Former NBA player and current TNT studio host Charles Barkley has long kept “saying rude things about LeBron James” in his arsenal of Takes That Will Get Me Attention, right next to “saying the Warriors are actually bad.” This has gone on for years, and last night James finally decided that he’d had enough.

Barkley’s latest criticism of James came last week, when he called James “whiny” for saying the Cavaliers need another playmaker on the roster if they hope to defend their championship:

As Barkley’s critiques of James go, this one was actually pretty fair. If I had to guess, I’d say James was much more bothered by what Barkley said on Any Given Wednesday a few months ago, when he claimed that James would never be a top-five player in NBA history. Either way, last week’s rant was it for James, and after last night’s game against the Mavericks, he went off to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:

“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James told ESPN. “I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

“All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.”

James went on to invite Barkley to come talk to him at any arena this season. “Don’t just come up to me at All-Star and shake my hand and smile,” he said.

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James had a lot more to say to McMenamin, and even got around to dropping some more burns on Phil Jackson over the whole “posse” kerfuffle. It’s hard to remember another occasion when James was this publicly angry, which means it might be time for Barkley to sit a few plays out.

[ESPN]