One person who has taken a verbal beating during “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary, is Jerry Krause, the general manager who put together those successful Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s.

Krause, who died in 2017, is constantly ridiculed by Jordan in clips from the 1997-98 season. In the intervening years, Jordan himself has tried his hand at building an NBA team in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has never had anywhere near the success Krause had. Charles Barkley, whose close friendship with Jordan fractured over his criticism of his management skills, knows why.

Charles Barkley

FILE – In this June 24, 2019, file photo, Charles Barkley arrives at the NBA Awards o at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. The former Auburn University star and NBA Hall of Famer says he’s donating $1 million to Miles College, a historically black institution in Fairfield, Alabama. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Now an NBA analyst for Turner Sports, Barkley points out that his job, as well as his temperament, is to express his unfiltered opinion. With Jordan, he mentioned in 2012 that being a boss and being the boss are entirely different things and that success in one does not guarantee success in the other.

“Listen, if you’re famous, and Michael at one point was the most famous person in the world, everybody around you is either on the payroll or letting you buy drinks and dinner and flying around on your private jet. Very few of your friends are going to be honest with you,” he said on ESPN Chicago’s “Waddell and Silvy” show Tuesday. “And that’s very hard for any celebrity, but especially somebody of his stature.

“But I thought that was one of the reasons we were great friends. Like, ‘I can ask Charles anything, and I know he’s going to give me a straight answer.’ But part of my (TV analyst) job is … I can’t go on TV and say, ‘Another general manager sucks,’ and then just because Michael’s like a brother to me say, ‘He’s doing a fantastic job.’ That would be disingenuous.”

Barkley acknowledges that their relationship has always been out of whack.

“When you’re friends with somebody like Michael,” he said, “it’s got to be on his terms.”

JORDAN RODMAN PIPPEN BURRELL

Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan reaches high above teammates Dennis Rodman, left, Scottie Pippen, and Scott Burrell (24) for a rebound against the Utah Jazz during Game 4 in the NBA Finals in Chicago in June 1998. AP file photo

If Air Jordan is Michael’s brand, Barkley’s is being outspoken, and Barkley said he is “more sad than anything” about their chilly, “painful” break. Since becoming an owner of the Bobcats/Hornets, the team has had a record better than .500 only three times.

“The guy was like a brother to me for, shoot, 20-something years,” Barkley said Tuesday. “At least 20-something years. And I do, I feel sadness. But to me he’s still the greatest basketball player ever. I wish him nothing but the best. But, hey, there’s nothing I can do about it, brother.”

Barkley vividly recalled the rift in a 2012 interview with the same show.

“I thought my name was SOB and MF,” he said then of a phone conversation he and Jordan had. “Like, damn, I couldn’t even say anything. I said, ‘Dude, I can’t get on the radio and tell people you been doing a good job.'”

Waddell and Silvy expressed some concern that they had sparked the controversy, a notion Barkley put to rest.

“The thing that bothered me the most about that whole thing, I don’t think that I said anything that bad,” Barkley said. “I’m pretty sure I said, ‘As much as I love Michael, until he stops hiring them kiss(expletive) and his best friends, he’s never going to be successful as a general manager.’ And I remember pretty much verbatim I said that. And the thing that really p—– me off about it later is (Jordan’s Bulls coach) Phil Jackson said the exact same thing.”

Jordan was, as Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis put it, “the most competitive human being the world has ever seen,” and few have held a grudge as well as the man who used his Basketball Hall of Fame speech to torch everyone who had doubted him, including the coach who kept him off the varsity team in high school. Is there any chance the two can restore their friendship?

“He got my number,” Barkley said. “It’s been a long time, so I guess not.”


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