This week LeBron James fired back at Charles Barkley’s criticism of him and got very personal. Barkley did argue a strong point that LeBron does not like to face competition and probably wants an easier path to winning.
Just last week LeBron aired some more in-house problems about wanting another playmaker on the team, but being unable to acquire players due to the team spending poorly and cap issues. Many see this as a way of pulling strings to get Dwyane Wade who coincidentally has his own drama in Chicago the very same week. There is absolutely no way Wade could have gone to Cleveland last year without damaging his legacy, but landing there by trade would put it all on Chicago and make it appear as though he had no say over the circumstances.
Barkley criticized James on the show NBA on TNT:
“He’s the best player in the world. Does he want all the good players? He don’t want to compete? He’s an amazing player, but they’re the defending champs. … He’s got Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. 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.” – Charles Barkley
LeBron has been criticized throughout his career for the drama that surrounds him. It began in 2008 when his looming free agency was coming and he talked about it openly. He hung out with Jay-Z to watch New York Yankees games and it led many to believe James was going to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
Two years later in 2010 LeBron held a special “The Decision” where he announced he would take his talents to Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Bosh was considered among the best power forwards in the game at the time and Wade was by far the best shooting guard in the Eastern Conference and considered second to none except maybe Kobe Bryant. The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers were also front runners for James that year, but cap issues prevented Chicago from landing Bosh and Wade didn’t want to move to Cleveland. Wade confirmed that he and LeBron was close to signing with the Chicago Bulls, but financially the Bulls couldn’t afford it. Their decision came when the Heat signed Bosh.
LeBron received heavy criticism from Celtics Forward Paul Pierce, Bulls Center Joakim Noah, and lost a lot of respect from active and retired players and coaches.
LeBron’s decision 2.0 didn’t have as much controversy other than he betrayed another team for his former employer and much of the drama was swept under the rug by Miami Heat management. Still since LeBron’s departure in 2014 and Wade’s exit in 2016 it led to a lot of leaks and speculation on the relationship between James with Heat management.
One such damaging leak came when one of the minority Heat owners divulged that LeBron James wanted Erik Spoelstra fired. This coming after LeBron James and his agent wanted Tyronn Lue to replace David Blatt as head coach of the Cavaliers the year before. Heat management denied having any knowledge of LeBron’s requests for Spoelstra to be fired, but they didn’t deny it ever being mentioned.
Worsening the situation was when Maverick Carter started a media beef with Phil Jackson who shared inside knowledge about team misconduct involving LeBron James during his time playing for the Miami Heat. Maverick Carter had all but confirmed there was a request by him to Pat Riley in 2014 to make some changes to the Heat to which Pat rejected. While Mav didn’t state specifically that he wanted Spoelstra fired, his demands would have required coaches fired and players traded in order for the Heat to structure the team to the demands made.
Video: Maverick Carter confirms reason LeBron James left Miami; beef with Phil Jackson:
Furthering the damage was rumors of LeBron recruiting Chris “Birdman” Andersen to Cleveland which got started after James return to Cleveland and the discussion of his fishing trip with Jones and Allen. Birdman didn’t sign in Cleveland in 2014, but he eventually did in 2016.
James Jones, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis also were part of the rumors which James Jones discussed there was some mention of basketball discussion amongst them on a fishing trip. The Cavaliers heavily pursued Ray Allen, but Allen didn’t want to move his family again and preferred to stay retired in Miami.
Mike Miller joined LeBron in Cleveland mostly as a jab at Miami, but eventually got ran out of town for the same reasons the Heat let him go.
Much of this sabotaging of the Heat organization left a dirty and nasty taste in the mouth of Heat fans who came to realize the suggestions of drafting Shabazz Napier, James secret texts to Pau Gasol days before the decision, the manipulated roster moves involving several Heat free agents, and the fact that Sports Illustrated develops their magazines one month in advance suggests that LeBron’s letter to Cleveland was written just before the start of the NBA Finals.
Does Charles Barkley have a strong argument to question the competitive nature of LeBron? He certainly does, because history has provided strong evidence that LeBron hates competition and will bolt if he feels it is the right thing to do.
Unfortunately for LeBron he has no opt out. With this year’s playoff run being in doubt it could spell bad news for the future of the Cavaliers and LeBron James.