Bruce, Barkley & Basketball: ‘He loves Auburn’

OPELIKA, Ala. – Charles Barkley won two Olympic gold medals, led the Dream Team in scoring, was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and was inducted – twice – into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Even with that resume, his greatest hoop thrill happened three seasons ago, when his alma mater made it to the Final Four.

“Probably my greatest sports experience,” Barkley said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think Auburn would ever make it to the Final Four. I’ll never forget that day. That was an amazing accomplishment.”

The 1984 SEC Player of the Year returned to the Plains Monday for the sixth annual Bruce, Barkley & Basketball Golf Classic presented by YellaWood, raising money that funds Auburn’s men’s basketball program’s quadrennial international trips and other extras like Tipoff at Toomer’s on Oct. 7

“To have us having a good team consistently, that makes it even better,” said Barkley, expressing appreciation for Auburn fans who traveled to Minneapolis in 2019 to support the Tigers at the Final Four. “I was really proud of my Auburn family for showing up in droves,” he said. “That was pretty awesome.

“That team was very well-coached. If somebody had told me we were going to beat the three winningest programs on our way to the Final Four, I was like, ‘Wow.'”

Barkley and Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl took pictures with each team before the event teed off at Grand National, with Barkley exuding confidence about his golf game after playing daily the past two months.

“Probably my greatest sports experience.”

🗣 Charles Barkley on @AuburnMBB 2019 Final Four run

Bruce, Barkley & 🏀 today at Grand National ⛳️

Says @coachbrucepearl of Charles, “He loves Auburn basketball, so it’s been fun to be his coach.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 27, 2021

“I’m going play well today,” Barkley said on the public address system after thanking the participants for supporting the event. “I’m going to play great today, I can’t wait to get out there and slam it around a little bit.”

For Pearl, Bruce, Barkley & Basketball marked the end of Auburn’s preseason events, with practice officially tipping off on Tuesday after summer conditioning and limited on-court workouts.

“Practices have been really good, the hardest working group I’ve had,” said Pearl, who has accelerated Auburn’s fitness regimen to prepare the Tigers for non-conference competition including the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“I’m interested in being in great shape in January,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready more in November.”

Ever accommodating, Barkley made time for each picture and autograph request on the way to his his golf cart.

“That’s why Charles is back, because he loves Auburn,” Pearl said. “He truly does. He loves Auburn basketball. It’s been fun to be his coach.”

“I’m excited about our program going forward,” Barkley said. “I can’t wait for the season to start. It’s fun when Auburn does great in basketball.

“We’ve got a great coach, we’ve got a great AD and I’m excited about our program,” Barkley said. “I’m excited about our football program, I like Coach Harsin a lot. I feel very good about our school.”

‘He loves Auburn’: Charles Barkley visits with Bruce Pearl

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

Auburn University, College Men’s Basketball, College Sports, Sports