Charles Barkley ranting about Congress on Inside the NBA

It seems like everybody is growing to love pickleball. Just maybe not Charles Barkley.

Barkley is coming for your government, he’s coming for your cats, and now he’s attempting to squash one of the country’s fastest-growing sports in pickleball.

People love to play pickleball, especially Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who could be seen standing on the sideline during his team’s second-round series against the Phoenix Suns with a battle wound on his forehead from a recent pickleball match. During Monday night’s broadcast on TNT, play-by-play voice Spero Dedes noted Malone received the visible cut on his face from a “paddle to the forehead” after failing to call his partner off as they both went for a 50/50 ball.

Malone blaming the blemish on pickleball prompted Charles Barkley to question whether the 51-year-old NBA head coach is old enough to play the tennis, ping pong, badminton hybrid.

“That’s America’s fastest growing sport, Chuck,” noted Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson. “Haven’t ya heard?”

“That’s for old people,” Barkley said, prompting Kenny Smith to push back on the narrative.

“Have you ever watched them play?” Smith asked while claiming it’s not just an old person’s sport.

“Pickleball’s for old people,” Barkley doubled down with a scowl on his face. “That’s not a young man’s sport. That’s an old man and old woman sport…it’s a bunch of old people.”

The 60-year-old Barkley didn’t state whether he feels old enough to give pickleball a try, but he sounds like one of the few people who aren’t relishing the sport’s recent rise in popularity. While pickleball may appeal to some older people because it’s less grueling than tennis, it’s a sport that’s rapidly growing with the younger demo as well.

Recently, CNBC reported on data from the Association of Pickleball Professionals which detailed its popularity growth, with more than 36.5 million people playing the sport last year. And according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, much of the sport’s growth can be credited to increased participation from people between the ages of 18-34, a demo that makes up more than 28 percent of pickleball players, a stat that might surprise Barkley.

That rise in popularity is supported by increased coverage on ESPN and a newly announced partnership with CBS Sports. Just don’t expect Barkley to be pickleball’s next big ambassador anytime soon, unless, of course, they’re willing to pay up.

Cats aren’t pets, pickleball is for old people; these are the bold claims and hot-take artistry that has people interested in Barkley’s upcoming prime time show for CNN.

[Inside the NBA]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to