Basketball’s Buddha weaves through the streets of Miami, navigating so easily between the love and the hate. The luxury hotel in downtown Miami. The Walgreens in Little Haiti. The gym in Miami Shores. Everywhere Charles Barkley goes, people open windows and shout from yards and tumble from cars. Out come the cameras, but the smiles last long after the posing is done. His walk, something between a lumber and a limp now, leaves what looks and feels like a rippling wake of happiness. Barkley obliges everyone in every neighborhood, shaking hands, taking pictures, starting conversations. Postal workers. Police officers. Clerks.
This doesn’t feel much like hatred. Barkley is uncommonly … what’s the word? Genuine? Friendly? No, connected. He is uncommonly connected to the warmth in the human experience. The shocked people staring at stoplights — Barkley? What’s he doing in this neighborhood? — he feels their stares and engages them first to relieve the awkward discomfort people can have around the famous.