The Loop

Charles Barkley finally told the story of how he got the nickname “Chuck”

January 08, 2021

Sam Forencich

OK, first things first, we know Chuck is short for Charles. Very funny, smartass. But this Charles, the Charles Barkley, wasn’t always “Chuck.” That’s how we know him now, of course—a one-word icon, like Prince or Cher—but the origin of Chuck had long remained a mystery. From whence had Chuck came? How did it take hold? Does Barkley even like the nickname? Well, on Thursday night, we got those answers and more when Barkley stumbled upon the story of his alias lodged deep in the bowels of his subconscious while riffing with Ernie, Kenny, and Shaq on Inside the NBA. Basketball fans of the world, we give you The Birth of Chuck.

According to Chuck, he was always Charles until he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992. Soon after arriving in Phoenix, Charles was approached by a reporter while coach Paul Westphal was doing an interview. The reporter said “Hey Chuck” to get Barkley’s attention. Barkley didn’t respond. When the reporter pressed him, Barkley replied, “who are you talking to . . . my name is Charles.” As it turns out, Westphal had been referring to Barkley as “Chuck” in his interviews and the reporter ran with it. Barkley, being Barkley, was happy to oblige, saying “alright, from this day forward, my name gonna be Chuck.” And so it was.

It’s not exactly Superman’s origin story, but it is fascinating to learn that the man, the myth, the Chuckster was known only as Charles for the first eight years of NBA career (and the first 29 of his life.) But if the shoe fits, then it’s probably your shoe, and Chuck has worn that clonking size 16 ever since.