Charles Barkley often makes obtuse statements that need clarification, and this is a prime example. Barkley didn’t mean what critics thought he meant when he said that Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas crying before the game was “not a good look.” (Thomas lost his younger sister in a tragic car accident the day before the NBA playoffs began.) Barkley said Thomas’s crying on the sideline before the game “makes me uncomfortable.” Yes, it sounds like Barkley is being callous and somehow placing the value of an NBA playoff game over the value of human life and family. But that’s not what Barkley was doing — Barkley was showing compassion, not callousness, however awkwardly he phrased it.
The key to what Barkley meant is in this: “That tells me he’s not in shape to play. I mean, I don’t know how this night is going to turn out. But to be sitting on the sideline a few minutes before the game crying, that makes me uncomfortable for him.” What Barkley is saying is that it might not be a good idea for Thomas to play — not because the Celtics might lose, or the NBA might suffer, but simply because it might not be right for Thomas. Going about “business as usual” isn’t always the right thing in the face of tragedy, is what Barkley was saying. It’s easier to understand Barkley’s thinking if you think of Thomas’s deep emotional injury like it’s a physical injury: anyone who cares about Thomas wouldn’t want him on the court if playing would hurt him more than help him. Barkley was saying he’s uncomfortable because he thinks Thomas maybe shouldn’t be there, that maybe he’s not in the right place given his inevitable state of mind. It’s not some tough guy thing as some commentators are saying — Barkley is expressing compassion.
Charles Barkley wants you to know he’s uncomfortable pic.twitter.com/Jbyo5pz8Rt
— Marcia Herold (@marciaherold) April 16, 2017