Some NBA players can’t take criticism, especially from pundits who have never stepped their foot in the gym. Players believe you don’t get to talk about their game if you didn’t step foot on an NBA court. But the fact is, the media is a massive part of the NBA world, especially in today’s climate.
There is a rising trend of former players coming in front of cameras and discussing basketball. Some of them have had their careers shortened, so they’ve decided to pursue basketball-related careers on TV screens. And some of them have Hall of Fame stamps on their NBA resumes, but still want to be a part of the game. You can’t doubt the credibility behind their words, but you can sure disagree with them.
Former NBA legend and analyst Charles Barkley shared stories about the only two times he had some consequences for publicly criticizing NBA players. It isn’t hard to assume that the first one is about Michael Jordan – more specifically, MJ as the general manager. Barkley took the liberty to speak about the personnel Michael was hiring as a part of his front office team, saying that they aren’t challenging him enough to improve at the role.
“I didn’t think Michael was going to react like that. I said he’s never going to be successful as long as he hires these kiss-ass friends who are going to always agree with him. First commercial break, I see his name pop up. He is mf-ing me up and down, up and down. And that’s the last time we spoke.”Charles Barkley, Golf.com
Jordan took it personally. Whether Barkley was right or wrong, it was his job as an NBA analyst to talk about it. And he was professional about it. Sir Charles didn’t let his relationship with Mike affect his opinion on Jordan’s job as the GM. Barkley was honest about the subject, and Michael didn’t like it. It seems like it has destroyed their long-lasting friendship.
“But part of my job as an analyst is because I can’t go on TV and say ‘Another general manager sucks.’ And then just because Michael’s like a brother to me say ‘He’s doing a fantastic job.’ That would be disingenuous.”Charles Barkley, Essentially Sports
It seems MJ was too sensitive about it. Especially since he doesn’t have a lot to offer to prove Barkley wrong, his adventure as the front office guy hasn’t been nearly as successful as some have thought it would be, primarily because of his playing career. So Barkley advising him to do stuff differently to improve doesn’t sound out of the lines to me. It was a fair criticism that his Airness didn’t take very well. It may be an ego problem because he isn’t used to not being at the top in the job he’s doing. It may be an internal frustration about someone publicly telling the truth about the situation. Maybe he’s in denial about his career as the GM. But it sure doesn’t sound enough to end a relationship with a friend over it.
Another player who took offense at Barkley’s words is Kobe Bryant. Barkley criticized Bryant for not shooting the ball in the second half of the game 7 in the 2006 NBA playoffs, costing the Lakers an opportunity to topple the two-seeded Phoenix Suns. It was Kobe’s response to people calling him selfish and a ball hog, which didn’t sit well with Barkley, who publicly called him out, saying he was flat out wrong.
“Remember the game he wouldn’t shoot? I was the first person to call him out after that game. I said this dude is trying to prove a point. He’s just wrong. So we get off the air, and Kobe texts me for the next three hours, and we go back and forth for the next three hours. He won’t pick up a phone; he keeps sending me texts. And he’s going crazy for three hours. We laughed about it years later. But for three hours, he’s mf-fing me, you SOB. I was like ‘pick up the phone.’ I said to him I didn’t like what he did and that he was 100 percent wrong. Those were probably the only two times I had some ramifications.”Charles Barkley, Golf.com
You get the logic behind Kobe’s motives, but he should’ve realized he was depriving his team of pulling an upset in the first round and letting his frustration overcome his team’s success. Barkley was right to call him out. That wasn’t the way to deal with the public. Kobe could’ve done numerous different things to prove his point. But he didn’t. He stuck to his plan while watching the game slip out of their hands. We all know about Kobe’s ego, and that’s one of the reasons he is today considered one of the greatest to have ever played. However, this was about the team, and he should’ve realized it. Kobe didn’t take it personally like MJ, but he was frustrated with Charles’s comments. However, it didn’t affect their relationship off the court.
Analysts-players relationships have always been shaky. Players require a certain amount of respect shown to give some of it back. And that’s understandable. Especially in a world when your personal and professional life is being discussed daily without putting it in a context. But that’s also a part of their job. It may be something they don’t enjoy nearly as much as playing the game, but it’s something they have to do. And they have to get accustomed to not always hearing what they want to hear. That’s what NBA analysts are there for, and as long as there is honesty and respect coming from both sides, it’s all a fair game. And that’s what Barkley did. He did his job, and Kobe and MJ didn’t like it. Unduly, I would say.