Charles Barkley graduated from Leeds High School in 1981, a small high school in a community outside Birmingham, Alabama. Leeds is a poor school, with over half of its student body qualifying for subsidized meals and fewer than 500 students, but a strong one. About 82 percent of Leeds students exceed state proficiency standards in both math and reading, and 96 percent of students graduate.

Charles Barkley was among Leeds’ first black students. The school integrated only three years before he attended.

Over the 30-plus years of Barkley’s career, he has made supporting Leeds and its students a priority. He has provided more than $3 million in scholarships to Leeds graduates and financially supported basketball programs for girls and boys of all ages. During the pandemic, he helped the small school district, which contains Leeds High School, one middle school, and two elementary schools, get laptops and internet connections for virtual learners in need.

On May 18, 2021, a Facebook post announced that Barkley was again helping his alma mater–this time by putting cash into the hands of the people who keep it operating. Barkley gave $1,000 each to every single employee of the Leeds City Schools District, approximately 226 educators and school staffers.

“We are humbled and wish to express our sincere gratitude to Charles Barkley for providing a $1,000 gift to each and every Leeds City Schools employee for going the extra mile this school year,” read the Facebook post in question. “Being a school employee is tough, but driving a bus, teaching, coaching, or working in the cafeteria, all while maintaining safety protocols, has been a daunting task during a worldwide pandemic.”

Charles Barkley, 11-time NBA All-Star, retired in 2000 from the NBA with over 20,000 points scored, the fourth player in NBA history to achieve that landmark number. Since then, he’s worked as an NBA analyst and studio pundit for TNT, winning four Emmy Awards. At Leeds High School, he failed to make the varsity team. But plainly, he never held that against them.

Photo by s_bukley /