Charles Barkley being Charles Barkley — that is to say, most anything will come out of his mouth — you have to take this not as fact, but as, well, something perhaps close to fact. In any case, before Dallas Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki’s charity baseball game in Frisco, Texas over the weekend, Barkley said he was so impressed with Nowitzki as a teenager that he recruited him to attend Auburn.
Barkley being Barkley, you can guess it was not the most subtle recruiting tactic. He and other NBA stars were playing high-schoolers during the Nike “Hoop Heroes Tour” in Germany in 1997.
“Dirk is kicking our ass,” Barkley said. “He’s got like 25 at halftime, and me and Michael (Jordan) were like ‘Scottie, you gotta pick it up a little bit.’ He’s mad. ‘C’mon, lock him down in the second half, lock him down in the second half.’ Dirk finished with like 52.”
“So I call Nike and I said, ‘Find out about this kid. Tell him I’ll give him anything he wants to go to Auburn. Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done. … In the SEC we make sure you’re well taken care of. Everyone wants to give us a hard time about giving Cam Newton $200,000. That’s called a good damn investment.”
Again, understand the source.
Barkley’s efforts to encourage Nowitzki to attend Auburn were unsuccessful. The 7-foot forward caught the attention of NBA scouts with a 33-point, 14-rebound effort at the Nike Hoop Summit in 1998. As a result, he went straight to the NBA, bypassing offers from more than 30 U.S. colleges.
Nowitzki considered college (he visited Kentucky, Cal and Stanford) but decided against it.
“I figured once I go to high school they were going to make me a back-to-the-basket type player, and that’s really not what I wanted or where I saw my future,” Nowitzki said. “I decided against it. Looking back now it was a smart decision, but back then it was pretty hard.”