Throughout their time on the basketball court, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan became two of the NBA's greatest at their positions. Jordan will always be known as one of the greatest players ever. Barkley was known as a dominant low post player and one of the most legendary pound-for-pound rebounders the game has ever seen.
Barkley has shared his respect over the years for some of the legendary players he went up against on the hardwood. Barkley has also had a great deal of appreciation for some of the greats who came before him as well.
Recently on "The Sessions" podcast, Barkley was asked about some of the legendary players who have left their footprints on the game. The current analyst for TNT's "Inside the NBA" gave ringing endorsements to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
"Michael, Magic, Larry, those probably the three most important people in NBA history in my opinion, because Magic and Larry saved the NBA, and then Michael took it to a whole nother level," Barkley said.
Charles Barkley with respect for Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird
Throughout the podcast, Charles Barkley talked about some of the legendary NBA players who have had a sizeable impact on the history of the game.
It's important to remember that the NBA's popularity was in serious doubt before LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird came into the league. Some have said that both Bird and Johnson saved the NBA. The two were known for bringing their exciting yet brilliant basketball ability into the national spotlight, something the league desperately needed at the time.
Barkley also detailed how Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan took it to "another level" after Bird and Johnson were done playing. Although the NBA started to grow rapidly in popularity throughout the 1980s, Jordan took the league to its highest peak with his play throughout the 1990s.
It's always fascinating to hear NBA legends have such an appreciation for the players who came before them or shared the same court with them like Barkley did.
Their legacies can be seen in the expansion of the NBA itself. When Jordan entered the league as a rookie in 1984-85, there were 23 teams. When he left in 2003, there were 29. There are currently 30 teams.