Grant Hill and Charles Barkley model oxygen masks

Altitude sickness in Denver definitely is not a joke, but it was Thursday night on NBA TV.

A video showing Charles Barkley and Grant Hill using oxygen masks during NBA TV’s pregame show went viral Thursday night, making people believe the Basketball Hall of Famers were struggling to cope with Denver’s altitude (5,280’ above sea level).

The video caused some basketball fans to question how a championship game can be played in Denver when TV analysts couldn’t even handle the city’s thin air. It also duped several media outlets, which ran headlines insinuating Barkley and Hill were struggling to breath in Denver.

The Daily Caller used, “Charles Barkley And Grant Hill Forced To Use Oxygen Masks To Combat Denver Altitude During NBA Finals Pregame Show” as their headline.

The Daily Caller duped by viral video

Per Barstool Sports, “The Altitude Is Such A Problem In Denver That Charles Barkley Needs An Oxygen Mask Already.”

“Grant Hill And Charles Barkley Needed Oxygen Masks Before Going On Air In Denver,” Fadeaway World wrote.

The worst offender may have been Sportskeeda, which ran “Watch: Charles Barkley and Grant Hill struggle to breathe in Denver ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.”

But as fans and media outlets dove right in, believing Barkley and Hill were truly struggling to breath while sitting on set in Denver, NBA TV’s pregame show provided a completely different angle of the viral video.

Coming back from commercial, host Matt Winer cited Denver’s altitude, noting Barkley and Hill have been furnished with oxygen masks. Yes, Barkley and Hill wore oxygen masks, but they were only modeling them. Immediately proving the masks were not a necessity for the NBA analysts was the fact that Barkley wore his incorrectly. And if there was still any doubt, just listen to Barkley tout the narrative that Denver’s altitude impacts professional athletes as a farce.

“Every time they mention it, I think it’s the stupidest thing ever,” Barkley ranted of Denver’s altitude posing a problem for visiting athletes. “I don’t believe it’s true…These guys are the best athletes in the world, the notion that breathing is gonna dictate who wins, like I said, if that was the case, the Nuggets would have been – this is the first time they’ve ever been to the Finals! And all of a sudden now, altitude matters? Give me a damn break!”

Many athletes, however, would disagree with Barkley downplaying the impact Denver’s altitude can have on athletes. LeBron James has said Denver’s altitude is a real thing. Former NFL cornerback and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark would certainly rebuke Barkley’s opinion. Clark developed a splenic infarction during a 2007 game in Denver thanks to his sickle cell trait, which required him to have his spleen and gallbladder removed.

Altitude sickness in Denver might be real, it’s just not something Barkley and Hill were experiencing Thursday night. And anyone who watched their bit on NBA TV would have seen the viral video was a classic case of deception.


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