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 question but, as Charles Barkley reiterated Wednesday, it can stand as an argument against Durant’s placement on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.
“You know it has an effect on his legacy,” said Barkley, who was promoting his upcoming appearance at the American City Golf Championship at 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’s said it before, Rest in Peace, ‘I’ve got to win a championship without Shaq.’
“So Kevin and Kyrie [Irving]before we elevate them among the old guys, they’re not going to get the credit they deserve until they win a championship by themselves and be The Guy.”
Barkley, a Hall of Fame player and arguably the most recognizable basketball pundit, has called Durant ‘a bus rider’ to two championships with the Warriors, with an implication that Steph Curry was the driver.
On Wednesday, Barkley acknowledged his standards are high.
“We grade harshly. And rightfully so. They get to give me s–t because I didn’t win a championship. Rightfully so. We know how this works,” Barkley said. “This ain’t got nothing to do with the media. This ain’t got nothing to do with the fans. This has to do with your peers. This 100 percent has to do with your peers. And we’re going to judge you on that. And people are going to get mad. They can tweet at me and whatever they want to. But that’s just the standard.
“When you jump on somebody else’s boat and win, we don’t count that. You got to be the driver of the boat or the bus. 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 remarkable offensive force but James Harden demanded out, Ben Simmons never played and Irving refused 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 surrounds Irving’s possible free agency, specifically whether the Nets should commit multiple years to a player who has proven himself unreliable.
Barkley seemed to be under the impression Irving would opt into the $37 million final year of his contract.
“He’s got one year left with this option. He’s going to pick it up,” Barkley said. “And we’re going to see how he behaves next year.”
Irving’s could also opt out to become an unrestricted free agent, making him eligible for a new five-year, $245 million deal with the Nets. The Daily News’ Kristian Winfield reported that the Nets are “outright unwilling” to offer Irving a multi-year deal.
“If it was me, I would say, ‘Hey guy, 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 going to act right. Because if you don’t act right with $40 million, you’re definitely not going to act right 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 it’s a similar situation in Philadelphia, where Harden, who appeared a shell of his former MVP self in the playoffs, could opt out of his contract and command a new max deal.
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“I’ve said the same thing about James Harden. James Harden has 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, it’s either 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 one year left at $40 million. You got to prove to us you really want to play basketball. Because if we give you this $200 million we’re stuck with you for the next five years. And you haven’t come to us you’re dedicated to basketball.”
Barkley said he’s wagering $100,000 on himself to crack the top-70 of the American Century Championship.
Well, sort of.
Since it’s illegal to bet on himself in Nevada, Barkley said he’ll instead have a friend place the wager on his behalf. His $100,000 bet on himself last year was canceled, and he would’ve been a loser anyway (although Barkley was close to the top-70).
“Dude, I’m a gambler. If you can bet on yourself on a blackjack table, why can’t you bet on yourself on the golf course?” Barkley said.
Reminded that it makes sense not to allow betting on results that the gambler can influence, Barkley responded, “I bet on myself to win. I didn’t bet I wasn’t going to be in the top-70.”
Former NBA coach and player Vinny Del Negro won the celebrity tournament last year.