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In the world of sports, rivalries are a key part of the storyline. Whether we’re talking about players who have a history or two franchises that don’t see eye-to-eye, those matchups bring some extra spice to the season. Tension isn’t limited to the playing surface, though. Even media members can get in on the act. Just ask Charles Barkley about that.

Over the years, Sir Charles has been rather open about his dislike of Skip Bayless. During an appearance on All the Smoke, however, the former forward laid all his cards on the table and explained the heart of the issue. At the end of the day, it all boils down to respect.

Let’s hear Chuck out.

Charles Barkley candidly addresses his beef with Skip Bayless

Charles Barkley (L) and Skip Bayless (R)
Charles Barkley addressed his dislike of Skip Bayless on ‘All the Smoke.’ | Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images, Christopher Capozziello/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Across his time as an NBA player and a member of the media, Charles Barkley has never been shy about sharing his opinion on any topic. During a conversation with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, one of those topics included Skip Bayless and his now-infamous tweet about Damar Hamlin.

As noted above, Barkley has been open about his issues with the current Fox Sports talking head. On All the Smoke, he revisited the provided a bit of further explanation.

“So I really, I don’t like the guy,” Chuck began. “Because television’s a very powerful weapon. Very powerful. One of my mentors is Mike Wilbon. He’s somebody I admire and really respect, and cause he did my last three books. He’s become like a big brother, father figure. But he said something very interesting to me, and I already knew it. He says, ‘Man, being on television is crazy.’ I was, ‘What do you mean?’ He says, ‘I’ve been at the Washington Post for 25 years, did it all. Nobody in the world knew who I was. I go on TV for a year, I can’t go nowhere without people running up on me.'”

In Barkley’s eyes, Bayless isn’t using that power appropriately.

“And Skip, to me, when you, these guys are real people,” Barkley continued. “And I don’t mind you criticizing guys, it can never be personal. And one thing I hate about the media: You can tell guys they like and dislike. You can’t talk about people on television like that. You have to be fair and honest with people. And I think he is, you can tell who he likes. You can tell who he dislikes cause he makes it personal. Like you can’t say bad stuff about LeBron James. … It’s impossible [that everything you say is negative]. It’s impossible.”

After a discussion of King James’ legendary career — not only did he jump from high school to the pros without missing a beat, but he’s avoided off-the-court issues during his entire time in the spotlight — Chuck tied things back to Skip Bayless. Again, it’s all about respect and using your position appropriately.

“… Skip’s disrespect toward him, I do not like it,” the Hall of Famer explained. “The way he’s treating Shannon [Sharpe]. Clearly, hey, Tom Brady is the GOAT. We get that. You don’t have to [disrespect Sharpe] … first off, this dude [Sharpe] is in the hall of fame. He won three Super Bowls. He ain’t chopped liver. But [Bayless] has been rewarded so much. … The way he has made his money and made his living, I have a problem with it because, man, if you make it to the pros, you’re a hell of a player. I tell people, ‘Hey, is everybody LeBron or [Kevin Durant]? No, but that number 12 guy on an NBA team? His journey is amazing.’ Hey, if you get to be one of the best 400 basketball players in the world [makes a bowing down gesture]. … And, man, I love these guys.”

At that point, the conversation wandered into a discussion of how grateful Sir Charles was to have been a professional basketball player. While Bayless didn’t resurface, Barkley’s feelings were clear.

In the spirit of complete fairness, you could also argue that Barkley doesn’t always bring the greatest level of respect to his work

Taken in complete isolation, Sir Charles’ points seem completely reasonable. As with everything else, though, context is key.

At the risk of boiling Barkley’s entire statement down into a few key beats, he seemed to suggest that it’s all about respect. When you work on national television, you have a great power, and that warrants respect. If you’re the one creating a narrative, you need to be conscious of what you’re speaking into existence.

If you’re an invested NBA fan, you know that some would argue that Sir Charles doesn’t always practice what he preaches. There was the running discussion about Kevin Durant riding the bus rather than driving it, for example. Even if Barkley genuinely believes in that standard, espousing it again and again on TNT eventually starts to color public opinion. And what happened to loving all the guys and paying someone respect, even if they aren’t the GOAT?

Beyond that, it’s fair to look critically at some elements of Barkley’s NBA knowledge, especially given his place on the league’s premier studio show. If we want to stick with the running theme of respect, what message is it sending when two members of the TNT panel mispronounce names and don’t know who’s playing on what team? Sure, some say that’s part of the entertainment factor, but things probably feel a bit different if you’re that 12th man on the bench whose name gets butchered on the air.

To be clear, I don’t have a particularly vested interest in the Charles Barkley vs. Skip Bayless drama. Each man has plenty of fans and, by the same token, plenty of detractors. That’s the nature of entertainment.

If there is something to pull out of the beef, though, it’s the concept of respect. Even if you feel that Sir Charles isn’t always practicing what he preaches, the fact that he even started articulating those thoughts is a good start. To draw an analogy to sports, the execution isn’t always going to be there. Sometimes, you’re going to miss an open shot or pass the ball right to an opponent. When you’re doing the right things more often than not, though, the results will come.

That’s how you can look at respect. If you’re striving to treat everyone like a decent human being, you’re probably doing to do good on the whole, even if there are some isolated missteps.


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