Dwyane Wade isn’t the only one happy LeBron James finally teed off on Turner Sports mainstay Charles Barkley, in ways that go well beyond D-Wade looking to support his fellow Banana Boat ballast.
That ship doesn’t figure to sink soon at Barkley’s behest, in spite of LeBron’s relative “troubles” in Cleveland and Wade’s altogether more unseemly issues with a Chicago Bulls franchise he fooled last summer. It won’t go down without a fight, as we learned on Tuesday when James absolutely went off on Barkley, rightfully characterizing him as hypocritical prior to, sadly, using the word “hater” to denigrate the Basketball Hall of Famer.
(Not because Chuck isn’t a hater. He is. That term should have been retired when Barkley was an active player, though.)
Wade got in on the act at shootaround on Tuesday, happily taking on a new subject after a week’s worth of Bulls woe dominated the airwaves:
Here's full Wade quote on LBJ/Barkley. Never tried one of these emoji things before but believe this is considered ???? pic.twitter.com/EFAOorIw8x
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 31, 2017
“When your flaws are a little bit more …”
Barkley also recently offered his own breakdown of the Bulls, relaying that only a higher power could function as a salve …
… but nobody, including Wade, seemed to take offense at that. The Bulls, featuring a front office that actually believed Wade (a Miami resident since 2003) when he said he wanted to vacation in winter in Chicago, are a trash heap of the highest order.
James’ comments and Wade’s defense, however, were a long time coming.
One doesn’t even need to dive into the Google-documented subjects that LeBron and Wade referenced – the barfights, the out-of-control loogie, the aversion to an offseason workout routine that left Barkley crippled with back woes when he should have been flying in his prime with Michael Jordan out of the league from 1993 through 1995 – in order to have history on your side when taking Barkley out of the equation.
Barkley hasn’t exactly entered Skip Bayless territory, he’s not dead behind the eyes, but NBA players have been waiting for too long to take shots at the bully. Players no longer need the draw of Barkley’s witticisms on air in order to lend credibility to a struggling league or a lacking night of games on TNT.
He’s hardly been witty in recent years anyway. Especially with Shaquille O’Neal’s addition to the show and “Inside the NBA”‘s move away from the lighthearted, and into the realm of the jock-toned sense of cruelty that is always just below the surface when those who actually played the game get to talking together about anything else but the game (which they haven’t watched) itself.
“Inside the NBA” wasn’t just a breath of fresh air upon its debut with Barkley, back in the spring of 2000. (He went full-time during the 2000-01 season.) it was startlingly perfect sports television, the perfect program to document the imperfect league. At its peak, no sports shows in television history and damn few shows in total were nearly as good. “Inside” was must-watch TV, even at two in the morning, TNT-time.
That has ebbed in recent years, as most great things tend to do. Not so much because the show is resting on its laurels after laying waste to what was offered as competition by various networks, starting all the way back in 2001-02, with NBC’s attempt at an approximation of “Inside.” Host Ernie Johnson Jr. would never let the show become complacent.
No, what it has become is mean, and not just because it stands as a reflection of the times.
There’s a chance this gets even meaner, and though LeBron was correct in his estimation of Barkley’s contributions, the “screw Charles Barkley” kiss-off didn’t exactly lighten the mood or raise the level of discourse. What it should do, though, is once again help us recognize the value of discourse, and the way in which Wade barely hesitated before offering a similar opinion should serve as clear notice to Barkley that James is far from alone in thinking the way he does.
Perhaps this will allow Barkley the space to explore why, exactly, he thinks and speaks as he does. Perhaps it will lead to more anger, more name-calling, and everything just short of what we typically see when aging jocks lock Skechers – two guys who could tear an Achilles in an instant all but coming to an old-man clench and tussling on the floors of the otherwise-pristine “Inside the NBA” studio.
For all we know, following a verbal career-off, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal already engaged in yet another wrestling match on camera. We wouldn’t know. Sadly, we haven’t been watching for a long time.
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