Charles Barkley to sell MVP trophy to build affordable housing in hometown
Great athletes are not hardwired for empathy. They are born to win. They are built to conquer. To show no mercy for those in their wake.
Charles Barkley is different. He’s an American treasure. And here’s the latest:
When the current NBA season is over, Barkley plans on selling the Most Valuable Player trophy he won playing for the Suns in 1992-93. He will liquidate other items of memorabilia, like one of his Olympic gold medals and a flag signed by every member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
He will use the proceeds to build affordable housing in his hometown of Leeds, Alabama.
Because he really does care. And this gesture is proof.
“I grew up in a real small hometown. Not a lot of money. Not a lot going on there,” Barkley said on Monday. “There are at least 25-30 eyesores, as I call them. Houses that have been covered up in weeds. Houses that are rotting from neglect. Houses that haven’t been lived in for 30 years. I can help change that.”
This isn’t unusual behavior from Barkley. When he showed up for a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in 2007, he saw a community badly damaged by the Angora Fire, which was ignited by an illegal campfire and destroyed 254 homes.
Barkley donated $100,000 on the spot. He treated over 100 firefighters to dinner and drinks once the fire was contained. He is so beloved in that community that July 11 was proclaimed Charles Barkley Day in South Lake Tahoe.
“There are so many people out there who just need a hand,” Barkley said. “They weren’t good enough to dribble a basketball or hit a golf ball. But they’re really good, amazing people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time or born into a bad situation. I just feel really bad for those people, the people born into poverty, the people who just can’t seem to get a break. And anytime I see people in those situations, I’m going to help if I can.
“I mean, a lot of these people work twice as hard as me. But they just couldn’t dribble a basketball.”
Barkley got the idea of selling his memorabilia from former 76ers coach Billy Cunningham. He also has an autograph deal with Panini America, and one of their representatives told Barkley he was sitting on a fortune in memorabilia.
His MVP trophy sits in the office of his Valley home, but most of the other stuff had been in the possession of his mom and grandmother, who have both passed. Barkley realized all of the trinkets were doing nothing for his daily happiness, and simply found a better use for their value.
“I talked to my daughter, because all of this stuff was going to her anyway,” Barkley said. “And she said, ‘Dad, I’ll take one of the (two) gold medals. But you can sell all the other stuff.”
Barkley could’ve taken an easier path to fundraising. He could’ve pawned off a few corporate appearances, maybe organized a golf tournament, etc. He could’ve treated his MVP trophy like the Holy Grail, a monument to himself. Especially for a guy who gets a lot of grief for never winning a NBA championship.
Selling them means he’s truly giving back, truly sacrificing for the good of others. And that says a lot about Barkley.
Not that anyone is surprised.
“I probably look at (the MVP trophy) once every 3-4 months, if I’m passing by my office,” Barkley said. “But how long do you keep this stuff? I mean, my daughter is going to have children. They’ll know that I was a MVP. They won’t need to see the trophy.
“Seriously. What am I going to do? Invite people over to look at the trophy? Am I going to be 75 years old calling up friends and telling them to come over for a viewing party, where we can sit around and look at the trophy?”
“I’m already rich. Why should I ask other people to take care of the poor?”
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.