With success comes a hoard of critics who have a problem with how you conduct business. Charles Barkley has been a vocal dissenter of the Warriors’ jump-shooting style for years now, and their recent acquisition of Kevin Durant is continuing to draw the ire of Sir Charles.
This time he appears to be more disappointed in Durant for making his decision to join an already-built championship contender instead of being the alpha-dog in Oklahoma City.
He told Mike and Mike on ESPN that Durant was “gonna kinda gravy train on a terrific Warriors team” and that he was “disappointed from a competitive standpoint.”
Barkley is nothing if not consistent with his criticisms. He ripped LeBron James when he decided to leave Cleveland for Miami, and echoed that original viewpoint in his most recent comment regarding this topic.
“Just like it meant more to LeBron to win one in Cleveland, it would mean more to Kevin to win one in Oklahoma than it would be in Golden State,” Barkley said.
I was perturbed when I heard this, and my first instinct was to counter Barkley with the unintended reality of professional sports coverage in modern times. A whole industry has been created that bases its existence around player analysis and “discussing legacies.”
One of the biggest blemishes an athlete (particularly a basketball player or NFL quarterback) can suffer in terms of “legacy” is not winning a championship.
Legendary baseball players like Barry Bonds, Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken, Jr. have escaped these unfair judgements through some type of qualification from fans.
I suppose that baseball is different because each player has to take a turn batting in the same lineup, diminishing impact on a game. Starting pitchers face a similar dilemma in that they only pitch about 1 every 5 games. Maybe baseball fans realize this important detail.
Hockey also seems to lack the championship scrutiny for whatever reason. An individual hockey star is on the ice for a shorter period of time than an individual basketball star is, and hockey is a lower scoring game.
Marcel Dionne never won a Stanley Cup, and neither did Adam Oates. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re both NHL legends, and for whatever reason winning doesn’t get tied in with an individual’s success in hockey as much as in the NBA.
Football is another example, but only when examining other positions besides quarterback. Barry Sanders isn’t desecrated the same way Dan Marino is for not winning a Super Bowl.
I never understood why, because as a supremely talented running back, Sanders probably had as much impact on an offense’s performance as a great quarterback did. Quarterbacks are also not on the field for half the game, so any defense of Sanders based on “not playing on a great team” should also apply to quarterbacks.
A defensive unit contributes to a championship, too. It just never made sense to me that a legendary offensive lineman like Anthony Munoz doesn’t get the flack that a quarterback like Jim Kelly gets for not winning a Super Bowl. Teams win Super Bowls, not individual players.
Quarterbacks are subjected to bizarre denunciations when they don’t win championships, yet they aren’t on the field playing defense for half the game. It makes no sense.
With this incredible pressure to win a championship, you can’t blame players for panicking and trying to win one any way they can. Luckily Barkley acknowledged this reality.
“We develop this thing where we keep telling these guys ‘Hey man, if you don’t win a championship you’re a bum.’ I don’t feel like a bum,” Barkley alluded to the fact that he never won a championship during his career.
“There is this thing that started with this new generation where these guys feel so much pressure. Everybody wants to win,” Barkley added.
Like I said above, in no sport is this more prevalent in than basketball, or football if you’re an NFL quarterback.
If Durant was concerned about what his “legacy” would be if he had stayed in Oklahoma City and not won a championship, that’s a bi-product of a culture of sports talk radio and countdown shows.
It’s somehow not enough to just appreciate the unique skill that each of these athletes brings to the table. Spectators have to take it a step further and start “ranking” each guy.
It’s bizarre objectification that ironically I’m a part of. Discussing basketball always seems to shift towards some type of comparison, and somewhere along the way that side-by-side analysis started being disproportionately influenced by an individual’s championship wins in a sport where teams earn championships.
Barkley is entitled to his own opinion, but I’m glad that he pointed out the context of the culture in which Durant made a decision like this.
I suppose the ideal circumstance that would make some fans happy is if a player devotes his entire career to one franchise, and puts his blind faith in their front office and coaching staff to build a roster to help him win a championship. If somehow he goes his entire career without ever winning a championship, it’s his fault.
Michael Jordan probably doesn’t win those championships in Chicago if the team doesn’t acquire Scottie Pippen. Maybe Jordan doesn’t complete the second three-peat if the Bulls don’t sign Dennis Rodman.
There’s a lot that goes into winning a championship in any team sport. It takes a collection of individual talent, some luck, and solid team chemistry.
It’s not fair to place an undue burden on guys like Barkley, Karl Malone, or Allen Iverson for not winning a championship. Teams win championships.
Durant going to a ready-made team to try to win a championship is reflective of the scrutiny that these athletes are subjected to.
Nobody wants to be called a failure if they can’t live up to people’s unrealistic expectations. Durant trying to shield himself from that vitriol is only natural.