DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Few power forwards played bigger than Charles Barkley -- who stood at 6 feet 6 inches -- during his 17-year Hall of Fame career, and few commentators
have been louder in the 17 years since. The TNT analyst is once again in the news, this time for taking aim at LeBron James and the star's recent public plea for another play maker.
"Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above," Barkley said 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 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."
Barkley was right about the roster. And about LeBron's role in it. And about the money.
Dan Gilbert has given James a $127 million payroll. The Cavaliers starting five account for more than $100 million of that. What Barkley could have added is that LeBron, who's pulling down $30 million himself this season, could have taken less to make financial room for another play maker. Other super stars in other sports have.
But the word that very likely stood out to LeBron? Whiny.
This isn't Skip Bayless calling out LeBron, or any other media member for that matter. This is Charles Barkley. A member of "The Club." Barkley is a guy who, people forget, also once orchestrated a move (to Houston) to team up with other superstars in hopes of winning a ring. Barkley never got his ring. LeBron's on No. 3 and counting. But Barkley's microphone is bigger, believe it or not. He's the star of a popular television pregame show. And when he speaks his mind -- as he always does -- he sometimes says things that others are afraid to say.
This isn't one of those times.
Plenty of people have been critical of LeBron. From a basketball perspective, he's not always easy to like:
- The move to Miami.
- The control he wields.
- The family and friends who've been catered to.
But from a respect standpoint, LeBron doesn't just stand above the rest. He towers above them.
I've been saying this for years: show me one area, one moment, off the court where LeBron embarrassed himself, his family or his team. He's one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet, and yet the only time you see LeBron in the news, non-hoop related, is when he's doing something great for the kids and the students in his hometown of Akron.
So this time, he finally fired back.
"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," James recently 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."
These two aren't finished. LeBron challenged Barkley to show up sometime at an arena if he wants to talk. And Barkley's microphone isn't suddenly going to go quiet. But even if they never see eye-to-eye, they'll always have one thing in common: their passion. It's what makes both men great. And it's what makes a three-time NBA champion like LeBron speak out in frustration during a below-.500 month like January. But LeBron James remains the face of the NBA. He's carried himself like a champion, on and off the court, for years. And in the end, even one of the loudest voices of the league can't challenge that.