Three years after Kevin Durant left them in free agency, the Warriors are back in the Finals and the Nets couldn’t win a playoff game.
It’s a narrow view of a complicated legacy issue but, as Charles Barkley reiterated on Wednesday, it can serve as an argument against Durant’s placement on NBA Mount Rushmore.
“You know it has an effect on his legacy,” said Barkley, who was promoting his upcoming appearance at the city’s USA Golf Championship in Tahoe. “If you go back and look, and I talked about it on the [TNT] show, LeBron has said it before – he said, “I had to win a championship without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.” And Kobe has said it before, rest in peace, “I have to win a championship without Shaq.”
“So Kevin and Kyrie [Irving]before raising them among the elders, they won’t get the credit they deserve until they win a championship on their own and be The Guy.
Barkley, a Hall of Fame player and arguably basketball’s most recognizable pundit, called Durant “a bus driver” to two championships with the Warriors, implying that Steph Curry was the driver.
On Wednesday, Barkley acknowledged his standards were high.
“We are grading hard. And rightly so. They can give me shit because I didn’t win a championship. Well Named. We know how it works,” Barkley said. “It has nothing to do with the media. It has nothing to do with the fans. It has to do with your peers. That 100% has to do with your peers. And we’re going to judge you on that. And people will go crazy. They can tweet about me and whatever they want. But that’s just the norm.
“When you jump on someone else’s boat and win, we don’t count that. You must be the boat or bus driver. Simple.”
Durant tried to form his own super team in Brooklyn, but the plan hit a snag last season. The 33-year-old remained a standout offensive force but James Harden demanded out, Ben Simmons never played and Irving denied a COVID-19 shot.
The Nets were swept in the first round by the Celtics, who are now in the Finals three years after Irving left them in free agency.
The big question for the Nets’ offseason is Irving’s possible free agency, particularly if the Nets should commit to a multi-year commitment to a player who has proven unreliable.
Barkley appeared to be under the impression that Irving would opt for the final year of his $37 million contract.
“He has a year left with this option. He’s going to pick it up,” Barkley said. “And we’ll see how he does next year.”
Irving could also choose to become an unrestricted free agent, which makes him eligible for a new five-year, $245 million contract with the Nets. Kristian Winfield of The Daily News reported that the Nets were “absolutely reluctant” to offer Irving a multi-year contract.
“If it was me, I’d be like, ‘Hey man, we can’t trust you,'” Barkley said. “We don’t know what you’re going to do. We’re going to pay you that $40 million next year to see if you’re doing the right thing. Because if you don’t do the right thing with $40 million, you definitely won’t do the right thing with $240 million. So I’m not giving you a four-year extension for $200 million because we can’t count on you.
Barkley said the situation was similar in Philadelphia, where Harden, who emerged as a shell of his former playoff MVP, could opt out of his contract and order a new contract max.
The Pinstripe Express
Daily News sportswriters select the best Yankees stories of the week from our award-winning columnists and beat writers. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.
“I said the same thing about James Harden. James Harden will have to prove it to me next year. I’m not giving him an extension either. Because I don’t know if he’s injured or cooked, c It’s A or B,” Barkley said. “And I’m not giving you another $200 million for an older dude who can’t play. And Kyrie, like I said, you got a year left. $40 million. You have to prove to us that you really want to play basketball. Because if we give you that $200 million, we’re stuck with you for the next five years. And you haven’t proven to us that you are dedicated to basketball.
Barkley said he was betting $100,000 on himself to finish in the top 70 of the American Championship of the Century.
Well, sort of.
Since betting on yourself is illegal in Nevada, Barkley said he would instead ask a friend to place the bet on his behalf. His $100,000 bet on himself last year was canceled, and he would have lost anyway (although Barkley was close to the top 70).
“Man, I’m a gambler. If you can bet on yourself on a blackjack table, why can’t you bet on yourself on a golf course?” Barkley said.
Reminding that it makes sense not to allow betting on outcomes that the player can influence, Barkley replied: “I bet on myself to win. I hadn’t bet that I wasn’t going to be in the top 70.”
Former NBA coach and player Vinny Del Negro won the Celebrity Tournament last year.