Charles Barkley is nothing if not consistent. Stubbornly so. So when he told Bill Simmons back in June that LeBron James was not a Top 5 player all time, even after his superhuman finish to the NBA Finals, you just knew he’d double down at some point. That time has come.
Barkley spoke to Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch this week, and ranted about his admittedly never-changing Top 5, and at least added some nuance to his argument against LeBron.
“I have told you guys the five greatest players in my opinion: Michael [Jordan], Oscar Robertson, Wilt [Chamberlain], Bill Russell and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Then it’s Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan,” he said before delving into the deepest dredges of the Internet by invoking the dreaded #RINGZ argument.
“Then LeBron is right there. I don’t understand why ya’ll are in such a hurry to move him past Tim Duncan and Kobe. Now if he wins a couple of more championships, I might move him past Kobe and Tim Duncan. You guys always talk about championships. Kobe and Tim have five. LeBron has three.”
It’s no coincidence that Barkley chirped “You guys always talk about championships,” as his lack of titles is constantly used by his detractors to demean him and his career. Still, Chuck concedes that “LeBron is amazing” even though he refuses to move him up in his all-time rankings.
As he continued, Barkley pointed out that ranking James just the eight greatest of all time is quite the compliment, despite people saying otherwise. “But only in the bullsh*t of today’s society could I say a guy is one of the eight greatest players ever and it’s an insult to him,” he said. “That’s crazy. If LeBron wins a couple of more championships I will move him past Tim Duncan and Kobe.”
Barkley ended the rant with a parting shot at Manute Bol, oddly enough, and continued to remain steadfast in his stubbornness. “But nobody can get into my Top 5,” he reiterated. “It’s not like those guys are slouches. It ain’t like I’m putting Manute Bol in my Top 10 ahead of LeBron. Every time LeBron has a triple double, people say that’s amazing. I say yeah, there’s a guy who averaged one for the whole season who have on my Top 5 list! LeBron had three in the playoffs and you all go crazy. And that is no disrespect to LeBron. The guy is amazing. But why would you put him past Kobe and Tim Duncan already?”
Charles has had his share of bad takes that he simply refuses to alter, like his anti-Warriors rhetoric or his respectability politics response to police brutality, so don’t expect him to bump LeBron up in his all-time rankings any time soon.