Charles Barkley Inside the NBA Screen grab: Inside the NBA

The Golden State Warriors’ season-ending loss to the Sacramento Kings in the NBA SoFi Play-In Tournament on Tuesday night potentially marked the end of an era with Klay Thompson set to hit free agency in the offseason ahead.

According to Charles Barkley, even if the Warriors re-sign their longtime cornerstone, he won’t be returning to his All-Star form, nor will he be making the type of salary he’s become accustomed to at this point in his Hall of Fame career.

“They’re gonna have to make a hard decision on Klay,” Barkley said on Inside the NBA following the Warriors’ 118-94 loss to the Kings on Tuesday. “Klay’s not gonna get younger. Do you sign him for three or four more years, which he’d want? That’s the elephant in the room. They’ve gotta make a decision on him. Listen, we all love Klay. And Klay wants a max deal. He’s not going to get a max deal. But you see he’s compromised because of the ACL and the Achilles. Do you still sign him to three or for more years at what he wants? How can you get younger if you’re going to sign him?”

After host Ernie Johnson noted that Thompson — who was held scoreless in 32 minutes on Tuesday — is reportedly willing to take less money, Barkley replied: “He’s going to have to. Ernie, he’s not going to get better. He’s gonna make less money, but he’s not going to get better. Sports ain’t for old people, that’s for young people. That’s no disrespect. Klay’s a Hall of Famer. He’s lowered his number, but just because he’s lowered his number doesn’t mean he’s going to play better as he ages. It doesn’t work like that.”

Barkley knows that firsthand.

One of the most prolific power forwards in NBA history, Barkley’s production suffered a noticeable dropoff beginning with the 1997-98 season when he was 34-years-old — the same age Thompson is now. While he was still effective in certain spots, the 1993 MVP was hampered by injuries throughout the final years of his career, as has Thompson, who missed the entirety of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons due to a torn ACL and Achilles.

To Barkley’s point, it will be interesting to see how the Warriors balance keeping their championship core — including Thompson — intact, while also attempting to improve their aging roster. As for his assertion that sports are a young man’s game, he’s largely right, with the 39-year-old LeBron James standing out as a glaring exception.

[Awful Announcing on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.