One of the more underrated aspects of LeBron James' career is his knack for staying out of trouble. For almost two decades now, he has avoided major controversy by staying professional, ignoring the haters, and letting his game do all the talking.
Still, there have been a few moments where LeBron had felt compelled to speak out and defend himself.
After one loss against the Dallas Mavericks in 2017, James had one of those moments. Speaking to the media after the game, James went off on Barkley after he questioned his legacy.
James made his remarks in an uncharacteristic rant to ESPN after his team, the defending NBA champions dropped another game to the Dallas Mavericks. “He’s a hater,” James said of Barkley, who recently called James, among things, “whiny.” James added, “What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?”
James, who also appeared in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, said he would no longer allow the often critical Barkley to “disrespect my legacy like that.”
“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,” James told ESPN. “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.”
James rarely goes off like that, but he wasn't wrong with what he was saying. Unlike LeBron, Barkley was always mixed up in something, whether it was gambling, partying, or just not really caring about how his activities as a star NBA player might look to those who admired him.
"I am not a role model," Barkley once said. "I'm not paid to be a role model. I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models... Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kid."
Barkley has seemingly calmed down a bit today, and his role as an analyst on Inside the NBA has earned him a lot of favor with the fans. But he probably shouldn't come at LeBron when it comes to his legacy or staying out of scandals.
He learned that lesson the hard way.