Does Charles Barkley Have Any Right To Criticize LeBron James?
As both an NBA player and an NBA analyst for TNT, Charles Barkley has provided his fair share of controversial moments over the years. He’s told parents that he should not be considered a role model. He’s cursed on national TV. He’s bashed conservative Christian groups. And he’s very publicly talked about his love for gambling, which has landed him in some hot water in the past.
His latest comments about LeBron James could be his most controversial yet—and not necessarily for the reason you might think. In an interview with a Miami radio station 790 The Ticket late last week, the guy NBA fans used to call the “Round Mound of Rebound” made his beliefs on LeBron’s defection to the Miami Heat very clear.
“He’ll never be [Michael] Jordan,” Sir Charles said. “This clearly takes him out of the conversation. He can win as much as he wants to…There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as ‘The Man.’”
Aside from talking about LeBron James and his decision to join the Heat on Miami’s 790 The Ticket radio station, Charles Barkley also talked about it on NBA TV recently. Watch the clip above to hear more.
Barkley went on to say that just one championship ring in Cleveland could have secured LeBron’s place as an all-time great in the NBA. What it would have done for the city, Barkley said, would have been greater than anything LeBron can do in Miami. And in that moment, Barkley turned into a hypocrite.
While I believe he is 100 percent correct in his assessment of the situation—LeBron will forever be known as the guy that left Cleveland because he couldn’t win a ‘chip by himself—Barkley needs to take a look in the mirror before he says anything else. While he wasn’t in the same position as LeBron as far as free agency goes, didn’t Barkley once do the same thing in order to try and win a ring? At the end of his career, didn’t he hitch his wagon to Hakeen Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets in order to make one final push towards an NBA title? Didn’t he essentially risk tarnishing his legacy for the sake of an NBA trophy?
He did, he did and he did. Barkley—just like Karl Malone and several other NBA legends—did everything he could to get a title at the end of his career. He didn’t want to be the guy at the retirement party celebrating without a little bling of his own. So he made sacrifices to try and win it and agreed to join a collection of other NBA greats—who didn’t help Barkley win a title, by the way—in Houston in order to try and do it.
Barkley had one final shot to win an NBA championship as a member of the Houston Rockets from 1996 through 2000.
But that’s not even what I blame Barkley most for here. In hindsight, he probably wishes he could’ve spent his entire playing career as a member of his original team, the Philadelphia 76ers. He probably wishes he could have brought a title to Philly, a city that’s notoriously ripped apart for being a tortured sports town. Knowing what he knows now, he probably wishes he hadn’t hopped on a plane and run to Houston with the expectation of giving up a part of his legacy for a ring.
But he did—and that’s what he should have said when people asked him about LeBron. Rather than rip him for taking his talents to South Beach (a phrase that still seems surreal almost two weeks after ESPN’s The Decision), Barkley should have said point-blank: “I know what it’s like to chase after a title, and I learned the hard way that it’s the wrong way to go about it.” Or, “If I was LeBron, I might have gone to Miami, too. But looking back at my own career, I know that’s not the right way to handle things.” Or even, “LeBron obviously knows the game of basketball, but I wish he would have learned from guys like me and stayed in Cleveland where they love him and where they have a pretty good team.”
Barkley had a chance to make a real statement by saying any of those things. Not because it would have made any difference when it came to LeBron—he’s already going to Miami—but because it could make a difference for the next LeBron. Rather than chase after Michael Jordan and his six rings like so many of today’s NBA athletes are trying to do, the next kid might have thought, “You know what? Charles Barkley has a point. I don’t want to end up being the guy that jumps from team to team looking for a title. I’d rather attach my name to a team and let that define me.”
So Barkley settled on ripping LeBron and failed to make an impression on the next generation. He failed to let them know the proper way to do things. He failed to use his voice as an NBA legend to help improve the game. In this situation, Charles Barkley failed to serve as a role model for the rest of the basketball community.
But after taking a look back at his past, does that really surprise you?