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Why Charles Barkley elbowed an Angola player at the 1992 Olympics

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Charles Barkley was prophetic before the Dream Team’s first game at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“I don’t know anything about Angola,” he said in a press conference, “but Angola’s in trouble.”

Two Angolans in particular. In a 116-48 showcase, Barkley shoved one player and elbowed another, drawing a technical foul for the latter that ended a 31-point U.S. run.

The elbow drew particular criticism and headlines referring to Barkley, and to some extent drawing in the rest of the Dream Team, as an Ugly American. It was the first Olympic game with NBA superstars. Aside from the expected blowout, it was not the first impression Americans had hoped for.

“We all tried to talk to him and say, hey, we still want to be liked,” Michael Jordan told NBC afterward. “That’s one of those moves that wasn’t quite smart. Hopefully we can get past that mistake.”

They of course did, steamrolling to gold to spark a new era for Olympic basketball.

But Barkley’s gesture endured, highlighted in Dream Team documentaries on NBA TV and NBC in 2012. Barkley continued to claim that the Angolan, 24-year-old economics student Herlander Coimbra, elbowed him three times before the Round Mound of Rebound had enough.

“That team played dirty,” Barkley, who had a 75-pound edge over Coimbra, said in the NBC film. “I said hey, dude, if you do that any more, I’m going to clock you. So he did it a couple more times, and I clocked him.”

To Barkley’s credit, he obliged to take a picture with Coimbra after the game, according to The New York Times, which reported that Angola had three gymnasiums in the entire country.

Still, U.S. Olympic Committee officials briefly considered sending Barkley home, according to Jack McCallum‘s book, “Dream Team.” They let Barkley stay in Barcelona, where he mingled regularly along Las Ramblas.

Barkley went on to lead the Dream Team in scoring as part of the greatest year of his career. He was also traded from the flailing Philadelphia 76ers to the Phoenix Suns that summer, then went on to win NBA MVP and reach the Finals, where the Jordan Bulls stopped him in six games.

He was one of four Dream Teamers to return for the 1996 Atlanta Games, winning another gold medal that he’s now planning to sell.

“Other players in Angola play against Charles Barkley, and they told us there’s like a kid, a fat boy who is very aggressive in the paint,” Coimbra said in the 2012 NBA TV documentary. “I think he acted like a bully, but maybe it’s his personality.”

Angola, though it has zero Olympic medals in any sport, actually qualified for five straight Olympic men’s basketball tournaments in the 1990s and 2000s and won games in 1992 and 1996.

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Charles Barkley plans to sell Olympic gold medal

Charles Barkley
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Charles Barkley said in multiple interviews that he will sell his 1996 Olympic gold medal among other memorabilia from his basketball career to help pay for 20 affordable houses he plans to build in his hometown of Leeds, Ala.

“I don’t think I have to walk around with my gold medal or my MVP trophy for people to know I’m Charles Barkley, so I’m going to sell all that crap,” Barkley said on the Dan Le Batard show last Thursday. “That just clutters my house. I used to keep it at my grandmother’s house, but they all passed away, and I don’t want that stuff crapping up my house.”

It looks like Barkley’s 1992 Olympic Dream Team gold medal will stay in the family, however. Barkley said his daughter wants to keep that one item.

“Because of how sentimental it is for the world,” he said in an Alabama radio interview Friday. “But all of that other stuff, man, is just an eyesore.”

Barkley said he was told his 1993 NBA MVP trophy could fetch at least $300,000 to $400,000 but didn’t give a specific estimate for the 1996 Olympic gold medal.

In 1992, Barkley led the Dream Team in scoring (18 points per game on 71 percent shooting) despite starting just half of the eight games. He also memorably elbowed an Angolan player in a 116-48 rout in the opener. The flagrant foul led to Angola hitting its one free throw during a 46-1 U.S. run.

“If he keeps this up, they’re going to throw him out of the Olympics,” Michael Jordan reportedly said after the game.

Barkley not only made it through Barcelona, but he also returned with four other Dream Teamers for the 1996 Atlanta Games. He averaged 12.4 points per game (on 82 percent shooting), playing seven of eight games, as the U.S. again went undefeated.

Barkley made another memory in Atlanta, throwing one of his shoes into the crowd.

Carmelo Anthony‘s 2004 Olympic bronze medal was reportedly auctioned in 2014 for $14,080.

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Jahlil Okafor commits to Nigeria for Olympic basketball

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Four years ago, Jahlil Okafor was tapped for the USA Basketball select team, a promising sign that he could make an Olympic team in the 2020s.

It does appear that Okafor is going to the Tokyo Games, but not for the United States.

Okafor committed to play for his paternal grandfather’s native Nigeria, according to ESPN’s The Undefeated. Nigeria’s basketball federation later posted the same news via its social media but has not responded to messages seeking confirmation.

Okafor is best known as a star freshman on Duke’s 2015 national championship team. Two months later, he was the No. 3 overall NBA Draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers.

He has played for three teams in five seasons. Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie. Now with the New Orleans Pelicans, Okafor hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game since fellow former Duke freshman big man Zion Williamson made his debut Jan. 22.

Nigeria, which went 1-4 at its two Olympics in 2012 and 2016, has a player pool that includes current and former NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie and Ike Diogu.

It qualified for Tokyo as the top-placing African nation at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, where it placed 17th.

Veteran NBA coach Mike Brown was named Nigeria’s head coach earlier this month.

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