By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
After he was criticized by Charles Barkley for questioning Cleveland’s front office, James tore into the former NBA star and opinionated TV commentator on Monday night following a loss in Dallas. James not only countered what was said about him but he also attacked Barkley’s character for some off-the-court missteps.
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James told ESPN after the Cavs lost 104-97 to Dallas, dropping the defending champions to 7-8 in January. “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.”
Barkley has never been one to hold back his opinion on James or any other player, but the 11-time All-Star was particularly critical of James last week after Cleveland’s star complained about Cleveland’s roster being “top-heavy” and questioning whether the team’s front office was satisfied with one title.
Barkley said James was “whiny” and “inappropriate” and wondered about his motives. Barkley called James “the best player in the world” but wondered if he really wanted to compete. James initially dismissed Barkley, saying he was only trying to boost TV ratings. Barkley works as an in-studio host for TNT.
However, James decided he couldn’t let those comments go and turned on Barkley, who never won an NBA title.
“He’s a hater. What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?” James said. “I know he wanted to retire a long time ago, but he can’t. He’s stuck up on that stage every week.”
James also said if Barkley wants to continue any discussion, he knows where to find him.
“If this makes him want to talk to me, the schedule’s out there,” James said. “He knows every road arena I’ll be in. Don’t just come up to me at All-Star and shake my hand and smile.”
This isn’t the first time James has fired back this season at detractors. He was upset when New York Knicks president Phil Jackson referred to his close friends and business partners as his “posse.”
James hasn’t forgotten Jackson’s words, firing back at him to ESPN as well.
“I went to see (Carmelo Anthony) at the Garden two years ago when we were in New York,” James said. “They played Portland. I went up to a suite at halftime, and Phil Jackson didn’t say one word to me.”
James and the Cavs have been struggling lately as they try to defend their title. All-Star forward Kevin Love has been dealing with back spasms and missed Monday’s game and starting guard J.R. Smith remains sidelined with a broken thumb.
James insists the Cavs just need to play better and in the interim he vowed not to let anyone criticize him.
“I’m tired of biting my tongue,” James said. “There’s a new sheriff in town.”