Long before he became a champion for the analytics movement, current TNT analyst/future general manager Charles Barkley spent eight seasons wreaking havoc on the rest of the NBA as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. But four months before he was infamously traded to the Phoenix Suns during the summer of 1992, Barkley very nearly became the face of the post-Showtime Los Angeles Lakers.
In a recent interview with Richard Deitsch of SI.com, Sir Charles spilled the beans on a trade to Los Angeles that never panned out:
The Sixers backed out. It was going crazy for two weeks so I knew it would come down to Portland, [the] Lakers or Phoenix. So I get a call from my agent one morning and he said, "Philly has traded you to the Lakers." So I went to lunch and started drinking. I'm f---ing so excited that I am going to the Lakers. Three hours later I get a f---ing phone call from my agent saying that the Sixers backed out of the deal. I said, "Oh, s--t, I'm feeling pretty good right now." So I went out and played that night.
A Philadelphia Inquirer story from January 1992 speculated that Barkley and small forward Ron Anderson would have been sent to the Lakers in exchange for James Worthy and Elden Campbell. A month later, Alan Goldstein of the Baltimore Sun wrote of a potential three-team deal where the particulars of the Sixers/Lakers swap would have remained the same, but the 76ers would have flipped Worthy to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill and Rex Chapman.
Hindsight is 20/20, and quite frankly, Barkley should be thankful that he wasn't sent out to Hollywood at the 1992 trade deadline. The Lakers were absolutely putrid for the next two seasons, and Barkley would have had to carry a team where the two best players were arguably Sedale Threatt and A.C. Green. Instead, the "Round Mound of Rebound" was shipped to the Suns where he was named the league's MVP and came two wins away from knocking off the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
From the Sixers' perspective, maybe the deal they ultimately swung with Phoenix wasn't as one-sided as we originally thought. (Editor's note: It was.) Campbell eventually developed into a decent center, but considering the fact that Worthy retired after the 1993-94 season, the original trade wouldn't have been much of a net positive for the Sixers. The addition Charlotte into the mix is intriguing: How would a Chapman/Hersey Hawkins/Gill/Clarence Weatherspoon/Campbell lineup have fared against the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks of the early '90s? We can only dream...