CHICAGO -- Charles Barkley thinks the Miami Heat have "terrific players," but when it comes to the team getting defensive about people taking shots at them, he calls them "a whiny bunch."
Barkley is in Chicago with TNT to cover the Eastern Conference finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Heat, and he said there was a time Heat forward LeBron James wasn't very happy with Barkley's analysis of "The Decision," which was the ESPN-televised event of James announcing he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami.
"He was mad at me for a while," Barkley said Tuesday during an in-studio guest spot on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I like LeBron. I think LeBron is the best basketball player in the world right now.
"But him and his guys think because some of us didn't like that 'Decision' thing -- that was silly -- they got mad about that. Like wait a minute, I always said it's nothing personal, that thing was silly. We say he's the best player in the world, but you guys are mad because we criticized 'The Decision.'"
Barkley, who praised James and his teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as great players and individuals, also had a problem with the celebration the Heat staged after all three decided to join forces in Miami last summer. The celebration included James talking about winning as many as seven titles.
As the season went on, the Heat were booed in opposing arenas as fans may have sensed an arrogance about a team that seemed to celebrate success even before the season began. Wade addressed the negative perception after a loss to the Bulls in March that extended Miami's losing streak to four games. Wade said: "The world is better now since the Heat is losing."
Barkley wasn't buying it.
"[They say] we don't like the Miami Heat. First of all, that's not true at all," Barkley said. "Those guys are actually a whiny bunch. They said a couple times this year, 'Well the world is happy the Miami Heat [is losing].' Please don't flatter yourself. C'mon man.
"We criticize [James] because of 'The Decision.' But nobody dislikes LeBron James. LeBron James is a good dude. But I love, 'The Miami Heat is losing, the world is happy.' First of all, nobody is thinking about the Miami Heat. You guys are good guys. You're the guys who came out and said, 'We're not going to win 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 championships.' We're like, 'Really.' They never take any personal responsibility to why people take shots at them."
Barkley has an idea how the Heat could have prevented the negative fallout.
"If LeBron had just said, 'Hey, you know what, I want to win more, I'm going to Miami.' Nobody would have disliked that," Barkley said. "I don't know what that thing was when they came out on stage and said they were going to win seven championships.
"Those are the two things that annoyed people, but nobody dislikes Dwyane and LeBron and Chris Bosh. All three are good guys and terrific players."