LeBron James will someday join Charles Barkley in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but LeBron is apparently fed up with Barkley ripping him on television and has thrown down the gauntlet. Whose side are you on? Let us know in the NBA Forum.
Charles Barkley is incredibly popular and maybe the best studio NBA analyst in history because he says what he's thinking instead of couching terms just to be deferential to current players. The Chuckster is also a noted pal of Michael Jordan's, and if anyone has been compared to Jordan it's James. So perhaps it's no coincidence that Barkley has often ripped James while praising Jordan.
Last week after LeBron complained publicly that the Cavs needed some help amid reports there was friction between James and team owner Dan Gilbert because Gilbert wouldn't spend more money -- the Cavs already have the highest payroll in the NBA and will pay a huge luxury tax bill -- Barkley spoke out.
"Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above," Barkley said of LeBron. “The Cleveland Cavaliers 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. [James is] the best player in the world. Does he want all the good players? He don't want to compete? He's an amazing player, but they're the defending champs. … He's got Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Does he want everybody? He don't want to compete? He want to be the favorite all the time? It just pisses me off that a guy that great doesn't want to compete.”
Does Barkley have a point? In a way, he does. The Cavs have bent over backward to get James anyone he asks for. Then again, Gilbert promised LeBron he would spend whatever it took when James was deciding on returning to Cleveland.
James usually just lets that kind of criticism roll off him, but not now.
"He's a hater," James told ESPN of Barkley following the Cavaliers' 104-97 loss to the Mavericks on Monday. "What makes what he says credible? Because he's on TV?
"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," James continued. "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."
James also called for Barkley to convey the criticisms face-to-face, pointing to Cleveland's schedule, which features three games on TNT in February. The Cavs next play on the network Monday at Washington and then again Thursday, Feb. 9 at Oklahoma City. Their last TNT game of the month is Feb. 23 vs. the Knicks.
“Screw Charles Barkley,” added James, before adding, “I'm tired of biting my tongue. There's a new sheriff in town.”
It should be noted that Barkley did have some off-court troubles in his playing days and LeBron never has. James also has three NBA titles, while Barkley made one Finals in his career and lost to Jordan's Bulls while with Phoenix. While LeBron had the "Decision" and left Cleveland for Miami, Barkley forced the Philadelphia 76ers to trade him to the Suns.
You could see a very motivated James on Wednesday night when his Cavaliers host Minnesota as 8.5-point favorites on NBA odds. Cleveland was just 7-8 in January, the worst month for any LeBron team (minimum 10 games) since 2006. So he'll be ticked off about that and Barkley.
Of course a couple of years ago, Cleveland sent Andrew Wiggins and more to Minnesota for Kevin Love. However, Love isn't going to face his former team Wednesday as he missed the Dallas game with back issues. An MRI came back clean, but the Cavs are going to be extra-cautious with their All-Star. Richard Jefferson started in his place Monday, but Coach Tyronn Lue said he will mix up his starting lineups based on the matchups until Love is cleared.