We have known of LeBron James’ hypersensitive nature since the summer of 2009. Jordan Crawford, a sophomore at Xavier, dunked over LeBron in a pickup game and James attempted to have the video destroyed.
When another video of the dunk made it to the Internet, LeBron claimed he made no attempt to have it destroyed – even though there were witnesses revealing that’s exactly what he had done.
Eight years and three NBA championships later, nothing has changed with James when it comes to being overly prideful.
The Cavaliers came into this season as the defending champions and with a roster largely put in a place by James. LeBron was said to be upset that Kevin Durant had signed with Golden State in the offseason, joining Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Of course, he’s the last guy who should complain about an NBA franchise putting an All-Star team together, since he did exactly that to win his two titles in Miami. He made “The Decision’’ to sign with the Heat after lining up Chris Bosh to join him there with Dwyane Wade.
And when LeBron returned to Cleveland, it was at the insistence the Cavs trade for Kevin Love and put together another big three with Kyrie Irving.
Last week, James was whining about the need for the Cavaliers to bring in reinforcements, suggesting that owner Dan Gilbert was paying too much attention to the bottom line.
That bottom line already has the Cavaliers with the highest payroll in the NBA and on the hook for an enormous escrow penalty. Even with the 2016 title, I’m convinced James still resents Gilbert from the owners’ reaction to LeBron’s “Decision’’ and looks for chances like this to take shots at the owner.
Charles Barkley was asked in his TNT role about James’ complaints over the Cavaliers roster. Barkley characterized it properly: “whiny.’’
There were a few other Barkley barbs, and James came firing back on Monday, rattling off a litany of incidents from Barkley’s NBA past, and eventually saying:
“He’s a hater. What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?’’
The idiocy of that remark has been lost in LeBron’s other comments. You can say that about sports writers, or radio hosts, but what makes Charles Barkley credible with his opinions on the NBA?
He played 16 seasons. He was on 11 All-Star teams. He was on the original starting five of the Dream Team, with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and David Robinson.
He’s entitled to have strong opinions with that career. Plus, Charles’ opinions don’t come in the form of clichés but with candor, giving him more credibility.
The cliché offered in this dust-up was LeBron’s reference to Charles as a “hater.’’ And Charles cut to the chase on that LeBron-ism, too, pointing out that today’s sports figures are quick to embrace that ridiculous term whenever they face any level of criticism.
I’ve told this story before and will repeat it:
I had the privilege of covering the Dream Team during its short practice time in San Diego, and then for the start of the 1992 Tournament of the Americas (the Olympic qualifier) in Portland.
The NBA credentialed sports writers to stay in the same hotel as the Dream Team in the San Diego area. I ran into Silas McKinnie, the former Gophers assistant, at the hotel, and we were talking later in the bar.
Barkley and McKinnie were friends from Alabama and Charles came down to have a drink with Silas. I stood there and listened to the storytelling for a half-hour, then Charles was headed upstairs to join a card game with fellow Dream Teamers.
As Charles was leaving, a man in his 40s came over and talked with him briefly. Then, Barkley turned around and went over to greet another man – in his 20s, in a wheelchair and severely disabled.
This could have taken a minute, a hello from Barkley, and the younger man would have been thrilled. Instead, Charles sat down and talked to the man in the wheelchair for a half hour, before heading off to the card game.
After witnessing that, no one – LeBron included – will convince me that Charles Barkley is a “hater.’’