By Katy Gladysheva, Knee1/Body1 Staff
By a twist of fate or what he himself described as an act of “the big fella in the sky”, Charles Barkley’s career ended exactly where it started 16 years ago. Barkley was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984 from Auburn and led them to the playoffs six times in eight years. Playing in a Houston Rockets jersey on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Barkley was helped off the court with 4 minutes and 9 seconds left in the first quarter.
Barkley was going to block a shot by the Sixers Tyrone Hill when his leg buckled and his body hit the floor. Feeling the kneecap bulging through his leg, Barkley grabbed his left knee, put the mouthpiece in his sock and called for the trainer.
Sixers doctor Jack McPhilemy evaluated Barkley and said that his injury would require surgery and at least six months of rehabilitation before he would be able to return to any significant level of activity. The hard fall caused Barkley to rupture his quadriceps tendon – the band of connective tissue that attaches the quadriceps muscle to the kneecap. The MRI and X-ray on Wednesday confirmed the diagnosis, team spokesman Tim Frank said. Such an injury is seen relatively rarely in basketball, McPhilemy reported. It is quite serious even for a younger player, he added.
For Barkley, who turns 37 in February, it will most likely be career-ending. The Rockets re-signed their veteran forward to a one-year contract in early October. Barkley has already announced earlier that he intends to retire at the end of this season. He was second in the NBA in rebounding, and second on his team for scoring. This season was Barkley’s third year with the Rockets and his 16th in the NBA.
The spotlight was to be his on Wednesday night as he was going to play his last game in the city where he began his career in 1984. The Sixers honored Barkley before the game and flew his mother and his grandmother from his hometown of Leeds, Alabama, for the celebration. After he learned of the extent of the injury, Barkley broke down crying in the locker room and called his wife, Maureen, to say that it was over. The crowd gave him six standing ovations throughout the night.
On Thursday, Barkley said that he would wait to have surgery until this week, since Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics were planning on honoring him on Friday. The reconstructive surgery will be performed arthroscopically to minimize invasiveness and to speed up the recovery, with rehabilitation still estimated to take six months or more.
“I do think it was supposed to happen like this,” Barkley said. “It was supposed to end in Philadelphia.”
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