After the Cavaliers loss to the Dallas Mavericks tonight, LeBron James absolutely went off on Charles Barkley to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, who has ripped into James for asking for more help on the Cavaliers roster and said this summer that James would never reach Top-Five status in NBA history while also criticizing The Decision.
James also appeared to take a shot at Barkley’s well-known gambling, insinuating that he can’t afford to retire.
LeBron didn’t just take shots at Barkley, taking yet another opportunity to trash Phil Jackson.
He seemed to bristle in general at the people who challenge his role in the Cavaliers organization and challenge the power he appears to have along with having several close friends on other teams around the league.
So, uh, there’s a lot to unpack here. You really ought to check out the full piece for all of LeBron’s quotes, but let’s get started.
This is pretty vicious, and fairly personal.
LeBron James, even when seemingly ranting, is one of the most calculated players in the league and it’s my guess that he’s had all of this in the chamber for quite some time. He’s always played nice with regards to Barkley’s comments, but for whatever reason, LeBron is on one this season.
This might just be the year LeBron decided he was going to say exactly what he wanted with very little regard for anyone else. He’s always been measured in the media, yet it appears he intends to suffer no fools this season.
He really went after Phil Jackson for the infamous “posse” comments and he certainly hasn’t moved past those based on his comments from the piece. Then, he ripped into the team’s construction and dropped more curse words than I ever thought I’d read in Jason Lloyd’s Final Thoughts column. Even earlier in the week, he glibly made a joke about “goofy” voting with regards to players picking All-Stars by insinuating that “goofy” voting was what got Donald Trump elected.
And now, this tirade. It’s easy to chalk all of these recent outbursts to frustration over how rough the Cavaliers January has been, but I think this is more indicative of an overall tone shift for James that really started in earnest with the Phil Jackson “posse” issue earlier this year.
James has been in this league for over 13 seasons now, and he’s been a lightning rod for criticism for most of those years. Now, some criticism has been deserved and a ton hasn’t, but it appears he’s tired of it. He’s taken a more aggressive stance on defending his role within the Cavaliers organization, that he has people that he brought up with him, and tonight he took aim against the old guard that was quite certain that the league was better in their day.
He has three titles, and at the risk of playing armchair psychologist, he seems to feel very comfortable in his own skin, in his power in the Cavaliers organization as well as his overall place in the league. He’s not particularly interested in apologizing for the success of childhood friends like Maverick Carter and Rich Paul, and nor should he be, and despite protests to the contrary on occasion, this is a man who clearly cares deeply about his legacy in the league both on and off the court, and he is not interested in standing idly by if he feels like that is under attack.
It’s fair to wonder if this is really the new norm for James. His standard communication style has been measured at best, and passive-aggressive at worst, manifesting most infamously in his regular subtweets during Cavaliers rough patches.
LeBron has been criticized heavily for his passive-aggressive style, and it seems like the people who have longed for a more transparent James are getting what they want: an unfiltered LeBron James who intends to call it exactly how he sees it.
Editors Note: This story has been updated to include LeBron James’ quote about there being a “new sheriff in town.”