ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith understands the reasoning behind Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James’ passionate response to TNT analyst Charles Barkley’s criticism, but Smith believes the feud has gone too far.
Smith said that Barkley had it coming after he called James a “punk” in the past and questioned James’ “competitive fervor.” “Those people are going to interpret you taking personal shots at them,” he explains during the Jan. 31 broadcast of “First Take.” “This is why LeBron James brought up the word ‘legacy.'”
The commentator pointed out that Rich Paul, the sports agent who represents J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, had to fight to get those players their money. The group came to James’ defense and made it clear that if James had gotten all of the things he requested, the superstar would not have complained to media in the first place.
“He’s had to complain because he hasn’t gotten the things he wanted,” Smith says. “To imply that he gets everything he wants, he’s the one running the show. They took offense to it.”
After James went to the media blasting the Cavaliers’ organization for not adding better players to the team, Barkley called the 4-time MVP “whiny” last week.
“Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above,” Barkley said on “Inside the NBA.” “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 fired back after a loss to the Dallas Mavericks Monday, Jan. 30, saying he will no longer bite his tongue in regards to Barkley’s criticism.
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James said. “I’m not the one who thrown 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.”
Smith didn’t place blame on either party, but he did say that “it has gone a bit too far, particularly with some of the personal stuff LeBron James brought up.” Since Smith’s analysis, the feud seems to have hit a natural stopping point because Barkley stuck by his comment and said he did not mind James’ response.
During a Tuesday, Jan. 31, interview with “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN Radio, Barkley said, “I stick by what I said. I’m not going to make this personal. … He was all whiny last week.
“I was laughing. Clearly, he did some homework,” Barkley said. “He Googled me and found some things. He was young when I was playing, so I appreciate that. but I’m not upset about it. … My criticism was fair, and I’m good with that.”
“But I’m not upset about it. … My criticism was fair and I’m good with that.”