Charles Barkley, an NBA hall of famer and current analyst for TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” received the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media award and answered questions from students and faculty on Thursday at the Temple Performing Arts Center.
About 300 students attended. He spoke to students as part of the “student conversation” Lew Klein award winners host. In the past, award winners like Executive Editor of The New York Times Dean Baquet and actress and comedian Tina Fey, held conversations, moderated by Klein College Dean David Boardman.
Barkley talked about his career in basketball and broadcasting, his outspoken nature and work in social justice.
Barkley emphasized education as he answered questions. He said he regretted slacking off in school when he was younger.
“The biggest mistake I ever made in my life was not taking education more serious,” Barkley said. “You get a chance to dictate your future.”
Barkley attended Auburn University, but left before he graduated because he was drafted into the 76ers the summer following his junior year.
Cami Hernandez, a junior film and media arts major, said she wasn’t expecting Barkley to talk so much about education.
“I was happy to see someone with so much success like him encourage kids to stay in school and daydream about being famous,” Hernandez said. “It inspired me to work harder if I ever want to get to his level.”
Barkley produced a 1993 commercial in which he said he isn’t a “role model” just because he plays basketball and uses the phrase to encourage kids to look beyond athletes for who to look up to.
He added while sports was always his focus while in school, he realized a basketball player’s career is short. Now, he said, he uses his money and fame to do good in the world.
“There’s got to be more to life than having a big house and making a lot of money,” he said.
Barkley discussed how he invests time into making a television documentary series, American Race, which focuses on racial inequality, police brutality and immigration, and uses air time to raise awareness for issues he finds important.
Barkley said he actively chooses which topics to be outspoken about after a student asked how he balances speaking his mind while keeping his audience.
“You always have to say your piece,” he said. “But you have to do it in a way that doesn’t make the people around you feel threatened.”
He added he thinks people stop listening to important criticism when broadcasters “complain too much.”
Freshman marketing major Sarah Howell said she came to see Barkley because she’s a basketball fan but was most interested in what he had to say about being outspoken.
“He made me realize it’s not really up to you if everyone is going to be completely supportive of what you’re saying,” Howell said. “You might as well just do and say what you feel.”
About 10 students asked questions during the conversation.
Hernandez asked Barkley about his transition from basketball player to actor and comedian. She works on Temple Smash, a student-produced sketch comedy show on TUTV, and said she wanted to see Barkley because he hosted Saturday Night Live and acted in the movie “Space Jam.”
“It was awesome to see an athlete like himself be so professional in an industry like acting that you wouldn’t think he’d be in,” Hernandez said. “It was inspiring.”