Charles Barkley isn’t one to hide an opinion and Monday night was no different after brief mention of LeBron James spending the day at his son’s high school basketball game.
No, he didn’t take issue with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar attending the day of a game with the Boston Celtics, even though James told reporters it did break his pre-game routine. Barkley went in on ESPN’s decision to broadcast 15 high school basketball games and called it exploitation.
LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. and Zaire Wade, son of new TNT host Dwyane Wade, play for Sierra Canyon, a California high school filled with heavily recruited prospects. ESPN is broadcasting 15 of the team’s games throughout this season, more than many college or NBA teams, with some getting more preferential treatment on ESPN2.
Barkley didn’t miss a second to go in on the decision out of a commercial break during the NBA on TNT halftime show. Before Ernie Johnson Jr. could finish his intro about James attending the game, Barkley jumped in to say he wasn’t sure high school games should be on TV.
“We always talk about college players being exploited. This is the ultimate exploitation.
"What is the financial incentive other than the network making money on these high school kids?" Barkley asked. "We always complain about these college teams making all this money. ... You're making money on college kids. Now you're making money on high school kids."
Kenny Smith jumped in to help his case while Shaquille O’Neal, in standard fashion, jumped in at a few points to argue Barkley.
“Oh stop it ... it’s good basketball, let it go,” O’Neal said, to which Barkley argued that wasn’t the point. “ ... Stop whining. Two powerhouse [teams].”
There is precedent in the family for airing high school games. In 2002, ESPN2 aired a game between James’ St. Vincent team and St. Mary High. It was the company’s first regular-season prep game since 1989. Both players also had their games available via pay-per-view in Ohio (when Bronny, now a freshman, played there).
“I want players to be taken care of. But No. 1 thing I want them to get their free education,” he said.
Barkley has also called out LaVar Ball for exploiting his kids.
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