Happy Birthday, Sir Charles.

Every so often, an athlete performs so far above the rest of the competition (Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods) that the rest of the competitors – who might be legitimately amazing – seem average. For instance, if Ryan Lochte were 10 years older or younger, he’d be a huge superstar. But alas, he’s the same age as Michael Phelps, so he’ll always be known as second-best, or the guy who’s just pretty good.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Michael Jordan – the greatest of all time – celebrated his 50th birthday this weekend. And just three days later, Charles Barkley celebrated his own 50th birthday.

For a man who spent his entire career in Jordan’s shadow, it’s very fitting that his milestone birthday was a few days afterward. Once all the hoopla from Jordan’s birthday died down (ESPN basically devoted the entire weekend to him), Charles celebrated his own birthday to minimal fanfare.

While Jordan is known as the best basketball player of all time, Barkley is known as merely a really great player, who never held the title of “the best” since he played in the same era as Jordan. However, Barkley also realized that NBA careers end at 35 – maybe 40 if you’re lucky – so he found a way to turn his career toward reporting, and of course, writing. Yes, he writes books, and they’re great. If you want to borrow “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?” I have a copy on my bookshelf.

Of course, Jordan has his own career now, too, but Charles’ is much more public: he’s a popular NBA commentator, Weight Watchers spokesman, and recent SNL host.

Although most athletes tend to be a little stiff in front of the camera, Charles has been very successful on SNL.

Here he is recently, spoofing  TNT’s NBA coverage, and in the early 90’s, being affirmed by Stuart Smalley and Muggsy Bogues:

 

He’s widely known for his sense of humor; even in his playing days, reporters loved him for his hilarious soundbites and witty reflections on the NBA. He’s smart, charming, and laugh-out-loud funny. Seriously, TNT is the network that “knows drama,” but they also have one of the funniest shows on TV, Inside the NBA.

I’m a huge fan of Sir Charles (as is my husband, who found out I was writing about him and made sure I included an anecdote about how they met at a casino in Phoenix five years ago and it was one of the greatest days of both of their lives), so in honor of his 50th, please enjoy some of his funniest moments:

Happy 50th, Charles! You may not be better than Michael, but we like you more.

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