Barkley butchers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s name — then makes a bold prediction

OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) dribbles the ball up the court at the TD Garden.: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) dribbles the ball up the court at the TD Garden.: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

On NBA Game Time last night Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal launched into a segment that focused on OKC Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Ernie Johnson was talking about who leads the league in games with 30 or more points. Per typical, Shaq who never gets names right called SGA “Gilchrist”.

That sparked Charles to jump in although he initially said it right because Shaq put the bee in his ear he then reversed his last name putting Alexander first and also saying ‘Gilchrist’ instead of Gilgeous.

Hilarity ensued but Charles also had a strong point to make about SGA.

Charles Barkley’s call to action for OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Depending on which decade you became a hoops fan Charles Barkley fits into a different box.

Some younger fans just see him as that guy at the end of the desk on TNT Game Time. The former player with the southern drawl who makes ‘guaranteed’ predictions that are frequently wrong and makes us laugh.

For others who experienced the Jordan era or dove into film from that time period, he was what you might call the unicorn of his era.

Barkley was a 6’6″, 252-pound power forward who defied the typical odds of that position. Remember, we’re talking about the period of time when Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon were dominating the NBA.

Centers and power forwards played with their backs to the basket or stood near the basket boxing out and clearing space for the guards to drive. But Sir Charles not only got in the trenches with the bigs he was way ahead of his time often rebounding and bringing the ball upcourt via the fast break and finishing the play.

A sign of his brilliance? Other than his rookie season, Chuck averaged a double-double every other season of his 16-year career.

Okay, okay so I’m digressing and getting caught up in the fandom for a moment, but do yourself a favor if you’ve never seen any film on Charles and pull up some youtube videos.

After Ernie and Kenny Smith said SGA’s name correctly and in the proper order Barkley declared

“No seriously, if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t STARTING in the All-Star Game, we’re not going to let the public vote again!”

Kenny offered his two cents and respect for how much Shai’s game has grown and that no one predicted SGA would be much more than a scorer when he was drafted. The other unspoken tidbit here was the hat tip to the OKC Thunder management team for demanding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander be included in the trade for Paul George.

Barkley went on to say how special Shai is, not just because of his game but the fact he’s doing it while knowing the team isn’t going to be winning (because the OKC Thunder are tanking).

This isn’t the first time Charles has taken this stance as he previously told Taylor Rooks the same sentiment about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander starting for the West.

I happen to agree SGA should start the game and I’m sure you all do too which is why we’ll need to make a point of voting daily to make it happen.

Who is Gilgeous-Alexander’s biggest competition to get All-Star starting nod?

The issue of course is the numerous guards he’ll have to beat out. It’s not a matter of picking a point guard and a shooting guard. If it were Shai might have that starting position on lock. Instead, voters pick “two guards” so all guards fall into the same voting block.

All-Star ballots don’t differentiate on point versus shooting guards – – it’s just pick two guards. And now a player who seldom plays in a certain position can be listed as a guard anyway. Luka for example is much closer to a point forward but he’ll be listed as a guard.

The competition:

Guaranteed Stephen Curry nails down one of the two open spots because of his popularity and likability (and yeah his talent).

But wait, Luka and Steph are just the tip of the iceberg that SGA has to climb and surpass.

Ja Morant who is box office is also a good bet to be in the mix. Prior to his injury Ja’s backcourt partner Desmond Bane would’ve likely received a good share of votes too but is less likely to now given his injury (that decreases his body of work in the early season).

Depending on where the Nuggets are seeded during voting  (my preseason pick to get to the Western Conference Finals versus the Warriors) SGA’s fellow Canadian, Jamal Murray might get some love.

It won’t matter South of the border and I guess since fans North of the border can pick two guards they might take that route and pick both Murray and SGA.

Similarly, if the Pelicans are seeded in the upper tier CJ McCollum might get some shine as the leader of that squad. Or, if the Kings continue to perform well De’Aaron Fox could be a strong contender.

Devin Booker undoubtedly will be a lock to play in the game. The Suns’ guard is arguably a top-15 player and is popular/well-known by casual fans because the Suns got to the Finals two seasons ago and are frequently featured on national TV.

Plus, there is solid rationale to vote for him because he’s carrying the Suns with CP3 out, and has them sitting atop the West’s ladder.

There are popular players or sentimental favorites to contend with too, such as Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard. The latter might be a non-entity depending on how much time he has to miss. Likewise, Paul George (remember him?) also falls into the guard category, but he’s also out with injury.

Regardless, you get the picture, Shai is going to have to overcome Steph, Ja, Booker, and Luka at the bare minimum. All of them are playing on higher-seeded clubs, are getting much more National TV exposure, and are known better by the ‘casual’ fan.

It’s hard to guess where the player votes will fall but SGA has a decent shot at getting a large percentage of them.

The media I think will automatically put Steph (and/or Luka in) and then it’ll likely come down to whether they vote for productivity without taking team seeding into account, and/or how often they’ve seen Shai play.

I know, I know they’re in the media they should be watching, but speaking from experience there are only so many hours in a day so it’s virtually impossible on some dates to watch every game in full.

Ultimately, it sure can’t hurt that Charles Barkley and the TNT crew gave the shout-out to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. In prior seasons it seemed to help other players make the team — not necessarily as a starter though.

That means we’ll all need to do our best to vote for SGA on a daily basis. The OKC Thunder may be a small market but when we collectively band together we can make big things happen!

Next. Gilgeous-Alexander's tall task. dark