Bron, Barkley and boundaries

By now you know about LeBron James’ message to the haters. All it did was stir up more hatred.

After the Heat’s demise at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks LeBron was asked what he thought of the people who reveled in his defeat.

“All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” LeBron said. (Technically, wouldn’t that be at the start of the day, not the end of the day?) “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.

“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

That can be roughly translated as: “I always laugh at that statement, ‘You didn’t get a ring. I’m like, ‘Dude, you work at McDonald’s. My life’s a lot better than yours. You relax.’”…which happens to be EXACTLY what Charles Barkley said to Miami Heat fans who were raining insults (and rally towels) on him during the Eastern Conference finals.

Barkley’s words brought out a few laughs. It was Chuck being Chuck. LeBron’s statement was instantly trashed all over Twitter and Facebook, cited as another example of his disconnect, his failure to recognize why people are rooting against him.

Barkley had the easier escape because he has established a broader boundary than LeBron. We expect Barkley to outrage and even offend. It’s part of his job description. LeBron hasn't been granted that leeway. In fact, he might have turned into the most restricted player in the NBA.

He doesn’t get to play where he wants without criticism. He doesn’t get to play how he wants -- as a facilitator first, scorer second -- without criticism. And he doesn’t even get to say what he wants.

Maybe that’s why he played those fourth quarters as if he were in an invisible box, a box that prevented him from shooting or going to the basket. He chose the path, then the walls went up around him. And the only way out is to win a championship.