Barkley, 28, had left Rosie's Water Works on Water Street at closing time and turned onto Juneau Street toward the hotel when the alleged victim, walking with a group of friends behind Barkley, yelled at Barkley.
"According to the victim's statement, he said something like, 'Hey, Barkley. I hear you're the baddest guy in the NBA.' But there may have been more to it than that," said Lt. Gregory Baur of the Milwaukee Police Department.
Barkley walked back toward the man, a quarrel ensued, and Barkley allegedly struck the man in the nose. "Moved it about three-quarters of an inch to the left," Baur said.
Barkley, for whom this has been a trouble-laden year, was unavailable for comment last night.
The man was treated for a broken nose and lacerations to the forehead at nearby St. Mary's Hospital and released.
"According to Barkley's statement, the man did make fists and raised his hand before the incident," Baur said.
As a result of a complaint filed by the victim, Barkley was arrested at the Hyatt Regency, the team's hotel, about 6 a.m.
He remained at the Milwaukee Lockup and Central Administration Building until posting his own $500 bail at 10:27 a.m. In the meantime, Barkley missed the 9:10 a.m. team flight home and took a later flight back to Philadelphia.
The Associated Press last night identified the alleged victim as James R. McCarthy, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The AP also said that Barkley was with a woman who drove him to his hotel after the incident.
The case will be brought before the Milwaukee district attorney at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. The district attorney will review the case and decide if there is probable cause to pursue it. If there is, a "summons and complaint" will be issued, and the case will be passed on to a magistrate. Barkley does not have to be in Milwaukee for tomorrow's proceedings. He can be represented by an attorney.
The magistrate can accept a guilty plea on the spot and order a pre- sentencing investigation. Or, if the plea is not guilty, the case will be assigned a pretrial date.
Barkley has been charged with battery, a Class A misdemeanor, which in Wisconsin is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail or a maximum fine of $10,000 or both.
In the case of first-time offenders with no prior history of arrest, a guilty verdict usually results in probation and a small fine. If guilty, however, Barkley could be the target of a civil suit brought by the victim seeking damages.
The Sixers would not comment directly on the matter.
"We don't know all the facts yet. We'll have a statement at a later time if we feel it's appropriate," said general manager Gene Shue.
Shue instructed Zack Hill, the team's public-relations director, to say the Sixers regard the incident as a private matter between Barkley and the alleged victim.
In April 1988, Barkley slapped a fan at a game at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. A civil suit against Barkley brought by the fan was settled out of court for a reported $10,000.
Since the beginning of 1991, the controversial Barkley, who is now in his eighth season with the Sixers, has been involved in the following:
* Barkley was fined $5,000 by the team for yelling at coach Jim Lynam in the locker room after a Spectrum game in March.
* Two weeks later, Barkley was fined $10,000 by the league and suspended for one game after an incident at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., in which Barkley spit into the stands.
* In April, Barkley was issued a $109 municipal citation for disorderly conduct in Milwaukee after tossing a tray loaded with cups of water into the stands during a playoff game at the Bradley Center. That charge was later dropped.
* At the beginning of the current season, Barkley generated a storm of controversy when he contended that the Sixers would keep reserve center Dave Hoppen on the roster only to avoid having an all-black team.
* Also in November, Barkley decided to change his uniform number from 34 to 32 in honor of Magic Johnson, the Lakers' star who retired from basketball after contracting the virus that causes AIDs. This became controversial because the Sixers had previously retired jersey number 32 in honor of Billy Cunningham, who once wore it.
* Two weeks ago, Barkley got embroiled in another controversy when it became known that his autobiography, co-written by Roy S. Johnson, contained harsh criticism of several of his teammates and Sixers owner Harold Katz. Barkley said he had been misquoted in some cases.
In all, it has been a turbulent year, one in which rumors that the Sixers eventually will trade Barkley have surfaced and submerged with regularity.