Charles Barkley doubles down on LeBron James: 'We're never going to be friends'

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You’re not going to believe this, but Charles Barkley isn’t keeping quiet.

A day after LeBron James fired back at Barkley for his critical commentary about the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s roster-building demands, the “Inside the NBA” analyst returned serve on ESPN Radio’s “Waddle and Silvy” show, again calling LeBron’s “We need a f***ing playmaker” comments “whiny.”

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“I stick by what I said,” said Barkley. “He was all whiny and everything last week, so I’m good, man. Listen, If I’m going to be straightforward like I always try to be, I know guys are going to try to come back at me sometimes, so I’m good. He got personal, but like I said, I’m never going to get personal on an NBA player. All my criticism and critiques are always just about basketball, and I’m going to keep doing what I do.

“Clearly, he had done his homework on some screw-ups I’ve had in my life. … Clearly, he Googled me and found out some things, because I think he was young when I was playing, so he clearly Googled me. So, I appreciate that. But listen, man, I’m not going to get upset that somebody set something bad about me. I’m not like 12 years old. Like I said, my initial criticism was fair, and I’m good with that.

“I think when you don’t like the message, you just kill the messenger. Some of the things he said about me are correct. That still does not make my message incorrect. I thought he was really whiny and complaining the last couple weeks talking about how he got no help. I’m like, ‘Dude, you just won the championship and it’s the middle of the season, and you’re just bashing your teammates.’ I think that wasn’t right.

“You keep saying, ‘We’re not in it, we’re not that good,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, y’all are the reigning defending NBA champs,’ and I appreciate Tristan Thompson actually having the stones to say something, but he’s the only one. The rest of them are just so intimidated. And anybody in that circle, they’re so intimidated, but I’m not intimidated at all.”

A Charles Barkley head bigger than the real one. (Getty Images)
A Charles Barkley head bigger than the real one. (Getty Images)

The back-and-forth is getting a bit confusing at this point, so here’s a quick refresher course for you:

• After a loss to the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans earlier last week, James was highly critical of the Cavaliers’ roster, saying, “We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s***. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top heavy.” He specifically cited rookie Kay Felder and D-League signee DeAndre Liggins as inexperienced teammates incapable of helping Cleveland win a playoff game this year, and then demanded of Cavs general manager David Griffin, “We need a f***ing playmaker.”

• In response on this past Thursday’s “Inside the NBA” segment, Barkley called LeBron “inappropriate, whiny, all of the above” for airing out his teammates and front office. “He’s got Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love,” the Hall of Famer added. “Does he want everybody? He don’t want to compete? He want to be the favorite all the time? It just pisses me off that a guy that great doesn’t want to compete.”

• On two separate occasions over the past week, Thompson told reporters, “LeBron’s comments is what it is. I really don’t give a f***,” and, “I earned my money. LeBron’s not my agent.” (For the record, Thompson is represented by LeBron’s agent and longtime friend, Rich Paul, who negotiated a five-year, $82 million extension for Thompson many believe was pushed through at LeBron’s insistence.)

• After initially casting Barkley’s comments aside as “good for the ratings,” LeBron had enough after his team’s seventh loss in 11 games, saying, “Screw Charles Barkley,” and, “He’s a hater.” He added, “I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. 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.”

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• Finally, Dwyane Wade came to his friend LeBron’s defense, telling reporters on Monday, “Thank God he finally said something,” and then laying into Barkley a little more. “Sometimes, when guys get a microphone in front of their face, they just talk and talk and talk and forget about their history. We all make that mistake, but especially that guy on TV. He acting like he just walks on water. And I like the fact that LeBron called him out and told him about himself a little bit. Humble yourself.”

On Tuesday, Barkley told ESPN Radio he paid off his Vegas debts and never showed up late to the All-Star Game. He said of the spitting incident, “I was 100 percent wrong, but it was a great learning experience for me,” called the Nike “I am not a role model” commercial “the best thing I’ve done in my whole sports career,” and clarified, “I threw a guy through a window. He deserved it. He threw a drink on me. Like I told the judge, we were on the first floor. I wish were on the third or fourth floor.”

As for Wade’s comments, Barkley said he expected LeBron’s friends to come to his defense before ribbing Wade’s dysfunctional Chicago Bulls. “Humbled? Listen, he’s humbled, playing for that team.”

In his lengthy interview, Barkley pointed out on several occasions his two rules of broadcasting — “never talk about a guy’s personal life” and “never say a guy should get fired.” He added, “My job is to give my opinion on basketball. It has nothing to do with being humbled, trying to be a bad guy, trying to be a hater,” and then called out today’s generation of players for taking everything so personally.

“Listen, I’ve only met LeBron casually,” said Barkley. “He’s always been great to me. I think I’ve been really cordial to him. But this notion that we have to be friends, we’re never going to be friends. And that’s not a negative thing. I’m not friends with none of these young guys. My job is to do my job, but I do understand that this is a different generation, where any time you say something about young guys they take it personally. They never worry about whether the criticism is fair or not. They take it personally, and that doesn’t bother me. … And I know most of these young guys on television for whatever network or radio station they work for, they want to be friends with these guys. I don’t want to be friends with these guys. I’m there to do my job. You go back and look at my entire career. I have never said anything personally about any player, and I’m never going to.”

Barkley touched on a number of subjects, saying the Bulls’ decision to bring in Wade was “stupid,” describing Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors as disappointing, calling a potential Warriors series with the San Antonio Spurs “a toss-up” and wondering why Charles Oakley hates him so much …

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But much of the focus remained on James:

“None of us have a God-given right to win a championship,” added Barkley. “Let me ask you a question: When Michael Jordan went up to the Boston Garden and put 63 on them, he wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I ain’t got no help.’ He was like, ‘Nah, I’m going to kick y’all a**, and we’re going to win.’ That’s just my generation. We didn’t sit around and keep saying, ‘Hey, I don’t have enough help.’ And I’m not going to change. … Your team is your team. You say, ‘Hey, let’s lace ’em up, best of seven, if you lose, it’s all right.’ This notion that you have to win the championship or if you don’t win the championship, it’s the end of the world, I don’t believe that.”

When Waddle and Silvy pressed him on this issue, comparing LeBron’s demands to similar ones Jordan made to the Bulls, Barkley listed a few differences — that the Bulls never paid anybody, Jordan didn’t like GM Jerry Krause and Chicago did surround MJ with talent — that weren’t really differences. Sadly, once NBA players starting comparing generations, the conversation rarely bears anything of value.

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Wrapping up the conversation by responding to LeBron’s final warning shot from Sunday night — “I’m tired of biting my tongue,” said James, “there’s a new sheriff in town” — Barkley wondered aloud if he should challenge the four-time NBA MVP to a paintball gunfight at center court of the All-Star Game.

“Man, I should dress up as a cowboy Thursday night and challenge him to a gunfight,” said Barkley.

We’ll get our answer whenever LeBron responds to Barkley’s response to LeBron’s response to Barkley’s response to LeBron’s comments. Welcome to February in the NBA, where amazing happens.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!