Let’s make one thing perfectly clear from the start — it’s Charles Barkley’s job to offer his opinion on the state of basketball and all things related. He’s not employed by TNT for his expert basketball analysis or his TV friendly personality. His job is basically to have hot takes and tell the odd joke, something he does extremely well.
Barkley recently criticized the way LeBron James publicly attacked his team’s front office, basically begging/demanding that owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin bring in reinforcements so the Cavaliers can make another title run. Barkley called those pleas “inappropriate” and “whiny.” James had heard enough.
“He’s a hater,” James said. “What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?”
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James sounded off, according to 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.”
Barkley is also one of those old school players who insists that the NBA is less tough these days, especially because all the players are friends, even those on rival teams. James called BS on that too.
“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.”
“I know [Barkley] 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.”
It’s a rare moment for James to be this outspoken, although he has previously made his social and political beliefs public — when he wore a “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt during warm up to honor the death of Eric Garner and when he pledged his support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Don’t expect James to stay quiet if Barkley speaks up again, either.
“I’m tired of biting my tongue,” he said. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”