Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James fired back at 11-time NBA All-Star and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley on Monday night for what the four-time MVP and three-time champion perceived was an attempt to damage his legacy.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com passed along James' response to Barkley's calling his recent actions in urging the organization to upgrade the roster before the playoffs "whiny."
"He's a hater," he said. "What makes what he says credible? Because he's on TV?"
James, who tallied 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in Monday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks, didn't stop there, however. He proceeded to go on the offensive against Barkley to highlight the lack of negative stories about him over the years.
"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," he told ESPN. "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."
James added: "All I've done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that."
The NBA on TNT provided the conversation from last week's Inside the NBA that's sparked the public war of words:
On Tuesday, NBA on TNT posted a tweet in reference to James' comments and the subsequent reaction:
James has been vocal in recent months about his desire for Cavs general manager David Griffin to acquire another point guard ahead of their title defense in the postseason. It reached a boiling point following a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans last week, per Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.
"We need a f--king playmaker," he said.
That didn't sit well with Barkley, who rattled off some of the moves Cleveland has made since James returned to help the team win last season's title.
The three-time NBA Finals MVP, who's long downplayed any pull within the organization beyond being a player, told ESPN nothing has changed in that regard.
"I collect one paycheck from this," James said. "There's the owner, Griff's the GM, I'm the player. Screw Charles Barkley."
Barkley didn't back down from his stance during a radio appearance on ESPN Chicago's Waddle & Silvy on Tuesday, however.
"I have no problem with what [James] said..some of it was true..I stick by what I said," he said, per 120 Sports.
According to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, the outspoken analyst stated he must separate any personal relationships from his broadcasting work: "I'm not there to be friends with these guys. I'm there to do my job."
"I'm just gonna keep doing what I do," he added, via Bontemps.
Rachel Nichols of ESPN provided further details from the interview:
The Cavaliers sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 32-15 record. And, although they've struggled lately with a 4-6 mark over their last 10 games, they are still the heavy favorite to reach the NBA Finals with 2-7 odds to win the East, according to OddsShark.
Of course, the bigger question is whether they have enough firepower to beat the Western Conference champions, likely the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. James' steadfast request for a playmaker makes it seem as if he believes they might be a little short ahead of the league's Feb. 23 trade deadline.