Retired basketball star Charles Barkley is set to receive a statue outside Auburn Arena — making him the first former athlete who wasn’t a football player to be immortalized on the university’s campus.
According to the Washington Post, the school announced plans to a erect a statue in Barkley’s name during Auburn’s 56-3 win over the University of Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. The retired basketballer will be the fourth former Auburn athlete to have a statue built in his honor, joining the Tigers’ Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley told AuburnTigers.com. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) October 22, 2016
— Auburn Tigers (@AuburnTigers) October 22, 2016
Barkley played at Auburn from 1981-84 and went on to win All-American honors on his way to becoming an Olympic gold medal winner, AuburnTigers.com reports. He began his career in the NBA as a first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984. Barkley became a Hall of Fame hooper and was later named as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players during the league’s 50th anniversary season.
Auburn officials said the new statue will recognize the former athlete’s many accomplishments during his time at the university and beyond. The school retired Barkley’s jersey in 2001.
“It’s more than about what Charles Barkley accomplished here at Auburn, which is certainly historic, but it has been about his life’s work and contribution,” said Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl. “We want to recognize one of the most respected, philanthropic NBA legends, Hall of Famer, for his lifetime achievements.
“Our Auburn Family is so blessed to have an Auburn man like Charles Barkley in the public eye representing us,” Pearl continued. “A statue and a symbol like this serves to bring attention to that and will stand the test of time.”
According to the Washington Post, Barkley averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds for Auburn as 1983-84 SEC player of the year, which earned him the nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound” for his unusual physique. Barkley has since gained notoriety as an entertaining, and oftentimes sharp-tongued sports commentator for TNT.
“More than anything, Charles Barkley has become a global icon and this award honors the contributions he has given to Auburn both on and off the floor,” said Chuck Person, Auburn basketball’s associate head coach who played with Barkley at the university. “What an honor, and Auburn couldn’t have done this for a better man, my friend, Charles Barkley.”