Charles Barkley: Kyrie Irving is not 'the smartest guy in the room'

Jason Owens
·3 min read

A lot of folks have heard enough from Kyrie Irving — even if his latest round of controversy arrived with the added irony of his refusal to speak.

Count Charles Barkley among them.

The NBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst who’s never shy with his own opinions unloaded on Irving on Thursday in an ESPN Radio interview. His criticism echoes that of others who rolled their eyes at Irving’s short-lived preseason media boycott.

Irving released multiple statements the past two weeks attempting to explain why he wasn’t fulfilling his collectively bargained media obligations. After a round of $25,000 fines for himself and the Brooklyn Nets, he relented while taking another shot at explaining himself.

“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,” Irving said. “We want to perform in a secure and protected space.”

Barkley: ‘What is he trying to say?’

Barkley pounced on Irving’s explanation. He starts in at 4:58 here:

“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.”

While Barkley threatened to venture into “shut up and dribble” territory, he veered back on course and encouraged Irving to use his platform to speak up on social issues. He could just do without the rest of Irving’s schtick.

Former NBA basketball player Charles Barkley speaks to the crowd in support of Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones, during a rally at Old Car Heaven in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. December 11, 2017.  REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
Charles Barkley gave an impassioned voice to Kyrie Irving's critics on Thursday. (Marvin Gentry/Reuters)

Barkley: ‘A lot of guys are smarter than you’

“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.’

“I’m like, ‘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.’”

What about Irving touches a nerve?

In the grand scheme, Irving’s missteps are mostly minor. He says things that aren’t always based in reality. He spreads misinformation, which has its obvious perils. He’s arrogant about his beliefs. He makes questionable decisions. And he can be a difficult teammate. That’s pretty much it.

People generally aren’t here for the condescending musings of a pseudo-intellectual who embraces flat-earth theories. It’s an attitude that elicits impassioned responses.

He induced one from Barkley on Thursday.

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