Charles Barkley said this would be his last year.
He's not going to get to finish it.
Barkley, ironically in Philadelphia where it all began, played just 7 minutes before rupturing the quadriceps tendon in his left knee after going for a block on a Philly shot. He is out for the season and after the game said it was a sign to call it quits now. The Rockets, without Chuck, fell to the Sixers in Philly 83-73.
Barkley said after the injury was diagnosed, "It's over." and broke down in tears while speaking to his wife on the phone.
Man, it's just a sad day and it tears you up.
It's a crushing blow to both the team and to Barkley, but you don't worry about the team. The team was going to lose Barkley this offseason anyhow.
You worry about the Chuckster.
Love him or hate him, Barkley didn't deserve to go out this way. He was going out on his terms. He made a stance that this was it and didn't bitch to be traded or anything of that nature when the team started out 2-10. He praised highly rookie Steve Francis and enjoyed teaching him the ropes. You could tell he wanted to help this team get to the playoffs.
Nothing is the same without Charles Barkley. Not the team, not the fans, not anything (certainly not the Quotes section). He made every game in some way fun, enjoyable, entertaining, controversial or thrilling.
The Rockets went on to lose the game -- primarily because they shot a dismal 36.6%, scored a grand total of 73 points and turned the ball over 28 times.
Steve Francis made his return from injury after a 3-game hiatus, scoring 18 points and dishing 7 assists with 4 turnovers -- shooting 6-15. Cuttino Mobley was just 3-10 shooting, but finished with 14 points. Kenny Thomas added 8 points and 6 boards but also shot just 3-10.
In fact, only Carlos Rogers (6-10, 13 points, 7 boards) and Walt Williams (3-4, 8 points, 6 boards) shot 50% or better from the field.
But it all seemed so trivial without Charles.
Barkley got 6 ovations from the Philly crowd. I remember when the Rockets acquired him. The page, then called Clutch City '97 and hosted on a college server, was just 2 weeks old. It was like the circus rode into town. "Hakeem Olajuwon... and Clyde Drexler... and Charles Barkley?!" He embraced the city, the team and its fans and that first year in Houston he was a truly dominating force. Injuries seemed to cut him down each and every season in some way or another.
Watching him in training camp was amazing. He competed and had so much fun with the game -- you could tell his teammates loved having him on the team and got a kick out of his jokes. He has a charm and charisma about him that has made him a World-reknown figure and is rare in any individual -- if not extinct.
You find yourself hoping the doctors are wrong, that possibly he can recover quickly or make it back to the team... you just hope this isn't it, but that's not going to happen.