Charles Barkley on LeBron James' 'The Decision:' 'That Was Torture. I Want That Hour Back in my Life'

By Alex Weprin 

Earlier today Turner Sports held an NBA on TNT press lunch at its Time Warner Center headquarters. Turner Sports president David Levy was joined by Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Mike Fratello and analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley to talk about the upcoming NBA season.

Among the topics of discussion was “The Decision,” the one-hour special that aired on ESPN, where superstar LeBron James announced he would be joining the Miami Heat.

Levy was asked whether the James camp had approached Turner Sports about running the special, and whether Turner would have aired it.

“They didn’t approach us, and given the circumstances, where we would not have any editorial control, we probably would not have done that,” Levy said.

Barkley has weighed in on “The Decision” before. He called The Decision “a punk move” and a “dumb idea” over the summer. He has not backed down since:

“That was torture. I want that hour back in my life,” Barkley said, adding that James’ attempts to paint the criticism of the program in a racial light were unfounded. “The only criticism I have heard about LeBron James, myself included– and I don’t care that he went to Miami– is that “The Decision” thing was ridiculous. Like I say, and I joke around, all white people and black people think that “Decision” thing was silly.

The donation the James camp made to the Boys & Girls Club of America didn’t sway Barkley either: “That was a nice try, but it was bullshit,” he said.

Fellow analyst and regular Barkley sparring partner Kenny Smith had a slightly different perspective:

“I think The Decision was poor television production,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t put it all on [James], as the producer of that show you probably have to think about how to handle it and make it work for an hour.

“When every player, when Shaq went to Miami, they had a parade too. He went to Disneyland, he had the Mickey Mouse ears when he went to Orlando. The thing with the dancing and three guys coming out, every team does that, but “The Decision” gave the impression that [James] was bigger than the sport, and I think people looked at that and didn’t like it.”

Related: LeBron James stars in a new commercial for Nike, where he seems to address “The Decision”–and Barkley–directly, at one point saying “hi Chuck,” after saying “should I tell you ‘I am not a role model.'”