After the game, both Barkley and Kevin Johnson are hauled into the interview room to appear with Paul Westphal. One thing is obvious. The Suns are trying to make KJ feel that he is special. KJ has been whining for weeks now about how he feels unappreciated. The Suns want him to feel special for the finale against the Chicago Bulls.

Westphal is as laid-back as ever. Karl had said that Westphal looked like he was coaching in a summer league, and Karl was right. That's the way Westphal has acted all year long. He still wears the suit that is provided for him each game by a local clothing store. But now he has also added an oversize, white baseball cap with an NBA playoff logo. The hat is so big, it rests directly upon his ears. It makes it impossible to take anything he is about to say with any seriousness.

Barkley is, of course, in his element. He talks so loud and with so much bluster into the microphones and cameras that KJ finally sulks off the stage.

Barkley is so wound up, it appears he will never stop talking. Later, he wanders back into the dressing room, where he is surrounded by many of the same media people he has been berating for the past few weeks.

Barkley is a man determined to be a public figure. He never stops speaking. In the course of a single sitting, he is capable of taking opposite sides on half a dozen issues. Like many people in show business, he is convinced that he is "good friends" with every big name he has ever met.

But Barkley's talk and persona are infectious. They are also often self-deprecating. Barkley's charm is every bit as infectious as that of the young Muhammad Ali, or of Reggie Jackson in the days when Jackson was still claiming to be "the straw that stirs the drink" for the New York Yankees.

Listening to Barkley, you wonder how Colangelo ever got up the nerve to bring a larger-than-life character like him into a sleepy, Rotary Club town like Phoenix.

But why worry about it now? Colangelo did have the nerve. And it did pay off. And Jerry will never have to worry about going back into the tuxedo-rental business in Chicago Heights again. @rule:

@body:Barkley's outburst in the locker room after the game will be one of those outbursts frozen in time.

You have to love him, because it is obvious he is a man who can't stand success. He will do his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time. I think he must really want to prove that he is not a role model.

All Charles had to do was say that he was happy to win, and that he hoped for the best in the finals. Instead, he began attacking everyone in the media whom he felt had slighted his team by predicting it wouldn't beat Seattle.

To tell the truth, no one has really been unfair to the Suns. The publicized frailties of the Suns are of their own making. It was Westphal, their own coach, who sent them into decline by announcing that the last week of the season was going to be an "exhibition season." It was Westphal who took them up to Prescott to get away from the "excitement."

The rap that the Suns don't play good defense comes right from the mouth of the Great Barkley himself. He has insisted all year long that he doesn't like to play defense. It is obvious that he only plays defense when he wants to. Why is it, do you suppose, that he never fouled out of a single regular-season game?

"We're too short. We don't play any defense," Barkley said, glaring into the cameras. "Well, we're still here, and all the bashers like Bill Walton and Peter Vecsey are sitting home.

"I'd like to tell all of you who were out there bashing us to kiss my big, black ass."
If you were not present, you might expect that Barkley's words were greeted with some apprehension. What you must understand is that every bit of his talk is five parts bluster and five parts entertainment. Barkley is better at this than Don King, the boxing impresario.

A man asked Barkley how he thought Michael Jordan might be feeling about the continued pressure of the gambling story.

"The difference between him and me," Barkley said, "is that I really don't concern myself with what people think of me, because these people are not your friends. They are just out to sell newspapers. That's why I do my own thing and deal with whatever happens."
"Is America gonna love you as much as Michael Jordan after this series is over?" a man asked.

"Love me," Barkley shot back. He grinned. "I'm their worst nightmare: a brother who won't stay quiet. So I do the best I can and I deal with it. I don't worry about impressing people. Some people aren't gonna like me because they're intimidated. They're idiots."
"But is the stage going to be big enough for you and Michael?" someone asked.
"Hey, Michael's a great player. I feel like I'm a great player. I think he'll play well. I think I'll play well. We need the other guys to step up. Hell, it was Scottie Pippen who won that last game against New York.

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