PHOENIX (AP) Charles was in charge and in complete control Saturday night at America West Arena.
Basking in the glow of being formally inducted into the Phoenix Suns' Ring of Honor, the usually outspoken, controversial and bombastic Charles Barkley was contrite as he thanked a capacity crowd of more than 18,000.
''The fans made me feel very special,'' Barkley said. ''They always made me feel welcome.''
Barkley pointed out that ''Phoenix was a very special place for me,'' adding that he still lives in the city.
''The people here are the reason I like Phoenix,'' Barkley said. ''This is a fun thing. This place was electric every night.''
The ceremonies were held at halftime of the Suns game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Barkley joins nine others in the Ring of Honor, including Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Tom Chambers, Paul Westphal, Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Walter Davis and Joe Proski.
Barkley spent four seasons (1992-96) with the Suns, and during that time, pro basketball excitement was at its peak in Phoenix. His first season was one of the most memorable in the team's 36-year history, as the Suns won a franchise-record 62 games, the Pacific Division title and the Western Conference championship before losing to the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan in a six-game series in the NBA Finals. That season, Barkley was the NBA's most valuable player.
During his Suns career, the colorful and charismatic Barkley averaged 23.4 points and 11.5 rebounds in 280 regular season games. He helped the Suns to four consecutive playoff appearances, averaging 26.5 points and 13.4 rebounds in 48 postseason games.
He might have been inducted sooner had he not had differences with Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, one of three speakers during the ceremony. Barkley and Colangelo patched up their relationship last year, and the CEO presented Barkley with several gifts.
Many of Barkley's Suns teammates and several other NBA greats, including Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier and Magic Johnson, attended the ceremony, which capped Charles Barkley Ring of Honor Weekend.
Tributes from many personalities, including Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Pat Riley, Luis Gonzalez, Bill Walton and John Elway, were shown on the arena's video screen during the game.
''Being inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor is one of the greatest achievements of my life,'' Barkley said.
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