LeBron James has apparently had enough.
For years, Charles Barkley has spoken his mind about various players and issues on Inside the NBA. Barkley's brash and unapologetic opinions have driven ratings and are part of what makes the show entertaining, along with the balance that Kenny Smith and, in recent years, Shaquille O'Neal provide alongside host Ernie Johnson.
But after Barkley once again took James to task regarding his recent spat with Cavs management about the roster, James apparently had enough on Monday following the Cavs' loss to Dallas. He fired back at Barkley, and he did not bring a squirt gun.
"He's a hater," James told ESPN of Barkley following the Cleveland Cavaliers' 104-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. "What makes what he says credible? Because he's on TV?"
Barkley has consistently needled James, telling HBO's Bill Simmons last summer James would "never" ascend to top-five status in NBA history over Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain and going back all the way to "The Decision" television special when Barkley told ESPN Radio 103.3 FM in Dallas/Fort Worth it was a "punk move."
James initially took the high road when asked about Barkley's recent comments, saying they were "good for the ratings" while defending his competitive spirit.
But after an ESPN followed up with a story asking Tristan Thompson for his thoughts on Barkley's comments, James chose to speak out again in ardent fashion.
"I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," James told ESPN. "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."All I've done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that."
"Go watch the '93 Finals when John Paxson hit the shot," James said. "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."
In case you were wondering:
The Wynn in Las Vegas sued Barkley for $400,000 for unpaid debts.
Barkley famously said "I'm not a role model" in a Nike ad.
Barkley did, in fact, throw a man through a window in 1997 and wasn't even apologetic about it.
This is what happens when you provoke the best player of his generation who also happens to have an eidetic memory.
Later Monday night, James tweeted:
Sometimes I gotta just make sure that i didn't lose you. Did I?!?! Did I?!?! Did I Lose You— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 31, 2017
James isn't wrong here -- all of what he referred to were facts. But it does say something that James seems so emotionally volatile. He's clearly frustrated with the Cavs about their decision not to retain Matthew Dellavedova or replace him with another backup point guard, as well as how they've left themselves short on rim protectors. He referenced as much on Sunday when talking about Tristan Thompson.
James seems to do this every January -- going through a seasonal downturn where he stews over the grind of the season. Maybe he does it to entertain himself in the NBA's long, boring middle stretch. Maybe he genuinely is feeling stressed out watching the Warriors get better and better. Maybe he just decided that after bringing the Cavaliers back from down 3-1 with one of the greatest Finals performance of all time and delivering Cleveland its first major professional sports title since 1964, he has earned the right not to have to take pot shots every week from a former player who was never a great defender on the most popular studio show in the sport.
You can bet Barkley will be asked about this on radio shows and will address the matter on the Thursday edition of Inside the NBA on TNT. This story is by no means over.