Basketball Hall of Famer and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley’s always going to speak his mind, so it’s no surprise that he’s doing exactly that in the wake of one-time NBA MVP Kevin Durant taking the perceived easier road to win a title by signing with the Golden State Warriors.
Barkley, who was one of the best players of his era but never won a championship, ripped Durant for doing something he and other all-time greats never did—team up with the competition.
Appearing on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, here’s what Sir Charles said, per FOX Sports:
“I have no problem with a guy at the end of his career like Karl Malone, or Gary Payton I think did it, something like that. I have no problem with a guy at the end of his career … we’re talking about a guy who’s 27 years old who has led the league in scoring four out of the last five years* who is a former MVP.
…. That’s my problem. Listen, if you get traded, you get traded. But when you all get together and say ‘let’s dominate the league’ and try to cheat your way to a championship…. Don’t you want to compete? I would love to go back in my day and ‘hey let me call Michael Jordan and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and let’s just dominate the NBA.'”
In an age where media coverage is nonstop and social media trolls are easily capable of getting in front of their favorite athletes, Barkley adds that all that noise could add to even more pressure for some of the best players in the world.
“We’ve developed this thing where you keep telling these guys ‘hey man, if you don’t win a championship, you a bum.’
I don’t feel like a bum. I’m pretty sure Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone and John Stockton … we think we’re pretty damn good. We could have played with some of those other guys and kinda cheated our way to a championship, but I think we’re gonna be alright.”
As for Barkley’s opinion on Durant’s former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder? He believes that, had KD stayed, OKC could have been the best team in the West and had made a serious run at an NBA title.
“First of all, I think Oklahoma City would still be the best team in the West. They should have won the West, they probably would have beat the Cavaliers. So I think that … even if they lost Russell Westbrook. At some point, Bogut was gonna leave, Barnes was gonna leave. [Oklahoma City], to me, were gonna be the favorite … maybe not with Paul Gasol going to the Spurs.”
While the Chuckster brings up some valid points—especially when comparing Durant to other greats who refused to give into pressure to win by joining a better team—it’s important to remember how Barkley weaseled his way out of Philly in 1992, all but giving up on his mates, per USA Today:
“Charles decided he wasn’t going to be a good teammate in Philly anymore,” Williams said. “He didn’t think the team would win, was discouraged, thought his whole career was going to be winless and just forced his way out of town, which stars can do.”
At the time, Barkley was fourth in Sixers history in total points, third in scoring average and rebounds, second in field goal percentage and eighth in assists. He also wasn’t far removed from being named MVP of the 1991 All-Star Game, when he recorded 17 points and 22 rebounds in the East’s victory.
Nevertheless, the Sixers obliged, and Barkley was dealt to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek,Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. Hornacek, the best player the Sixers received in the exchange, was unhappy in Philadelphia and stuck around for less than two years.
So, yeah, while Charles Barkley can criticize Kevin Durant’s decision to leave as a free agent and join the Dubs, he shouldn’t forget about how he forced his way from Philadelphia to Phoenix, which may be even worse.