Culture of Hoops

Charles Barkley: Today’s players are afraid of competition

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Baller Mind Frame’s No Layups brings you the hottest NBA stories mixed with personal opinion from our very own Aaron Lanton. Check it often and absorb the knowledge we’re dropping on you!

It’s fair to say that a lot of retired NBA players frown upon the current trend of the league’s best players forming a  “super team” in order to make winning championships easier. Few of them speak about this topic openly because they don’t want to seem like sourpusses, but Charles Barkley doesn’t really care hurting anyone’s feelings when expressing himself, one of the many reasons Barkley is a basketball treasure. In an interview with The Starters‘ Tas Melas, Barkley addresses the rumors of Carmelo Anthony to the Miami Heat using only words deemed acceptable by the FCC.

Barkley: “You know what, I’m not sure that I can use the language I want to use to express my dismay. Let me tell you something, man – if that happens it will be a travesty for the game. I don’t understand why these guys are afraid to compete against each other. That’s what sports are, a competition. And for them to try to hijack the league like they’ve already done one time and then bring in Melo. I think it’ll be a travesty for the NBA. And I just don’t understand why today’s players don’t want to compete against each other. You know, the old heads like myself, we didn’t agree with LeBron coming to Miami. He was the best player in the league and if they bring in Carmelo I just think it would be a travesty for the NBA. And as much Heat hate that I have, it would only grow.

Melas: But do you think it’s a guarantee they would win the championship with him because I don’t.

Barkley: (laughs) Well then you don’t … (laughs). Well I can give you the other teams. Listen, if they get, man, they already got LeBron. If they get Carmelo, they would be the overwhelming favorite.

Audio courtesy of Waddle and Silvy of ESPN Chicago Radio

Pundits have recently asked the question why superstar players are getting so much criticism for attempting to play on the same team. This question insinuates that general managers would be exempt from criticism, but also conveniently leaves out examples of the league blocking trades that gave one team too much of an advantage. That said, there’s a huge difference between drafting guys or acquiring supposed steals in a trade, and having three of the top ten players in the league signing to one team would be ridiculous in any basketball era.

There’s a vast difference between the 2010-2011 Miami Heat and 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade in their primes are on a completely different level than washed-up Steve Nash, over the hill Kobe Bryant, and an injured  Dwight Howard. General managers would never trade three of the league’s best players onto the same team. Yes, there have been some idiotic trades in league history, but none that resulted in a third Hall of Famer joining a team while still in their prime.

Barkley’s biggest gripe is that today’s players are seeking to forge a legacy of greatness by overwhelming other teams with their talent. The cornerstone of his argument is competition. Rings are important, sure, but their value is diminished if the players keep stacking the best talent onto the same team in an attempt to win the championship before the season even begins. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Heat by a record 70 total point differential in the 2014 NBA Finals) yet the Heat are acting like the world just ended – Will LeBron James stay? Is Chris Bosh worth it? Is Dwyane Wade too old?

What happened to just getting your butt kicked? The Big 3 are not just looking for improvements; they are looking for guaranteed championships. Good teams lose all the time. It took Pat Riley repeating the obvious for a lot of people to remember that fact, but it’s true.


The 2013 Spurs were a good team and lost because of a crazy sequence near the end of regulation in Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals. Everything does not have to change because of a painful loss. Winning a title is hard and sustaining that excellence is even harder. That’s what was so miraculous about the Chicago Bulls during the 90s’ three-peats. They were defying logic. The Bulls were so good that other great teams of the period are forgotten because the Bulls dominated the era. Between 1988 and 1998, the Bulls went to eight Eastern Conference Finals and won six titles. Their front office found ways to retool the roster every year, and sometimes they lost. Every team does, even those with a king on the roster.

Barkley has a fair point when he criticizes the Heat’s Big 3 for seeking to avoid competition. Today’s superstars want to overwhelm teams by putting the most talent on a few teams which also weakens the competition they have to beat to win a title.  Talent is neat, but talent is not the primary reason the Spurs won the 2014 NBA Finals. Adding Carmelo Anthony to the team would have just made the Finals loss to the Spurs even funnier. The wound is still fresh, but maybe the Big 3 will accept some blame for the loss after a summer vacation.

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