LeBron James takes abuse from fans and media all the time — it comes with the territory as one of the best players in the NBA, especially in the nonstop media climate in which we live. For his whole career, he’s done an admirable job of rolling with the punches and remaining positive, but it appears that Charles Barkley finally got under his skin, and the results were explosive.
James absolutely demolished Barkley to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after the Cavs’ loss to the Mavericks on Monday night.
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James 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.”
According to ESPN, James was seething over Barkley’s comments that James’ public pleas for the Cavs to bring in more players were “inappropriate” and “whiny,” and with the Cavs still in disarray (they finished January an unthinkable 7-8), their biggest star was in no mood to hold back. He even brought up Barkley’s insistence that players in his day weren’t as chummy with opponents as they are now.
“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.”
After a brief diversion to trash Phil Jackson again over his “posse” comments from the summer, James had one brutal parting shot for Barkley, over how much power he ostensibly wields within the Cavs’ organization.
“I collect one paycheck from this,” James said of his role with the Cavs. “There’s the owner, Griff’s [David Griffin] the GM, I’m the player. Screw Charles Barkley.”
“I’m tired of biting my tongue,” James said. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
If LeBron means that this new attitude is going to become normal, that sound you heard was sportswriters everywhere cheering in ecstasy at all the salacious stories he’s about to give them. We’ve never seen the King this outspoken before. But he’s not done being cryptic on Twitter, either: