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Charles Barkley’s Secret: A Critical Analysis

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Originally published February 14, 2020 on Reddit (r/nba)

If you have ever had the chance to watch a basketball game on TNT, you have caught yourself as glued to the half-time show as the actual game. NBA on TNT is the best sports broadcasts hosted by the boldest personalities on TV: Shaquille O’Neil, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and of course… Charles Barkley.

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There are no subjects off-limits and no quarter is given. But there is one topic that never fails to elicit strong consternation from Ernie despite roars of laughter from Shaq— Charles Barkley’s bit about the Big ol Women™ of San Antonio. If you haven’t seen it, here’s one of the best supercuts to catch you up:

As you can see, Chuck is fascinated with San Antonio — well, with the women and churros of San Antonio at least. He brings up the subject so often that simply googling “San Antonio Women” yields almost exclusively articles and clips of Barkley & Co. discussing the virtues of San Antonio churros, the Big ‘ol Women™ who eat them, and the city’s curious lack of Victoria’s Secret stores.

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Google search results for generic query “San Antonio Women”

From his time as a player to his current career in broadcasting, Barkley is known for not minding his tongue. When it comes to making Shaq and the production crew keel over with laughter, it’s clear he has no plans to change his humorous tone, no matter how much Ernie scorns him.

But did you ever wonder why

Why is Chuck so fixated on the plus-sized ladies of San Antonio and their unique pastry/ lingerie inclinations?

Is there something more behind the man’s obsession?

So began my search to understand the enigma that is Charles Wade Barkley…

The Research

I started out by attempting to confirm or refute Barkley’s suspicions…

  • Does San Antonio have a lot of Big ol Women™?

  • Is Victoria really a “Secret” in San Antonio?

  • How do fried Spanish pastries play into this whole thing?

Well let’s break it down one-by-one…

San Antonio’s Big ol Women

I compared obesity rates for every NBA city to determine if there is any merit to Chuck’s claim that San Antonio has an abundance of plus-sized ladies…

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

NBA cities ranked by Obesity Rates

As it turns out, he is right on point. According to my analysis of a 2018 CDC report, San Antonio is the fourth chunkiest city in the NBA with more than 37% of adults registering as “clinically obese.” And with over half of San Antonians identifying as female, it’s safe to say the city does have a lot of Big ol Women.

Interesting side note: San Antonio isn’t just one of the fattest cities in the nation, they also have a distinct love for the rolls (pun intended). Per my research, San Antonio ranks #2 in the country for most Google searches for “BBW,” which is of course the porn abbreviation for Big Beautiful Women. Not sure the significance of this fact, or how I came upon this information, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Google trend statistics for search term “bbw”

How many of these searches belong to Chuck himself? No small amount, I can assure you.

“Who’s Victoria?” — San Antonio

Using Victoria’s Secret store locator, I compiled the total number of store locations in each NBA city. Then, using 2016 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, I appended the populations for each NBA city and calculated the amount of Victoria’s Secret stores per capita.

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

NBA cities ranked by Victoria’s Secret stores per capita

Again, Chuck’s intuition was spot-on! The city of San Antonio has the 4th fewest number of Victoria’s Secret stores per capita of all NBA cities (bottom 89th percentile).

I guess it’s safe to conclude, Victoria really is a secret in San Antonio.

The author contacted Victoria’s Secret Public Relations prior to publishing this article but they chose not to comment on this story.

How do fried Spanish pastries play into this?

Tremendously, that’s how. I literally spent over three hours immersed in “churro data.” Admittedly, one of those hours was a lunchtime run to “Angel’s Churros & Chocolates” in Houston, TX – shout out to Maria for hooking it up with the Nutella on the side!

Using cutting-edge scientific research tools, I determined the number of churro vendors per capita in each NBA city. Okay, I Googled that shit. I figured counting Mexican restaurants in general would be super misleading, so I quantified specifically the number of churro vendors in each NBA city using the following criteria: Performed the Google search “[CITY] Churros” (e.g., “San Antonio Churros”) and counted the amount of vendors with explicit references to “Churro” in the name. I accepted various spellings and puns (e.g., “xurros”, or “Churroholic”, etc).

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

NBA cities ranked by churro-vendors per capita

Well, Mr. Barkley’s hunch was right again… San Antonio has the fourth most Churro-Vendors per capita in the NBA (top ~90th percentile). Have to admit, though, I did not expect to see Salt Lake City rank so high on this list. Considering the strip club rankings, I might actually have to make a trip to the ‘great white west’…

We have to give credit to Chuck here; he certainly knows his stuff! But for a man who disavows data science, it begs the question, how does he know so much about the Alamo city?

The Analysis

With my suspicions on the rise, I dug deeper into the data. And the more I dug, the more it smelled… *sniff* and I love the smell of cinnamon and projection in the morning. So what is Charles hiding? Well, I analyzed his career performance in San Antonio to see if there is more to the story.

Charles Barkley has an impressive resume: two-time Olympic gold medalist, 11-time NBA All Star, 1993 Most Valuable Player, and an esteemed member of the NBA hall of fame. He went by the intimidating moniker, Round Mound of Rebound. He is, indubitably, one of the greatest ballers of all time. But, just like all the greats, he had a weakness…

‘The Biggest Loser’

Between the years 1983-1998, Barkley played 19 games in San Antonio. He won just 4 of them. With his career road-win percentage at nearly .500, and considering the other damning stats laid out below, his .211 win rate in San Antonio falls soundly in the curious column.

  • San Antonio W/L Record: 4-15 (.211 win%)
  • Career Road W/L Record: 259-276 (.484 win%)
Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

W/L split, Career Away vs in San Antonio

Now I don’t want to mislead you, San Antonio were no schmucks during this period, and, obviously, basketball is a team sport. But Barkley carries most of the water: he was a generational talent and the stand-out star on most of his teams (aside from a couple years with a washed up Julius Erving and an aging Moses Malone in Philly and a couple with near-retirement Hakeem in Houston). But the following analysis should help further make my case: 

‘My -25% Life’

San Antonio proved to be a blight on Barkley’s esteemed career. My analysis showed significant declines in almost every statistical category examined:

  • GmSc – Averaged a -25% variance in GameScore in SA compared to career avg
  • ORB – Averaged a –11% variance in Offensive Rebounds in SA as compared to career avg
  • FT% – Averaged a -9% variance in FT shooting efficiency in SA as compared to career avg
  • FG% – Averaged a -2% variance in shooting efficiency in SA as compared to career avg
  • AST – Averaged a -6% variance in Assists in SA as compared to career avg, and

Note: GmSc (Game Score) is a John Hollinger stat that gives a rough measure of a player’s productivity. Formula: GmSc=PTS+(0.4*FG)–(0.7*FGA)–[0.4*(FTA-FT)]+(0.7*ORB)+(0.3*DRB)+STL+(0.7*AST)+(0.7*BLK)–(0.4*PF)-TOV

Here’s what the analysis looks like:
(click on image to enlarge)

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Barkley performance analysis via heat mapping

You can see the heat map to the left is covered in red. Red cells indicate negative variances, meaning: for that year, Barkley’s average in San Antonio was below his Season Average. Of the 112 total data points examined (8 stats x 14 seasons), Barkley under-performed against the season average 62% of the time.

Heat maps are great but I needed to visualize the data in a way that better depicts the scale of Chuck’s drop in performance. I used a clustered column chart because it gives the best visual representation of relative performance, as you can easily identify the +/- trends (Graphs for Dummies: larger/more frequent lines on BOTTOM = BAD; larger/more frequent lines on TOP = GOOD).

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Barkley GmSc Variance in SA vs Season Avg

 

Charles Barkley's Secret: A Critical Analysis

Barkley Shooting Efficiency Variance in SA vs Season Avg

These huge drops in performance are damning. But what do they truly tell us?

Conclusion

Well, if you’ve been following along, things should be starting to make sense. A picture has formed… how could a man who so ardently rebukes data science, know things about San Antonio that only the data can tell us?

Every Great had their weakness. MJ couldn’t stop gambling. Shaq couldn’t hit free throws. Magic couldn’t keep it in his pants. Kobe never saw a shot he didn’t like. LeBron, hairline.

For Charles Barkley, it was an entire city. The plus-sized women of San Antonio and their delectable Spanish pastries were the Round Mound’s kryptonite. And it appears, he never got over it. A career of indulgence in the Alamo City has left him bitter with regret.

The Chuckster has used his platform on TNT to — not very credibly — disguise his own predilections for the amenities of San Antonio. Without stretching the facts too far, we can paint a vivid picture of Barkley’s own struggle.

Imagine This Scenario:

A perpetual Big-and-Tall man since roughly the age of 12 (guessing) and a basketball phenom would have become accustomed to night-after-night by himself with nothing but his appetite and a sense that — thanks to his coaches — he deserved to be rewarded. That he was a good boy. Another city, another game, another 4-star hotel room to himself (another sold-out show, as it were).

The excitement of seeing San Antonio on the schedule brings tears to the man’s eyes. He knows what awaits him and purposefully forgets what happened before…

Barkley, awoken by the morning sun’s blistering reflection off the San Antonio R̶i̶v̶e̶r̶ Creek, sees the debris and refuse of an all-night binge. He did it again. Churro wrappers crinkling beneath his weight, cinnamon sugar coating the corners of his mouth and fingers alike, and a familiar wave of anxiety that tends to come after relapse. As his memory from the prior night returns, he glances around the room with a vain hopefulness that he is not alone. He was relieved to learn that, in fact, he was not alone in the previous night’s debasement. Positioned heavily - nay, crushingly - on the duvet is a big beautiful woman, sporting a handsome pair of bloomers. Her voluminous mass reassuring him - nay, beckoning him - to forgive himself for his indiscretions. It wasn’t just him after all. But he knew exactly what he had done. In a rush to forget, he licked the crusted cinnamon from the corners of his mouth, quietly donned his game day attire and snuck out to meet the rest of the team down in the lobby.
But his mind would never leave that hotel room.

It is through painting this portrait of a man both conflicted and passionate (aren’t we all) that we can better understand the system of associations that have led Barkley to betray his own naked psychology for all the world to jeer at. And yet, can we blame the man? Are we not all, on some level, looking for someone to share in our appetites? Whether it be for the occasional night of plus-size women and churros, or too many designer handbags; everyone has a vice. Unfortunately, from years of shame for letting down his teammates and coaches, Chuck has betrayed the very thing that he loves.

That’s why I’m here to tell him, myself: Stop Projecting, Mr. Barkley.

In 2020, the decade of proclaimed ass-eating, there is no shame. It’s okay to stan for Big ol Women™. In fact, it’s great.

As always, you can view all my detailed work here.

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