Originally created 04/02/00

Former NBA star launches Internet-only talk show



PORTLAND, Ore. -- Charles Barkley, out of basketball since a career-ending knee injury in December, has a new forum from which to spout his outrageous views: an Internet-only talk show.

Nike on Friday launched the Charles Barkley Network, on which users can watch clips of Barkley interviewing guests in front of a live audience in Las Vegas.

The format is standard talk -- complete with the big desk and sugar-coated questions -- but host Charles adds his irreverent style.

When Cynthia Cooper, the Houston Comets star and two-time WNBA MVP, walks on the set, she pulls out a Scottie Pippen doll -- dressed in his old Rockets red and blue -- as a present for Barkley.

Barkley, who had a public falling out with his former teammate before he was traded to Portland, smiles and playfully smacks the doll in the side of the head, to the laughter of the audience.

"I'm sorry, y'all," he says. "Y'all weren't supposed to see that."

When Cooper says she wants to be the first woman coach in the NBA, the crowd cheers again.

"Hey, y'all quit clappin' for that!" Barkley says. "They tried to tell me I was a chauvinist pig, because I said that women should not be allowed to officiate in the NBA. I said nothing personal, that's just my personal opinion."

"Keep it to yourself," Cooper replies.

When he and world 100-meter record-holder Maurice Greene talk about their daughters -- Greene's is 4 months old, Barkley's 10 years -- Barkley moans that boys will soon be coming around.

"You know what I figured out, though. If I shoot the first one, I think word will spread that these boys shouldn't be coming to my house."

Nike came up with the idea to take Charles online shortly after he ruptured a tendon in his left knee in a game at Philadelphia on Dec. 8. The injury ended Barkley's 16-year career, although he says he would like to come back and play in Houston's season finale April 19.

"As soon as Charles got hurt, we said we're all going to be without this great quotemeister, so let's see what we can do to figure out a way for Charles to be Charles," said Barry Locke, a producer for Nike.com.

The site was designed by BlastRadius of Vancouver, British Columbia, which also developed Nike's Lance Armstrong Web site. The Barkley site continues a trend of Internet-only content Nike started with its whatever.com interactive ads and continued with the "Bracketville" NCAA tournament tie-ins.

To view the site, users need the QuickTime 4 video playback software. It can be downloaded for free at the Barkley site.

Locke says the original show was taped on Feb. 14, and another will be done in April.

The first episode, while falling somewhere between Arsenio and the Magic Johnson show, is kept fresh by its unpredictability and Barkley's one-liners.

At one point, Barkley lies on the couch while Cooper stands atop his desk and raps. Barkley also talks about the Olympics, his night in jail and how bad the New York Knicks and Miami Heat are.

The best bits are when children come on and read e-mail questions from around the country. One asks why Barkley's shorts at Auburn were so tight. He says it's because his rear end was so big.

"I couldn't help how big it was. That's what God gave me," he says.

He says he wouldn't want to own a team because he couldn't stand losing. About his future plans, Barkley says he just wants to have fun.

"I'm really excited about it," he says of retirement. "I want to accomplish a lot more away from basketball."