At 3 in the morning, Michael Jordan wanted to play golf.
He knew whom he could call.
Even late in his basketball career, even late in that season and even late at night, Barkley answered.
“He says, ‘What you doing?’ I said, ‘Nothing. Sitting here sucking. We lost last night,’ ” Barkley remembered. “He said, ‘I’ll pick you up in four hours.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I’m coming to get you. We’re going to play some golf. The season’s over. You need to get away.’
“In four hours, he picked me up at the private airport right by my house on his private jet.”
They were that close. Dial-you-up-at-3-to-set-a-tee-time-and-then-pick-you-up-in-a-private-jet close.
Another conversation ended all of their conversations.
Barkley has been an analyst for TNT since 2000. In those 20 years, he said on GOLF.com’s newest Subpar podcast, only twice what he opined caused him a problem. This was the second.
In 2012, a radio station in Chicago wanted to talk Jordan the basketball executive.
They knew whom to call.
“I remember the show very, very well,” Barkley said. “I’m sitting there, and I was talking about the job that he was doing, and I said, ‘Michael, I love him like a brother, but he’s never going to be successful as a general manager as long as he’s hired only his friends.
“ ‘When you’re famous, the No. 1 thing you got to do is surround yourself with people who hold you accountable.’ ”
A few minutes after the show, Jordan wanted to talk.
Not about golf.
“Next commercial break, I see his name pop up,” Barkley said. “And he is m’fing me up and down, and up and down, and up and down, and that’s the last time we spoke.”
In 2006, Kobe Bryant just texted. For three hours. Barkley’s first problem.
In a season-ending playoff loss, Bryant took just three shots in the second half. It was perhaps in response to the game before, a loss where Bryant was critiqued for taking 35 shots.
Barkley critiqued the three-shot game.
“So we get off the air, apparently my words have gotten back to Kobe, he texts me for the next three hours, and we go back and forth for three hours,” Barkley said. “He won’t pick up the phone. He keeps sending me texts. And he’s going crazy for three hours.”
The entire Subpar podcast will be available Tuesday on GOLF.com.