T-Mobile Brings Back 'Fave 5' Charles Barkley Spots

Two Ads Run During NBA All-Star Game; Spots Featuring Former Star Were Pulled Following Drunken-Driving Arrest

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- And you thought John Gotti was the Teflon Don? Say hello to Charles Barkley.

Five weeks after T-Mobile pulled its TV ads featuring the former National Basketball Association star-turned-TNT-announcer after he was arrested for drunken driving, Mr. Barkley was back on the air with two commercials that ran during Sunday night's NBA All-Star Game.

Officials with T-Mobile could not be reached for comment because of the Presidents Day holiday on Monday. A spokeswoman from the cellular-phone company's public-relations firm, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Portland, Ore., confirmed that Mr. Barkley was back and that at least one of the two spots that ran on TNT's coverage of the All-Star game was new.

Drunken-driving arrest
Mr. Barkley ran a stop sign in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Dec. 31 and failed a sobriety test with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit.

T-Mobile announced on Jan. 12 that it was pulling its commercials featuring Mr. Barkley. TNT also asked him to take an undetermined leave of absence. The Sports Business Journal reported last week that Mr. Barkley will be back on the air as an announcer "sometime after the All-Star Game."

His return to T-Mobile commercials was quicker.

During Sunday's game, Mr. Barkley was featured in T-Mobile's "Fave 5" promotion, in which calls to five designated people are always free. As usual, Mr. Barkley is paired with his comedic foil, Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, in both spots. But both spots appear to have been geared toward the All-Star Game. In one commercial, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard also has a role, as Mr. Barkley plays a video basketball game against Mr. Wade and ends up giving Mr. Howard a hamstring injury. In the other spot, Messrs. Barkley and Wade are at a Chinese restaurant in which they are served live shrimp, and they are advised -- via a cellphone call, of course -- by Houston Rockets center Yao Ming to bite the heads off the shrimp. Messrs. Wade, Howard and Yao all played in the All-Star Game.

His share of controversies
Mr. Barkley has had his share of controversies over the years, yet none have derailed his playing career, announcing career or marketability. As a player, he once threw a fan through a window at a bar in Milwaukee. At a 1991 game in New Jersey, Mr. Barkley spit in the direction of a fan who was heckling him but instead hit a little girl. He apologized to the girl and ended up becoming good friends with her and her family.

He famously wrote his own copy for the controversial 1993 Nike commercial in which he famously declared, "I am not a role model," and urged parents to stop looking to him and other athletes to "raise your kids." Certainly in the aftermath -- in which O.J. Simpson went on trial for double murder in 1995, football star Rae Carruth was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend in 1999 and Major League Baseball dealt with its current steroids issue -- Mr. Barkley has proven to be correct.

More recently, Mr. Barkley admitted to ESPN that he's lost about $10 million over the years while legally gambling at casinos. He said he would keep doing it and, shortly after the interview, in May 2008, the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel and Casino filed a civil complaint against Mr. Barkley, saying he owed the casino $400,000 from October 2007. Mr. Barkley quickly owned up to it, saying it was his fault he let the debt lapse, and quickly paid it.

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