ESPN– After years of being fodder for Charles Barkley to comment on in his role as an analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” LeBron James has heard enough.
“He’s a hater,” James told ESPN of Barkley following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 104-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. “What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?”
James had been stewing the past couple of days after Barkley took James to task for the four-time MVP calling out the Cavs for needing to fortify the roster with another playmaker to have a realistic shot at a repeat title.
“Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above,” Barkley said of James last week. “The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history. He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted [Iman] Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver. He’s the best player in the world. Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete? He is an amazing player. They’re the defending champs.”
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James told ESPN. “I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.
“All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.”
“Go watch the ’93 Finals when John Paxson hit the shot,” James said. “Barkley and Jordan were laughing and joking with each other during one of the games while somebody’s shooting a free throw. In the Finals. But, oh, nobody were friends back then.”
He had more words for Barkley too.
“I know he wanted to retire a long time ago, but he can’t,” James said. “He’s stuck up on that stage every week.”
James then issued a challenge, of sorts.
“And if this makes him want to talk to me, the schedule’s out there,” James said. “He knows every road arena I’ll be in. Don’t just come up to me at All-Star and shake my hand and smile.”
“I collect one paycheck from this,” James said of his role with the Cavs. “There’s the owner, Griff’s [David Griffin] the GM, I’m the player. Screw Charles Barkley.”
James put on his baseball cap and offered a parting thought as he prepared to leave the visitors locker room at the American Airlines Center to head to the airport for a flight back to Cleveland.
“I’m tired of biting my tongue,” James said. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
Oh, snap! LeBron just went in on Chuck! So much so that I had to pull out a John Oliver/John Stewart/Tomi Lahren style headline to really drive the point home. I’m not sure if Barkley is even still alive after that vicious attack! Someone check his pulse!
I have two different feelings about all this. One part of me loves this. Not LeBron calling out Chuck specifically, but someone finally calling out my least favorite crowd in the world, the “today’s sports are soft’ crowd. They make me see red. They make my blood boil. They make me want to commit violent crimes. “Today’s NBA is so watered down,” even though there’s more superstars than ever, and more teams have stars than ever before. And the players are better now than they used to be. Sorry, but Russell Westbrook would average about 50 points 25 rebounds and 15 assists if Oscar Robertson was guarding him. “All they do is shoot threes.” My advanced training in mathematics tells me that 3 is, in fact, more than 2. Which would mean that getting 3 points if better than getting 2 points. Let’s say a team takes 50 3 pointers and 50 2 pointers. If the team shoots just 35% from 3, which is about league average, the 3 point shots would yield more points than the 2 point shots if the team shot 50% from 2. So I don’t get what the problem is. “The players are too buddy-buddy nowadays.” Sure, the Banana Boat Boyz are the most influential #clique in NBA history, but this isn’t a new thing. Your boy Barkley used to sidle up to MJ non-stop. Magic and the original Isiah Thomas would make out before games! It would have been X rated if the MPAA got their hands on the footage. And Charles Oakley, everyone’s favorite bastion of toughness and thuggishness, was Jordan’s lackey no matter what team he was on. “No one plays defense or plays physical.” People don’t realize how impossible playing defense in today’s NBA is. Like 80% of the league is dangerous from 3. Every guard is a freak athlete that can’t possibly be contained one on one, so when you send help someone is open for 3. And the big men are all absurd hybrids of traditional physically dominant bruisers and skilled guards. The fact that teams still find a way to get any stops at all is cause for celebration. And no, it’s not as physical as it was in the 90s. The games are also watchable. So I applaud LeBron for taking down the leader of the curmudgeon army.
But on the other hand, this is whole saga is vintage LeBron. The whining, the verbal and virtual subtweeting, the constant over-dramatics. I mean, everything Chuck said is true. LeBron is a huge baby that cries and stomps his feet when he doesn’t get his way. I mean, I don’t get what his problem is. They won the title last season with virtually the same roster! They’re still going to win the East fairly easily. He already has no real challenge until the Finals, and now he wants to eliminate that challenge, too? I guess I can’t blame him. I hate challenges. But I’m not trying to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time. I also don’t publicly masturbate to my performance in last year’s finals where he beat the greatest regular season team ever, which he cheapens by trying to make this year’s go around easier. Not to mention we’re getting pretty close to when he takes his annual mid-season vacation. But, hey, he’s a father which means you can’t criticize him. I’m so sick of this story, I’m so sick of Barkley’s mindset, and I’m so sick of LeBron. I can’t wait until he finally retires 10 years from now.