Charles Barkley said that a Sixers draft trade in 1986 was the disaster of his entire career
The Philadelphia 76ers rolled out one of the greatest teams of all time in 1983. With Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Julius Erving, and Andrew Toney among others, it looked like adding Charles Barkley to their roster the following year would establish them as an NBA Finals contender for years to come.
Quickly, the Sixers flashed what could be for years to come when they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in Barkley’s rookie season. In his debut season, he averaged 14.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, an impressive feat on a crowded and talented Sixers quad. He managed to log the fourth-most win shares on the team.
After winning 58 games in 1984-85, they would win 54 again in 1985-86. Barkley showed he was a young star in the making in 1986, leading the Sixers in win shares in front of the established stars of the team.
Perhaps Sixers management and ownership got a bit too excited about his ability to lead a team on his own.
They started to make moves to build around Barkley as the centerpiece, because when given the chance to cash in on aging assets, they jumped at the opportunity, perhaps for a low price and probably a bit prematurely.
Barkley recently talked about the Sixers draft day trade in 1986 and how he views it to this day.
Charles Barkley talks about Sixers draft trade that destroyed his career
On the day of the draft in 1986, Barkley told Zach Lowe on his podcast The Lowe Post that he was woken up at 6 a.m. by a phone call from Philadelphia-based journalist Phil Jasner.
Jasner informed him that the Sixers made a trade and that he was seeking Barkley’s opinion on the deal.
At first, Barkley thought Jasner was joking because of how silly the trade sounded to him. Jasner informed Barkley the team had traded the first overall pick.
"“I said, Phil, this is no time to be joking, nobody’s that [expletive] stupid to trade the number one pick,”"
Barkley took a shower and called Jasner back a bit later to get more details.
"“He says ‘well [Philly] traded the No. 1 pick to Cleveland for Roy Hinson.’ I said, ‘What? That’s all we got for the No. 1 pick, was Roy Hinson?’ And then he says, ‘Oh, and they traded Moses [Malone] to Washington.’”"
Roy Hinson was a fine player, coming off of a 19.6 point, 7.8 rebound, and 1.2 assist per game season with Cleveland the season before. Was he worth the first overall pick, though?
In his time as a Sixer, Hinson failed to even reach the 15 points per game mark, and his rebounding plummeted placed next to Barkley who was one of the most tenacious rebounders of his time.
The Sixers did get $800,000 from Cleveland in cash considerations for the pick as well.
Barkley had trouble coming to terms with the fact that Philly would give up the opportunity to inject even more fresh young talent into the team, but took even bigger issue with the veterans the team was trading away. Malone, specifically, had provided valuable guidance to a young Barkley.
"“Moses was gonna be a great mentor, because Moses was like a dad to me,”"
What did the ’86 draft produce? Jeff Hornacek, Dennis Rodman, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Arvydas Sabonis, and Dell Curry to name just a few.
While no one of those names would have been able to lead the Sixers to a title alone, imagine them alongside Barkley and Malone.
"“That was the beginning of the end, where I could have actually had a really good team,” Barkley said to Lowe.“That wrecked my entire Philadelphia career,” he said. “That was the biggest disaster of my career plain and simple,” Barkley would later reinforce."
It didn’t just wreck Barkley’s career. It gutted the Sixers for years to come. A great player, he could never quite lead the team on his own as a youngster like the Sixers envisioned. Following the trade, the Sixers made the postseason just four times 12 years.
It wasn’t the first draft day trade Philly attempted to make. They also tried to gain a pick that could have been used to draft Michael Jordan in 1984.
Philly would, of course, make out OK eventually, winning the Draft Lottery in 1996 and the chance to select generational star Allen Iverson who would lead the team to an Eastern Conference Championship.
Still, had the Sixers remained patient and trusted what they had in their core before the 1986 draft, there’s a good chance they could have won multiple titles.