I vacillate back and forth on whether Charles Barkley is a genius or a complete goober. On one hand, Barkley’s comments on TNT broadcasts are often the thing that gets folks around social media talking, and indeed posts like this written about him. From a media executive perspective, Barkley is a gold mine that creates ratings.
Then again, the very thing that makes Barkley’s comments noteworthy is what makes them so inauspicious.
Just listen to what Barkley had to say on Thursday about the possibility of Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors this offseason.
If you’re unable to watch the video above, the idea that Barkley put forth was that if Durant decides to leave the Golden State Warriors, the team will no longer be contenders.
Not just “worse” or “not as good” according to ol’ Chuck. Without Durant, Barkley thinks the Warriors won’t be one of the teams angling for the Finals in the seasons to come.
If you’re a fan of the NBA, or Basketball-Reference.com, or, I don’t know, Googling things, this is patently crazy. Golden State won 73 games before the arrival of Durant, and won the 2014-15 NBA championship without him. They looked unstoppable before Durant, and the former Oklahoma City Thunder star joined Golden State because that’s how he could win a championship. He needed them, not the other way around.
It’s been clear for some time that Stephen Curry — not Durant, or Draymond Green, or Klay Thompson, or Andre Iguodala — is the fundamental building block of this team. In fact, as of publication we’re in the midst of a projected 10-game absence for Stephen Curry due to a hamstring issue. In three missed games the Warriors have lost to the Los Angeles Clippers and played a tight game with the Atlanta Hawks at home at Oracle. They just don’t look the same.
Which brings us back to Chuck.
The great sports loudmouths of our time (pick your favorite, really) all get paid to do what they’re best at in this Era of Hot Takes: state an opinion that’s patently untrue and watch the reaction to it spread like wildfire, all while retaining enough plausible deniability that media executives aren’t forced to issue public apologies or worse, see ratings fall.
This is why I choose to believe that Barkley is one of the best commentators out there from a national, target demo perspective. Execs have to love the guy. Here we are, writing another story about How Chuck Said Some Thing Crazy, and the cycle can continue. Durant will go to the Knicks or the Lakers. The Warriors will be in the Finals again in 2020. And nobody will care about Chuck’s old takes. I think I can feel the wrinkles of my brain smoothing over.