Yesterday, Charles Barkley went on the Dan Le Batard show on Miami’s 790 the Ticket. I highly recommend listening to the segment in its entirety–you can find it on around the 60-minute mark on iTunes. He spoke about a wide range of topics, from the 1992 and 1996 US Dream Teams to LeBron James. It was a stark reminder how much we miss having him on TV.
I’ve pulled out some highlights and left all grammar in his own words:
On the 1996 Dream Team in Atlanta:
“That was a nightmare. Guys was !!ing and complaining about playing time and who was starting. I played with the greatest team ever put together and we never had complaints about who started and who played. On the first Dream team everyone got along great. It was remarkable how well everyone got along.”
On getting drunk under the table by Larry Bird:
Charles: I made the mistake of going out drinking with [Larry Bird] one night and I still to this day do not remember how I got back to my hotel room. Larry does Budweiser, and for some reason Budweiser is the strongest beer in the world. Like, I can drink a case of Corona but if I drink like 10 Budweisers something bad al–like I’m not gonna remember it.
Dan: I want to hear about this night, though. You and Larry went to drink Budweisers and he drank you under the table?
Charles: He drank me under the table. I still don’t know how I got back to my room, Dan.
Finally, on the irrational hatred of LeBron James:
“LeBron’s a great kid. He’s a great player. But there are so many people who root against him it really pisses me off…I think by the time he’s finished he’s gonna be one of the 10 greatest players ever.
But you hear some of these reporters and some of these fans, man, they just haters. I’m not big on using the word ‘hater’ but how can you hate somebody who’s that successful–who’s that great at his job? But that’s what we have created with fame now. If you’re great at something now, people just dislike you.
When somebody takes shots at you, you have to realize what they’re really trying to say. What they’re really trying to say is, ‘You’re life is great. Mine Sucks. Let me try to bring you down to my level.’ So you can never let people do that to you.”
The ringleader of the LeBron Haters?
“It’s all led by old punk[..] Skip Bayless.”
The LeBron hatred for “The Decision” has definitely overstayed its welcome and resistance to it is starting to subside in light of new evidence. Here’s what I wrote in February:
Interestingly (at least to me), LeBron recently demonstrated humility, admitting that he made a mistake with the way he handled ‘The Decision’ while forgiving Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for harsh comments made in its wake: “He said what he said out of anger,” James said. “He probably would want to take that back, but I made a mistake, too. There’s some things I want to take back as well. You learn from your mistakes and move on.” He opened the door for a possible return to Cleveland.
Sportswriters and fans have projected their dislike of LeBron’s personality and ego into a need to find flaws in his game. He’s heard all the criticism, internalized it, used it as motivation to improve his inside game and overall efficiency, and is playing with a chip on his shoulder. The most naturally gifted athlete in the history of the NBA–and perhaps professional sports–is playing with “Nobody Believes in Me” vigor.
Recently, the backlash against the backlash has started to build.
On ESPN, JA Adande writes that the hijacking of the Seattle Supersonics could be worse than The Decision:
The majority of fans still want LeBron James to pay penance for The Decision, for the Heat to be condemned to endless failure for The Celebration. But you can’t rehash those faux pas without dredging up the lies told by the ownership group that bought the Seattle SuperSonics, or the damning emails that revealed its hidden agenda to move the team. If you sympathize with Cavaliers fans, just remember Sonics fans had it worse.
“In The Decision, they lost one superstar player,” said Adam Brown, a producer of the “Sonicsgate” film that documented the departure of the SuperSonics. “In Seattle, we lost an equal superstar player in Kevin Durant and our entire franchise with a 41-year history.
“It’s a horrible travesty.”
On Grantland, Bill Simmons talks about LeBron’s penance:
You can’t imagine what this was like to witness in person. I know Michael Jordan had similarly astonishing games, and others, too, but not with stakes like that. This wasn’t just an elimination game. This was LeBron James’s entire career being put on trial … and it only took an hour for him to tell the jury, “Go home. I’m one of the best players ever. Stop picking me apart. Stop talking about the things I can’t do. Stop holding me to standards that have never been applied to any other NBA player. Stop blaming me for an admittedly dumb decision I never should have made. Stop saying I’m weak. Stop saying that I don’t want to win. Stop. Just … stop.”
As a Celtics fan, I was devastated. As a basketball fan, I appreciated the performance for what it was. One of the greatest players ever was playing one of his greatest games ever. He swallowed up every other relevant story line. Needless to say, the Celtics couldn’t match him — especially Pierce, who’s worn down from four weeks of battling Andre Iguodala, Shane Battier and LeBron on one leg and appears to be running on fumes of his fumes’ fumes at this point. The fans were so shell-shocked that many (including me and my father) filed out with three minutes remaining, not because we were lousy fans, not to beat the traffic, but because we didn’t want to be there anymore. We wanted to get away from LeBron. He ruined what should have been a magical night. We never really had a chance to cheer, swing the game, rally our guys, anything. He pointed a remote control at us and pressed “MUTE.” It was like being in a car accident. LeBron James ran over 18,000 people.
Finally, Clay Travis writes that he’s rooting for LeBron:
The only people who stay angry for two years about how you choose to make a decision are crazy, jealous, jilted women. And NBA fans. Hell hath no fury like an NBA fan scorned. Yep, NBA fans are the crazy, female stars of an upside down reality show, meet the Real Housewives of the NBA.
Unless you live in Cleveland or were a Cavs fan, hating LeBron for how he joined the Heat is nonsensical. What’s the worst thing you can say about LeBron other than how he chose a new team? He bites his fingernails, tries to hide his baldness with a headband that is now nearly the size of a toboggan, and isn’t “clutch” in “big games.” As villains go, LeBron is the lamest villain in the history of sports. The fact that he’s a villain at all says more about how contrived the LeBron hate is to begin with than it does about him.
Although many columnists have come around on LeBron over the past couple weeks, public sentiment is still strongly against him. Richard Deitsch called the Heat the “[rip] star” last night. My Facebook friends are overwhelmingly rooting against the Heat. I am rooting hard for LeBron to overcome his personal demons and transcend the ‘haters’ that Barkley speaks about. As much as I admire the passion of the Oklahoma City fans, and the youthful grace of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden, I’m rooting hard against Thunder owners Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. Most of all, though, I’m fascinated to watch the rest of this series play out.