When you clap back with facts, it’s a wrap. LeBron James is going through a tough stretch right now. Monday night, the Cavaliers lost to the Dallas Mavericks, who currently sit 13th in the Western Conference, 104–97. The sitting champs are 7–8 over their past 15 games. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Warriors are 41–7. And that’s made LeBron a bit touchy. He’s 32 years old, with over 40,000 minutes on his odometer. He is too old for this shit. LeBron, historically, has stayed above the petty slights which get slung about over the course of season. No longer. Now, when they go low, James goes medium low.
“Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above,” Barkley said recently about LeBron’s roster complaints. “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.”
Sir Charles, please put your headgear on.
“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.”
Printed! OK, so, first of all: Facts. All facts. In 1997, as a member of the Rockets, Charles Barkley did indeed toss a dude through a plate glass window of a bar. In 1991, as a member of the Sixers, Sir Charles did, in fact, spit in the face of a little girl who was sitting courtside. To be fair, he meant to spit on her dad. I’m not aware of the All-Star Weekend incident but it seems pretty on-brand for a player who frequently threatened to skip the All-Star Game.
LeBron, if anything, pulled his punches. He might’ve mentioned how, at the 1992 Olympics, Charles defended throwing an elbow at the head of an Angolan player by saying, “He might have had a spear.”
Or the time Chuck got popped for a DUI and then told the arresting officer, “I was gonna drive around the corner and get a blowjob.”
Then again, maybe James is just keeping his powder dry. Cleveland’s February schedule appears ripe with potential wins — the Timberwolves and Knicks twice, the Bulls, Nuggets, and Pacers. But the Cavaliers have a minus-1.8 net rating over their past 10 games and their defense has slipped. J.R. Smith, recovering from thumb surgery, likely won’t be back in the lineup until March. Kay Felder and DeAndre Liggins are willing but not quite up to the task. The Cavs really do need a playmaker. The team has a workout for free-agent point guards scheduled for Wednesday and the list of invitees reads like a scrapped sequel to The Usual Suspects: Lance “that new flavor in your ear” Stephenson (please, make this happen), Mario Chalmers (oh my god), and 36-year-old Kirk Hinrich.
Something tells me LeBron’s foul mood isn’t going to lift anytime soon.