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Never one to hold back in expressing his opinion, Charles Barkley has an explicit one when it comes to what LeBron James decides in regards to his basketball future.
Appearing on the the Golic and Wingo television show with Mike Golic and Trey Wingo on ESPN, Barkley is hopeful James decides to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers, for whom he has played 11 of his 15 NBA seasons, leading them to their only NBA championship in 2016.
“Stay in Cleveland. He’s a legend there,” Barkley said when asked what he believes James should do. “He’s not going to enhance his legacy. In my opinion, he’s one of the five or six, seven greatest players ever. Winning another ring as a mercenary ain’t gonna enhance his legacy.”
The 33-year-old James has a $35.6 million player option with Cleveland for the 2018-19 season. He must notify the Cavaliers by 11:59 p.m. on June 29 whether he’ll accept or decline it. If he chooses the latter, James will become an unrestricted free agent for the third time in his career.
One of Barkley’s co-hosts on the wildly popular “Inside the NBA” show on TNT, Shaquille O’Neal, recently expressed hope James doesn’t follow his lead by chasing rings.
“My problem toward the end of my career was I was trying to shut everybody up and I was greedy [for more championships],” O’Neal told ESPN at a pre-draft event Friday night for teenagers from the Y in Brooklyn. “After I got to three [titles], everybody was saying I couldn’t get another. So I got four. After I got the fourth, they were saying I couldn’t get another one.
“So I was trying to make quick stops to get it. Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston.”
Shaq doesn’t want to see LeBron go that route.
“But if I was him, I wouldn’t be trying to get four, five and six because it ain’t going to matter,” he said. “It’s just something else to talk about, something else to add to the pages. He’s a legend, talked about as who is the best between he and Michael Jordan, so he’s set.”
Barkley, who often disagrees with Shaq on “Inside the NBA” and engages in humorous back-and-forth banter, actually agrees with his co-host in regards to James and his basketball future.
“I agree with Shaq. And I think Shaq understands he made a mistake ring-chasing at the end and his career didn’t end the way he wanted it to. So I agree with Shaq,” he said. “Listen, we can debate. We’ve been through this with Kobe (Bryant). When they get close to Michael. Listen, Michael is the G.O.A.T., then Kobe and LeBron are right there on his coattails. But none of him are ever gonna catch him.
“Like I said, if he goes to the Lakers or Celtics or somewhere else, he’ll be a mercenary. He won’t be a Cleveland legend. Winning that one championship is worth two, in my opinion, when he was there.”
Barkley, an 11-time All-Star and an NBA Most Valuable Player, doubled down on his belief James should remain with the Cavaliers.
“I hope he stays in Cleveland. I do,” he said. “I hope he stays in Cleveland. The guy is an amazing person. He’s an amazing player.
“But he doesn’t need another ring to justify his greatness. His legacy is secure already.”