It used to be in the ‘90s that Michael Jordan was the most conspicuous absence from licensed basketball games. These days it’s Charles Barkley, not for any rights issues, but because of the way he believes 2K needs to help out some of the people it’s using to make its millions every year.
The NBA 2K series doesn’t just feature the league’s current rosters, it also has a ton of classic players and teams as well. And while these are often led by superstars, a lot of spots on those teams were taken up by role players who weren’t able to make the millions in contracts and endorsements that guys like Jordan and Barkley were.
Barkley explains that in this interview, which was actually done very wholesomely in July for a kid’s account with 1.9k subscribers, but blew up over the weekend when it was shared on r/nba.
“Give the old retired players one million dollars and I’ll be in the video game”, Barkley says. “They piss me off every year, they call me every year and say, ‘Have you changed your mind?’”
“Why in the world you think I’m gonna change my mind? Give the retired players a million dollars a year”.
“I’m not talking about old retired players like me. There’s this misconception that everybody’s been making a gazillion dollars our whole life. There’s players older than me who didn’t make any money. Those are the guys, they’re older and probably need the money, so that’s why I’m not in the video game.”
The minimum an NBA player could make last season, on the lowest rookie contract, was $893,000. The league minimum in 1985-86k, for comparison, was just $70,000 (around $170,000 today).
NBA 2K publishers Take-Two reported $3 billion in sales last fiscal year.
Barkley has been campaigning for veteran players to be paid for their virtual appearances for years now, citing this as the reason he not only doesn’t appear in the 2K series as a classic player, but why he doesn’t appear as an analyst either.