NBA legend Charles Barkley took Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving to task on Thursday.
Barkley appeared on ESPN’s morning radio show — which is also simulcast on ESPN2 — with hosts Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti and talked about Irving’s boycott of the media and him skipping the first round of availabilities and instead issuing a statement to reporters on his thoughts and feelings on the season.
Irving would later come around to talking with reporters.
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“It’s really just about how I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions within our lives to have full control and ownership … We want to perform in a secure and protected space,” he said earlier this week.
Barkley took a shot at Irving’s comments.
“I’m not sure what point Kyrie is trying to make,” Barkley said, “And when he talks, I’m like, ‘What the hell is he trying — what is he saying or what is he trying to say?’ He starts talking about what an artist is. He’s a basketball player. That’s what he is. Listen, we’re not frontline responders. We’re not teachers. Yo, man, you dribble a basketball, stop acting like you’re the smartest person in the world.”
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The 11-time NBA all-star said he still supported Irving using his platform for social justice causes but was confused as to why he would get existential with his words.
“Now can you talk about social issues and things like that? Of course. But some of this other stuff I’m like ‘Yo man, you do realize you’re just a basketball player, right?’ And it seems like he’s like, ‘No, I want you guys to realize I’m the smartest guy in the room’.”
The 1993 MVP of the league contined, “Well first of all, you’re not. You only went to college for six months. A lot of guys are smarter than you are. Just answer stupid basketball questions. And if you want to say something about social justice, say it and mean it, because it’s important and significant. But all that other stuff? Like, yo man, shut the hell up and talk basketball.’”
Irving’s comments could definitely rub people the wrong way. He said in the offseason that the Nets would be coached by committee, he was reported to have “ghosted” the Boston Celtics before joining Brooklyn in 2019 and was mocked for floating a flat Earth theory a few years ago as well.
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However, he has used his platform for good causes. He committed $1.5 million to WNBA players who opted to skip the 2020 season because of coronavirus fears and reportedly spoke out about playing the NBA continuing its 2019-20 season in the middle of racial unrest in the summer.