professional athletes.
"I want young black men and women to know that they can be doctors, lawyers and engineers," he said, adding that he has given more than $1 million for African-American female entrepreneurs in IT and African-American males in the building trades. While there has been robust interest from the females, there has been little interest from the males, he said, adding he's not giving up on the initiatives.
Barkley is the 18th recipient of the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media award. The three most recent past winners include Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times; actor and writer Tina Fey and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. Also each year, Klein College presents several distinguished alumni with a Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award and recognizes a young alumnus as a Rising Star. The 2018 recipients include Marsha Cooke, '87; Jim Gallagher, '78; David Maialetti, '89; Tifani Roberts, '91 and Fred Stein, '72. This year's Rising Star is Will Yip, '08.
Before the question-and-answer session, Barkley met with members of the Temple men's and women's basketball teams and posed for pictures with the players.
Raheem Mapp, the director of operations for Temple men's basketball, said Barkley's frankness is a good lesson to the players - that's he speaks his mind and stands by it. He liked Barkley's style when he played in the NBA, having a "huge heart."
Sports and Recreation majors Nicole Feliz, a junior, and Dyamond Brooks, a senior, attended the talk for Barkley's insight and honesty.
Feliz said she liked that Barkley helped African-American females interested in IT careers and also liked his honesty by saying he was frustrated that a similar initiative to help African-American males in the building trades did not generate as much interest.