You promised, Charles Barkley.
Perhaps you have forgotten the pledge that you made to come to Oklahoma City. You said you would visit our fair state. You said you wanted to make amends for those not-so-nice things you said about us.
Any of that ringing a bell?
I could see how it might've slipped your mind. It has been almost five years, after all.
We're still waiting.
What's up, Chuck?
Tonight, another golden opportunity comes and goes without a visit. Your network is broadcasting the Thunder-Magic game, and it promises to be a heck of a night at the Oklahoma City Arena.
The stars will be out. Dwight Howard. Kevin Durant. Gilbert Arenas. Russell Westbrook. Jason Richardson. Jeff Green.
That's your kind of crowd, Charles. It's a star-studded cast, a talented group of guys who grab the spotlight. This is a game that everyone will be watching.
Wouldn't it have been fun for you to saunter onto the court amid all the fanfare and say howdy to Oklahoma City?
Maybe the mayor could've presented you with a Thunder jersey, your name on the back of course.
Or you could've hung out courtside with Kevin Durant's mom. She's a cool lady.
Or you could've had a dunk contest with Rumble.
Hey, we're nice people here. We love to roll out the red carpet. We like to show off our hospitality. We enjoy surprising people. And I definitely think you'd be surprised, Chuck.
This isn't some vast wasteland, after all.
Remember? That's what you called us during TNT's All-Star Selection Show back in 2006. You were interviewing Chris Paul, then a rookie sensation playing in Oklahoma City for the relocated New Orleans Hornets.
“Oklahoma is nothing but vast wasteland,” you said.
But wait, there was more.
You also said that Oklahoma was “no place for black people. The Oklahoma Sooners and the Hornets are the only brothers in town.”
But wait, there was still more.
You asked Paul if he had chickens and cows in his yard.
Some folks here didn't take too kindly what you had said. Letters to the editor were written. Signs with clever zings were made. Pitchforks were taken up, torches were lit.
But almost as quickly, Oklahomans were doing what they do best — being nice. Olive branches were waved, and invitations were extended.
Come to Oklahoma, Sir Charles. See our city for yourself. Stroll around Bricktown. See the Memorial. Go to a game at the Ford Center.
And you agreed to visit. NEWS 9 anchor Kelly Ogle made the official pitch at the All-Star Game in Houston. He'd been critical of you in one of his “My Two Cents” commentaries, but he brought a gift basket and an invitation to come to Oklahoma.
“I'm going to come there,” you said at the time. “I've got to look at the schedule, see when (the Hornets) are there for a weekend.”
Did we mention it's been five years since then?
I mean, we were willing to give you a pass back then. Right at the end of the season, you were elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and with that came a lot of responsibilities. Press conferences. Appearances.
But a TNT spokesman told us then that you planned to visit early the next season.
We know that you're aware we have an NBA team of our own now, too. You were talking about it less than a week ago.
“(The Thunder) had success (last season), and when you have success, you assume you've made it,” you said during halftime of TNT broadcast. “What people don't understand is that once you're successful, it gets harder. From a talent standpoint, they are one of the best teams in the league, but they haven't taken that next step.
“They are living on reputation.”
You know about having a reputation, don't you, Chuck? People always say that you're as much a comedian as a commentator, that you're more rabble rouser than deep thinker. But you never pull punches, never shy away from speaking your mind.
You're always honest.
So, I know you'll appreciate this truth — you said you'd come to Oklahoma City five years ago and you still haven't.