Rick Barry will always be known first and foremost for his volcanic temper, and that’s saying something, considering how great he was as a player. Sure, he led the Warriors to their latest and only NBA championship, in 1975. But he’s also known as the guy who famously took a swing at former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, then a New York Knick. I hear he also tried to fight that kid from “The Sixth Sense,” but can’t verify that.
Some still insist that Barry was the greatest NBA small forward they’ve ever seen: the complete package, technically, in every sense. But the man who said he hated mediocrity more than anything never landed in the real big time in his second career, broadcasting. Of course, he was an NBA analyst on CBS before the infamous “watermelon smile” comment about Bill Russell. That’s the most notable example of what happens when a man shoots first and asks questions later, as Barry has done his entire life. And here’s just the latest example.
Barry was on the air on 790 The Ticket in Miami with co-hosts Dan LeBetard and Stugotz, when a verbal fracas erupted over Kobe Bryant’s place in the hierarchy of all-time greats. Stugotz, not a Bryant fan, was deriding the star for never winning the big one on his own. Barry disagreed. (LeBetard, apparently, spent the interview crouched behind a desk avoiding flying objects).
Barry: “Listen, he’s entitled to his uninformed opinion, that’s ok.”
Stugotz: “What makes yours informed, Rick?”
Barry: “Because I played the game and you didn’t and I’ll bring that up as the trump card. You know what, all you guys who do radio sports talk say, ‘Don’t play that card on me,’ well, that’s bullsh**. “
Stugotz: “You do it Rick, and you shoot foul shots underhanded so that makes you an expert?”
Barry: “There is no way that you can possibly study the game and possibly know as much as I know about the game… You can argue about any other sport and I’ll take your word, it’s just as good as mine, but don’t argue with me about basketball.”
And then it proceeded to get more contentious.
Barry: “You don’t like Kobe and there’s a lot of people who don’t like Kobe, but hey, you’re entitled to your opinion, and that’s great, good for you, but the thing about it is is don’t sit here and try to tell me about it, about Kobe is this, because I don’t agree with you.”
Stugotz: “Rick, what I am telling you is, is he has never been the main reason he’s won a championship. Everyone knows that except for Rick Barry!”
Barry: “Wait a second, that’s the most asinine statement that I’ve heard come out of anybody’s mouth about me, okay, that I don’t understand it, of course I understand it, I’ve said it before, go listen to the tape of the last segment. I said, he has not had a chance to do it, but a few times he hasn’t had the right people around him, now he has a chance to do it.”
Fun fact: Barry is possibly the first athlete to be shown giving the finger on live TV. It happened at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., which used to be the Warriors’ home before they moved to Oakland. I don’t know who they were playing (probably the Lakers), but Barry had just been assessed a foul and had been taken out of the game, and just as the KTVU-2 camera settled in on a closeup of him seated on the bench, Barry flipped the bird at the ref for all the world to see. A glorious sight in 1967, I’m sure.
Barry’s real post-playing career goal, though, was always to coach at the NBA level. He got a radio hosting gig at KNBR in San Francisco in 2002 with, I’m assuming, the idea that he could use that forum as a way to get his ideas out there and make himself attractive as a head coaching candidate to the Warriors. But unfortunately, his famed temper flared on the air more than once — including a notable brouhaha in 2004 with fellow KNBR host Ralph Barbieri, when Barry again vociferously played the “you were never a player, so shut up and listen to me” card. The Warriors evidently decided they didn’t need the drama.
It’s good to see Rick is still playing the old hits. Although, as a coach could he really have hurt the Warriors that much, considering what they’ve done lately?