Charles Barkley and Kyrie Irving are bad messengers making [some] decent points

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Sometimes it’s really about the messenger, not the message.
Sometimes it’s really about the messenger, not the message.
Image: Getty Images

This is like when an offensive player gets called for holding, and a defensive player gets called for clipping, but the penalties offset, so you replay third down.

Kyrie Irving, whom I refer to as The Polarizing Picasso, recently went on a social media rant, referring to people (originally thought to be media, but apparently not) as “pawns.”

“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.”


He also seemingly began a season-long media strike, which ended earlier this week, when he not only answered questions but thanked reporters after each one spoke. We don’t know if it was part of an elaborate scheme, or if it was an act of sincerity from someone who, even through his imperfections, generally appears to mean well.

Irving also hopped on Instagram Live with teammate Kevin Durant, which only brought on more criticism, justified or not.


The latest of said criticism came from NBA Hall of Famer and TNT Analyst Charles Barkley, who Ethered Irving beginning at 4:33 of this clip from ESPN’s Keyshawn, J-Will & Zubin morning radio show.

“When he talks, I’m like, ‘What the hell is he trying to say?’ He starts talking about what an artist he is. He’s a basketball player. … 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.”


Coming from Barkley, voice of the famous “I’m not a role model” ad, this isn’t surprising, but apparently, the same rules don’t apply in retirement.

Remember when Charles Barkley started a dialogue about race in America?

There was the time, during his playing career he said this:

“This is a game that, if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”


And then there was the time he said this about female reporter Alexi McCammond “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you.”

And when he attended the 2017 National Association of Black Journalists convention he told a room full of journalists that women should not to report sexual harassment or assault in the workplace until they’re in positions of power.


Irving’s comments about propaganda, injustices, and even his stance on The Bubble weren’t points that should be dismissed and or scolded. People think he was nuts for suggesting players start their own league, and while that seems like an uphill climb, he makes an astute observation: Innovators long for creative control, want to feel secure and supported by management and seek the ability to control the narrative. All of that is correct. There’s also Irving’s long history of charitable donations.

But then, there’s how he’s handled other situations, like threatening knee surgery to get himself out of Cleveland. Like the entire ordeal with the Boston Celtics, where they proved to be better in his absence, and then, after stating he wanted to remain in Boston went back on his word and left. And saying the Brooklyn Nets didn’t really need a coach. His entire Instagram page. The flat earth thing. There’s a lot more, most of which you’ve probably already heard, so you get the point.


No one’s attacking Irving for any of that, at least not here. But most of these mishaps that have unfolded publicly warrant at least a portion of the backlash he receives: Just not from Sir Charles.

Barkley is generally hilarious on Inside The NBA, which is where he’s rebuilt himself as a lovable (to some) figure in his post-career life, but just because he’s retired doesn’t mean he has to hate everything about the NBA. It also doesn’t make his comments about Irving entirely invalid. (Though, he basically channeled a version of ‘Shut up and dribble,’ and you never want to do that, especially here).


He also didn’t appear to handle the NBA’s Jacob Blake protest well either.

Sure, sometimes Irving need not take himself so seriously. But also, Irving isn’t entirely wrong about the mistreatment of artists once they scale a certain platform. Now, you can’t really perform in that secure and protected space as you wish, Kyrie, especially in this social media climate, and part of his job warrants answering media questions now and then. But the media increases interest in the game, sharing the stories and talking points needed to do so. (There are plenty of media members who suck, as is the case in any industry, and they get amplified and outweigh the good, though).


And yes, Chuck, Irving is entitled to refer to himself as an artist. Basketball is an art-form. Writing is an art-form. Video production is an art-form. Just because you’re not a painter or a singer doesn’t mean you lack artistry. Art surrounds us in a variety of places. There are direct correlations between the music industry, the media industry, sports industries, and others, even real estate.

You don’t need to be perfect to make certain proclamations. None of us are. But in closing, replay the down. Let’s try this again. We’ll all do better next time.