Excellent post. Through all of the hype and hysteria and biases that fans, media, and athletic programs will have, this just cuts right through all of it.
I remember the Barkley thing well too. Although the "I am not a role model" statement doesn't hold water very well with me on its own, it was part of a larger point about parenting that he was making. The statement ended up on t-shirts, and was often associated with his brash identity in the 90's, but the context of it got lost. After saying "I am not a role model", he expanded on his point to say that parents are responsible for raising their kids and are responsible for what they do and that they can't blame celebrities when their kids make bad choices. Although he denies his platform in the first part of his statement, I think their is merit to the rest of his point too. Kind of a tangent from the specific topic at hand, but I think still somewhat relevant to the overall conversation about the dichotomy between the roles that high visibility athletes and ordinary citizens play in our culture.