Though Ward did not play baseball in college, he was drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1993 free agent draft and by the New York Yankees in 1994. An avid tennis player, Ward also shined in the Arthur Ashe Amateur Tennis Tournament in 1994.
Ward was a model student-athlete at Florida State. As a senior and captain of the team in 1993, he voluntarily approached Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden about a difficult situation surrounding incoming freshman Warrick Dunn, whose mother, policewoman Betty Smothers, was killed in the line of duty during Dunn's senior year of high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Charlie served as a surrogate big brother to Dunn during the latter's first year in Tallahassee, helping him through a trying time by becoming his roommate and friend. Because of his integrity, Ward also managed to escape the fallout that many of his teammates received for the notorious scandal that surfaced in the months after FSU won the National Championship in 1993. In his senior year at Florida State, he also served as Student Government Vice-President, after he was asked to run by the Monarchy Party, a student government reform organization.
Upon graduation, Ward stated he was undecided about professional basketball or football and made it clear that he would not consider playing in the NFL unless selected in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Because teams did not want to waste a first round pick on a player that might eventually choose the NBA, Ward was not selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Instead of pursuing a career as a football player in the NFL, and having been chosen in the 1st round (26th overall) of the 1994 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, he began his career in the NBA as a point guard. An inquiry was made during Ward's rookie year with the Knicks to become the backup quarterback for Joe Montana of the Kansas City Chiefs, but Ward declined.
Ward played sparingly in his rookie year under head coach Pat Riley, but the Knicks organization referred to him as "the point guard of the future." When assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy took over the head coaching position, Ward's time on the floor began to increase, becoming the primary backup for point guard Derek Harper. During his NBA career, Ward established himself as a good three-point shooter, a reliable ball distributor, and a respected floor leader. Ward was selected to participate in the 1998 NBA All-Star three-point competition, finishing fourth in the event. He soon helped the Knicks reach the 1999 NBA Finals before falling to the San Antonio Spurs. Ward was traded to the Phoenix Suns in February 2004 as part of the blockbuster trade that brought Stephon Marbury to the Knicks and was promptly cut by the Suns for salary purposes. Ward spent the remainder of the season with the Spurs and signed a contract with the Houston Rockets the following summer. After maintaining relatively good health over his first decade in the league, injuries caused Ward to miss most of the 2004-05 season. Because of his injuries Ward retired.
Off the court, Ward is known for his extensive charitable work through groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
There was an expected amount of outrage directed at Ward from Jewish groups, as well as the Knicks organization and the public at large. Ward defended himself by indicating that "I didn't mean to offend any one group because that's not what I'm about. I have friends that are Jewish. Actually, my friend is a Jewish guy, and his name is Jesus Christ." He also noted that the quotes were taken out of context, as he had stated that "Jews are stubborn" in speaking to what he perceived to be their disinclination to convert to Christianity.
Eventually Charlie did apologize for his statements, with his apology being accepted by the Anti-Defamation League.