“Rick Barry has a problem. He would like people to regard him with love and affection, as they do Jerry West and John Havlicek. They do not.” – Tony Kornheiser, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.
Ricky Barry might not have the same problem as the one a much younger Tony Kornheiser wrote in that seminal SI piece from 1983, but he’s just as cantankerous as he was during his Hall of Fame career.
During the 40-year Anniversary of the Warriors’ sole NBA Championship at Oracle Arena last night, Barry sounded off on LeBron’s ex-teammates during his first foray with Cleveland, Stephen Curry’s passing and why his ’75 title-winning Warriors squad would have gone back-to-back in 1976 if they had been able to get past the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals.
First though, come Barry’s comments about Steph, which centered on his more flamboyant attempts to find his teammates. Via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, some his denouncement of Curry’s outrageous passing, while also conceding he would vote Steph for MVP if he could:
“He still has a little way to go as far as the passes that he chooses to make at times,” Barry said of Curry. “He tries to make the great play instead of the simple play. But he’s getting much better at it and his shot selection.”
“But he really has become a great player. And if I had a vote for the Most Valuable Player, Steph is right there. He’s been unbelievable.”
Barry adroitly added that MVP comment at the end so he didn’t piss off Warriors fans even further: earlier in the piece, he castigated Dubs fans for booing owner Joe Lacob during the Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement in March of 2012.
But Curry does turn the ball over more than he should, and can go for the home run pass when a simple chest pass is the smarter play. How else to explain Curry’s mom getting so much extra coin this year?
There’s more than kernel of truth to what Barry is saying, and it doesn’t make it any less true simply because Barry doesn’t cushion what he says like the rest of us.
Rick also called out LeBron’s former Cavs teammates during Bron’s first seven seasons on the squad and compared them to his own experience with the Warriors. His parallel’s with LeBron may make him sound like an untethered egomaniac, but “The Miami Greyhound” was the legit Finals MVP in ’75 and a 12-time All-Star who probably should have finished higher than fourth in MVP voting that year (Kornheiser’s quote from above was very real: people didn’t like him, for good reason in a lot of cases):
Barry also credited his old Warriors teammates for picking up their play when he struggled. He added that James wasn’t as fortunate while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers during his first stint from 2003-10.
“Great players are not going to play great all the time,” Barry said. “That happened to LeBron in Cleveland. When he had those off games in some of those playoff series, his teammates didn’t get the job done to get through those tough times.
“My teammates did. I sucked in Games 6 and 7 [of the 1975 West finals].”
We sort of agree, but part of being a leader is challenging your teammates to meet your own benchmarks for performance, something LeBron wasn’t able to do during his first go-around in Cleveland. Plus, James still had to get over a number of psychological hurdles (2011 Finals) before capturing the Larry O’Brien trophy in Miami.
Barry’s teammates primarily disliked him, but he did win. Time heals most wounds, but if Butch Beard or Jamaal Wilkes ever gave an uncensored account of playing with Barry during that Finals-winning season, it would not be filled with convivial memories of Barry. But of course, nothing can replace #Ringz.
Barry will continue to put his foot in his mouth regardless of how good a player he was, but we shouldn’t discount his opinion entirely simply because he’s genetically predisposed to fill a reporter’s notepad with caustic comments.