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‘Ringless’ Charles Barkley Bares His Heart On His Greatest Achievement Alongside Michael Jordan

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

'Ringless' Charles Barkley Bares His Heart On His Greatest Achievement Alongside Michael Jordan

After finishing only third in the Men’s Basketball Tournament in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Team USA decided to flex their muscles by recruiting the best NBA players to represent them in Barcelona in 1992. The star-studded roster winning the gold medal felt like a formality, but not to Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who dubbed it the ‘most surreal feeling’ ever. During an appearance on the iHeart podcast, he said,

“As a person who’s been blessed to accomplish a lot of amazing things in their life, the most surreal feeling I’ve ever had is standing on that podium when they are playing the national anthem… The coolest thing I’ve ever been to in my life is the Olympics… When you are on that podium at the Olympics and they are playing your national anthem, it is one of the coolest [feelings]. We were looking at each other like, ‘Yo man, I’m getting goosebumps.'”

Barkley added that standing beside Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson and receiving the gold medal was ‘pretty special.’

Making it onto the 1992 Olympics roster, better known as the ‘Dream Team,’ was an achievement in itself. Fourteen of the 15 spots were reserved for the best American players in the league, while the final spot went to Duke star Christian Laettner.

Being a part of that team served as validation for each player that they were among the best in the world at their jobs. Unsurprisingly, they blew past the competition and beat Croatia 117-85 in the final to win the gold with ease.

Barkley never got the opportunity to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but winning the gold medal as part of the Dream Team is a great consolation prize. While several players won a championship ring, only 15 can claim they were part of the greatest international roster ever assembled, and Barkley is one of those.

Charles Barkley believes only Michael Jordan was better than him in 1992

While 14 of the 15 players on the Dream Team were bonafide NBA superstars, the trio of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird were the faces of the team. They were front and center in every team photo as they were the most accomplished players on the roster. Charles Barkley is only a side character in the legacy of the Dream Team, but on the court, he played the lead role.

He started only four of the eight games that Team USA played in Barcelona, but he led them in points with 18.1 per game and was also the most efficient shooter on the roster, sinking 71.1% of his shot attempts. He was also second in rebounds with 4.1 and dished 2.4 assists per game. His exceptional performances did not make him one of the faces of the team, but Barkley isn’t bothered because head coach Chuck Daly gave him the affirmation he needed.

During an appearance on the Pivot Podcast in 2022, the crew asked him if he was bothered that Jordan, Johnson, and Bird are the players most associated with Dream Team. He responded,

“No, and let me tell you why… [Head coach] Chuck Daly said to me, he said, ‘Charles, can I talk to you? You’re the second-best basketball player in the world.’ I said, ‘Who’s better than me?’ and he said, ‘That motherfucker right there [Jordan].’ And I said, ‘You’re right about that.’… And that’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten from somebody.”

After winning the gold medal with Team USA in 1992, Barkley added five All-Star selections, four All-NBA nods, an MVP award, and another Olympic gold medal to his already stacked resume. However, Daly’s compliment and the victory in Barcelona remain the highlights of his career.

Post Edited By:Sameen Nawathe

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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