Six years ago, when the Caps took a 2-0 lead over the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs, it felt like Washington’s first Stanley Cup was only a matter of time. And that night, Michael Wilbon had a conversation with Ted Leonsis. From Wilbon’s resulting column:
Ted Leonsis recalls the return trip from the NHL awards ceremony last June.
Alex Ovechkin had won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP, the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player chosen by the NHL Players Association, the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top point scorer and the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. There was so much hardware, it nearly didn’t fit on the plane.
As thrilled as Leonsis was that one of his team’s players had been so decorated, Leonsis said to Ovechkin: “Do you want to be like Charles Barkley, a great player and a big personality who makes a lot of money and is loved by everybody? Or do you want to be like Michael Jordan and win championships?” Asked after Monday night’s Game 2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins if he recalled Ovechkin’s response, Leonsis said, “Alex knows that a place in history only comes with winning the Stanley Cup.”
Of course, that was much easier to say six years ago than today. And fans continue to debate whether or not that sentiment is accurate. But Barkley wants to make sure there’s no doubt, which is why the NBA analyst said this week that he roots for Washington’s hockey star.
“I watched the Capitals-Islanders game,” Barkley said on Mike and Mike Thursday morning. “I’m pulling for Ovechkin so he can get off the list I’m on — never won anything — so I root for Ovechkin. So I watch that game and they get mauled by [John] Tavares and the Islanders.”
This isn’t the first time Barkley has praised Ovechkin, either. The other time I can think of? Try the same week that Leonsis compared the two men.
This happened during a TNT discussion about the world’s best athlete. I wrote about it while sitting in Mellon Arena and awaiting game 3 of that Caps-Pens series.
“LeBron James is the best athlete in all of sports,” Chris Webber began. “Tiger Woods is the greatest winner in all of sports and all that … [but] LeBron James is the best athlete in all of sports. Tell me someone who’s a better athlete. … Name someone better than LeBron in sports for me Chuck.”
At which point the panel turned to Barkley, and he said: “Alex-and-er Ovechkin.”
At a minimum, this all should result in some sort of commercial opportunity. Maybe they can invite Dan Marino.
Barkley brought up the NHL because he said he chose to watch playoff hockey over the last night of the NBA’s regular season. He said he’s also rooting for the Blackhawks, because he’s friendly with Patrick Kane.