Charles Barkley to announce retirement

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The Independent Online

The Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley will announce his retirement from basketball today, effective at the end of the American NBA season.

The Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley will announce his retirement from basketball today, effective at the end of the American NBA season.

Barkley, 36, has threatened to retire several times in recent years, but the 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) power forward insists it will be the real thing when he announces it during half-time of the preseason Houston-Rockets-Detroit Pistons game in Birmingham, Alabama.

"It's just time," said Barkley, who has been upgraded to questionable for today's game after missing the last four preseason games with tendinitis in his right elbow. "It's time. That's it. I'm not going to answer any more questions about it. It's just time."

Birmingham is a short drive from Barkley's hometown of Leeds, Alabama, and he wants his family to be there for the announcement. Although he is not sure what he will do after completing his 16th season in the NBA.

"I might just take some time off. This is my last year, period. I don't care how well I'm playing - this is it," he said. "I want to get it over with, and that's it. I'm looking forward to it."

Barkley has long been one of the league's top draws, especially internationally. He was on the original "Dream Team", playing with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on the side that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

In 1996, then with the Phoenix Suns, he teamed up with current Rockets teammate Hakeem Olajuwon on the Olympic team that won a gold medal in Atlanta.

"If Charles has decided that this is his last season, then we should all relish one more chance to be entertained by one of the most spectacular players in NBA history," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik told the Houston Chronicle. "Charles is certainly a one-of-a-kind personality, but first and foremost, he is a truly great talent on the court."

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander agreed. "He is a great player, but he also made the game fun," Alexander said. "People love to be around Charles, and an attitude like that is rare in any sport. His routine will be missed."

Barkley averaged less than 10 rebounds a game in a season only once, when he had 8.6 average as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984-85. Entering this season, Barkley is 13th on the career scoring list with 23,468 points and has pulled down 12,337 rebounds.

He led the league by averaging 14.6 boards in 1986-87, and grabbed a career-high 33 in his first game as a Rocket in 1996.

He was the NBA's second-leading rebounder last season with 12.3 per game.

Alexander, who said he is not surprised by the decision, is happy to have Barkley play his last game as a Rocket.

"It's nice to have a great one retire in your uniform. And he's one of the greatest of all," Alexander said.

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