Barkley: LeBron's Legacy Would Take 'Serious Hit' Without Multiple Titles
"He's got to win multiple championships to make that situation work, at least two,'' the Hall of Famer and TNT analyst said in an interview with FanHouse on Thursday night at the Basketball Hall of Fame about James, who bolted Cleveland last month as a free agent to force a sign-and-trade to the Heat. "(If not), his legacy is going to take a serious hit.''
But what if James doesn't win any titles?
"His legacy is going to take a really, really serious hit,'' said Barkley, shown at right with NBA legend Oscar Robertson Thursday night at the Basketball Hall of Fame Reunion Dinner.
Barkley has been critical of James since he announced his decision to go to Miami on the July 8 ESPN show "The Decision.'' The next day, James, joined by a re-signed Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who left Toronto for the Heat as a free agent, danced around together on a stage at American Airlines Arena.
Barkley said in a recent interview with ESPN Radio 103.3 FM in Dallas/Fort Worth that each incident was a "punk move'' by James. On Thursday, he was asked if "punk'' was an appropriate word to use.
"I should have never used that word,'' said Barkley, sounding at first as if was an apology. "It was bull (bleep). Bull (bleep) is a better word.''
Barkley said James has been doing nothing but continuing to dig himself a deeper public relations hole with his moves this summer.
"He took out the full page ad and didn't mention Cleveland,'' Barkley said of James, who took out the ad in the Akron Beacon Journal in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and thanked fans there, although James later did thank Cleveland fans at an Akron event. "He's making himself more of a public enemy.''
Barkley said another bad move by James was sending out a message on Twitter earlier this week that read, "Don't think for one min that I haven't been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!''
"This thing that he's taking mental notes, I'm bothered by him taking mental notes,'' Barkley said. "He thinks he can't get criticized. Every player who ever played the game has been criticized. I played against Michael Jordan. They said he couldn't win in the beginning (of his career before later winning six titles). It's the notion you can't get criticized I have a problem with.''
Barkley reiterated he believed James handled his exit from Cleveland poorly, not informing management himself but rather having somebody call the Cavaliers on his behalf shortly before his television announcement. While he didn't completely criticize James' departure to Miami, Barkley said he wouldn't have made such a move.
"He's a two-time defending MVP,'' Barkley said. "He doesn't leave his city. They (players) come to him. If I'm the man, I'm not going to go anywhere else. They got to come to me. He's going to Dwyane Wade's team any way you slice it.
"I got no problem with him leaving Cleveland. But he could have handled it in a different way. That show was ridiculous and dancing on the stage was ridiculous. (James should have said to Cleveland), 'I thank you all for everything, but I'm going to go and play in Miami now.'''
Despite being so blunt about James, Barkley still believes he's the NBA's top player.
"I like him,'' Barkley said. "I respect him. I've said consistently that he's the best player. (The Lakers') Kobe Bryant has Lamar Odom, (Andrew) Bynum and (Pau) Gasol. If LeBron had those guys, he'd win. But it's nothing personal (against James).''
James now has some pretty good teammates himself. But if he doesn't win multiple titles with the Heat, Barkley will be the first to offer his views on James' legacy.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson