Charles Barkley: LeBron James Should Go Back to Cleveland

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterDecember 13, 2013

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Charles Barkley might not want to go out for a stroll on South Beach.

The TNT commentator has angered Miami Heat supporters from the first season of the "Big Three," calling them the "worst fans" in a June 2011 radio interview, and repeatedly questioning former commercial sidekick Dwyane Wade's status as a superstar.

Now, though, he's really done it.

In an interview with Rachel Nichols that aired Friday on CNN's Unguarded, Barkley answered a question about his own lack of championship rings by questioning whether LeBron James should have ever put on a Heat uniform.

"I thought LeBron should have stayed in Cleveland," Barkley said. "Just 'cause he got them rings now, he ain't no better. Think about the notion that, just because I didn't win a sporting event, my life is not successful. That's gotta be the stupidest thing I ever heard."

Of course, some Heat fans might say that James not being better off is among the dumber things they've heard. James has improved his efficiency in every season with the Heat, as Pat Riley has surrounded him with players who complement his skill set, Erik Spoelstra has designed a system around him and the organization as a whole has created a structured environment in which James has flourished personally and professionally.

Barkley didn't stop there, though.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21: Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat holds the Larry O'Brien Trophy as they speak to NBATV analyst Matt Winer, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal after winning the Championship against the Oklahoma City Thunder durin
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Nichols asked the former 76ers and Suns star whether he would like to see James return to Cleveland, as soon as next season, since James holds the right to opt out of his contract after this season. The Cavaliers (9-13) play the Heat (16-6) on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"I think it'd be great for him to go back to Cleveland," Barkley said. "Number one, I don't think they are great fans in Miami. I thought they were great fans in Cleveland."

Heat fans have earned a reputation as somewhat spoiled, tending to show up late and leave early—even in the NBA Finals. But there is a fervent fanbase beyond the "be seen" crowd that can afford lower bowl playoff tickets. Those were the people who flooded the streets of the city for the parade, and those who have produced record local television ratings.

Nichols continued: "People in Miami already don't like you; you're gonna dig a deeper hole with this interview."

Barkley didn't budge.

"I'm not digging a deeper," he said, pausing. "Listen, those were the same fans who were leaving when they thought they had lost to the Spurs. So let's don't act like they're super fans."

Well, at this point, fewer are fans of his.