After TNT analyst Charles Barkley drew what appeared to be the last straw in a public shaming of LeBron James, The King fired back with harsh words of his own, tearing down the Hall of Fame power forward for everything that had gone wrong in his NBA career.
"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. “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’ demolition of Barkley’s public image came just days after Chuck called James “whiny” for making “inappropriate” comments publicly questioning the front office’s desire to win a second championship based on a lack of roster moves made the offseason following their Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors.
James, in turn, uncorked and launched a devastating blow to Barkley, likely a culmination of all the slack Barkley has given him over his soon-to-be 14-year NBA career.
Let’s add some more context to James’ references.
"I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window.”
Barkley, indeed, threw a man through a glass window during a 1997 incident in Orlando where someone threw ice in his face.
“What [police and witnesses] said happened, happened,” Barkley said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “What he did was inappropriate. I'm going to defend myself. Let there be no debate. If you bother me, I'm going to whip your ass. The guy threw ice in my face, and I slammed his ass into the window. I'm not denying that. I defended myself. He got what he deserved.”
“I never spit on a kid.”
In March of 1991, Barkley had an issue with a fan sitting behind the Philadelphia 76ers bench. Chuck proceeded to launch a spittle at the fan, but instead hit an innocent little girl sitting courtside — a moment he said changed his life.
“I got suspended obviously and I should have. And I remember sitting in a hotel room, and I was like, ‘Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? What are you so angry about?’” Barkley said in an interview on In-Depth with Graham Bensinger. “And then from that day forward, every time I played basketball, I said, ‘Just let people see your talent. You don’t have to be mad at anybody else.’”
“I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas.”
In May 2008, Barkley nearly faced felony charges for failure to repay $400,000 of gambling debt to a Las Vegas Strip casino, according to AP’s Ken Ritter. He later overnighted a $400,000 cashier’s check to the Wynn 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.”
It’s not clear exactly which instance James is referencing. After all, Chuck made the team 11 times in his career.
But we do know he publicly campaigned for fans not to vote him into the 1998 All-Star Game and has a history of trying to get out of the yearly obligation:
1990 All-Star Game: Barkley tried to finagle his way out of the All-Star Game, pinning his need for rest on a “groin injury” he didn’t want to aggravate — an injury that later became a strained leg muscle.
“I’m going to play,” he said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “They gave me a play-or-else deal. They said I would be suspended next week if I play this week and miss the game.”
He played 22 minutes and scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field.
1998 All-Star Game: If there was an example of Chuck flat-out not giving a crap, this was it. Perhaps this is what James meant.
Barkley encouraged management not to promote him as an All-Star and told reporters he wanted to hit Las Vegas instead of traveling with the league’s best.
“We don't want any late surges,” Barkley said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I keep telling the Rockets not to make that announcement at home games, telling fans to vote for me, Clyde [Drexler] and Hakeem [Olajuwon]. I've already got my room booked in Las Vegas for that weekend. As long as the fans don't put me in, I know the coaches aren't dumb enough to put me on the team.”
After he was officially left off the fan vote for starters and the coaches’ vote for reserves, Barkley conceded the Strip was where he belonged.
"I think at this stage of my life, it's really better for me to go to Vegas and gamble," he said in a Newsday article by Shaun Powell. "I've been to 12 or 13 straight All-Star Games so I need a break now. I need a break, I really do."
Barkley, along with Michael Jordan, also skipped out on the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players Event in 1997, but were not the only players to do so.
"Go watch the ’93 Finals when John Paxson hit the shot. Barkley and Jordan were laughing and joking with each other during one of the games while somebody's shooting a free throw. In the Finals. But, oh, nobody were friends back then."
We couldn’t find the exact foul line sequence James was referencing — after all, he is a scholar of the game — but we DID find a sequence from a 1998 Chicago-Houston matchup, where Barkley’s Rockets were shorthanded, lacking both Hakeem Olajuwon AND Clyde Drexler.
After a game’s worth of back-and-forth jawing, Barkley and Jordan playfully shared a laugh with one another.
LeBron on Chuck’s job: "I know he wanted to retire a long time ago, but he can't," James said. "He's stuck up on that stage every week."
In 2012, Barkley told Sports Illustrated he wasn’t sure how much longer he could go on as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports.
"I love my job," Barkley said, via SI.com. "But I have four years left on my current deal, and to be honest with you, it's going to be a struggle for me to make it for the whole four years. I really don't know how much longer I'm going to do this. I need something more, or something else to do to be honest with you.”
But over the years, Chuck’s stance on work has changed. He signed a multiyear contract extension with Turner Sports in 2015 — a decision he said his agent never played a part in.
“The money at this stage of my life does not matter. At this stage of my life, I’m not concerned about money,” Barkley said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch “I shook David’s hand and said, 'We got a deal.' I told my agent, 'We are not haggling or negotiating. Do the deal."
There’s also that thing LeBron left out
The defending champion landed a flurry of jabs and hooks, but never connected with the haymaker that would have put Barkley out for good.
Luckily, we’ve got the follow-up: On the night of Dec. 31, 2008, Barkley was busted for a DUI in Arizona after police caught him running a stop sign.
His reason? “You want the truth?” he asked officers, according to the police report. “I was gonna drive around the corner and get a blow job.”
Happy New Year, Chuck.