Whether or not you care about sports, Charles Barkley, a glorious caricature of himself, is the most unpredictably watchable person on television. He consistently turns TNT's Inside the NBA into an effusive spectacle of misplaced malice and misunderstood malapropisms.
You never know what Barkley will say. He may, while discussing basketball, proclaim an obscure relic like Mookie Blaylock to be the greatest athlete of all time while pointing out that "Mookie Blaylock" sounds like a weird foot disease. Then he'll start talking about pop culture or politics. By the end of one sentence, Rob Schneider has been snubbed by the Oscars, and Winston Churchill winds up being some kind of "dumb-dumb knucklehead."
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Barkley attempted to advance a serious point as he awkwardly told viewers, "People try to make it about black and white, but [King] talked about equality for every man, every woman ... I love the homosexuality people."
So far, the "homosexuality people" haven't commented.
Everybody knows what Jay Leno will say, but we don't know if Barkley will sit still or eat a live chicken to demonstrate the metaphorical disintegration of the Phoenix Suns' defense.
Barkley's off-the-top-of-his-head statistics are far more interesting than real statistics. He'll confidently assert something like, "They had more threes tonight in 27 minutes than the Steelers had six touchdowns in two years, and if hockey had a four-minute warning, nobody'd know about a seven-year itch."
Barkley has often discussed his gubernatorial aspirations in his home state of Alabama, which could possibly establish another spectacular platform. Imagine his state-of-the-state address: "The legislature people are a bunch of silly goof-asses. I'm a great-lookin' fat man. God bless America and the homosexuality people and Alabama."
On the MLK Day show, Barkley said of a random player, "He's trying to be Francis Ford Coppola." Nobody on the program, including Barkley, appeared to know what he meant--and that's what makes it great.