Fox Sports One commentator and NFL great Shannon Sharpe ripped TNT analyst Charles Barkley for claiming Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James did not want to compete after asking for higher-caliber players to join the team’s roster.
During the Jan. 31 telecast of “Undisputed,” Sharpe reminded Barkley that he was never the top player on any team he played for and that Barkley had no place to criticize James.
“When Charles Barkley played in the era, he was never the guy,” Sharpe says. “He always had to take a back seat to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas because what did they have that he never got: a championship. So he always had to play second fiddle to them.”
Last week, Barkley and his “Inside the NBA” co-host Kenny Smith both agreed that James should have taken his concerns to management instead of blasting the organization in front of the media.
“Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above,” Barkley said of James 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 [Iman] 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.”
James did not take kindly to Barkley’s insinuation that he isn’t a passionate competitor. The NBA superstar told ESPN, following the Cavaliers’ 104-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Monday, that Barkley was “a hater” before giving Barkley a piece of his mind.
“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 … I’m tired of biting my tongue. There’s a new sheriff in town.”
While many of James’ critics have dismissed his response, Sharpe took the 4-time MVP’s side and hammered Barkley for looking down on players who wanted to join up with superstars by reminding Barkley that he did the same thing in his career.
“LeBron James, for the last 10-12 years, has been the defacto best player in all of basketball,” Sharpe proclaims. “And he puts the time in and on the court and he’s a role model. For Charles Barkley to ‘do what you’ve done off the court and the way you showed up on the court out of shape and not ready to play every night, I’ll be damned if I let you criticize my legacy. KICK ROCKS!'”