DENVER — Charles Barkley, who continues to be one of the staunchest Denver Nuggets defenders among the national media, took aim again at ESPN for its coverage decisions related to the NBA Finals-bound squad.
The TNT analyst said during Game 4 coverage of the Eastern Conference Finals that he was not happy the network broadcasting the Nuggets-Lakers series focused on LeBron James' possible retirement instead of the 2023 Western Conference champions.
"I was so mad this morning I actually turned the TV off," Barkley said. "We all love LeBron, he ain't retired yet. When he does we'll do all that other... we'll do that stuff. It should have been all about the Denver Nuggets and Joker, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter and those guys."
After the Game 4 victory over the Lakers, one Twitter sleuth determined that ESPN showed the celebrating Nuggets for a total of four seconds, followed by 90 seconds of LeBron and the other Lakers leaving the court.
Another posted a video of a SportsCenter anchor suggesting the Nuggets advancing to the Finals was a "subplot" to James' career potentially ending.
"But it's hard not to make that [the Nuggets' first NBA Finals appearance] the subplot," the anchor said. "LeBron maybe having played his final game?"
"I'm sure we'll hear a lot more about LeBron James," his coanchor said.
Barkley also followed up on his excitement to golf in Denver and a public invitation to former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and head coach Sean Payton.
"Hey Sean Payton I got your text, you and Petyon, we're playing Castle Pines, I'm ready," Barkley said.
Manning also posted on Instagram that he and Payton are ready to take on Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal.
Barkley previously spoke in defense of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic after a single voter out of 100 left the Serbian superstar off his five-man MVP ballot, calling the then-unidentified voter a "damn idiot."
"There's one person, I don't even know this fool's name, that didn't even have Joker in the top five," Barkley said. "People like that shouldn't get a vote."
When ballots were released by the NBA they revealed ESPN analyst Mark Jackson was the voter who omitted Jokic.
The 17-year NBA veteran apologized and said leaving Jokic off of his ballot was a mistake.
"I'm not a guy that does it for clicks to be trending," Jackson said. "Absolute mistake made by me."
Jackson implied that he accidentally submitted his All-NBA selections instead of his MVP selections.
"You can tell, I put one center, two forwards and two guards, so I wasn't even thinking," Jackson explained.
Another ESPN analyst, Kendrick Perkins, has also changed his tune on Jokic and the Nuggets recently.
In March, Perkins accused Jokic of padding his stats to reach a triple-double. Perkins' comments led to a national sports conversation about stat padding.
Perkins also alleged in March that NBA MVP voters have a racial bias against Black players, leading to another national conversation involving Jokic.
"I’ve been in denial about Jokic and the Nuggets… but I MUST say that they are LEGIT. Carry the hell on…" Perkins tweeted.
Meanwhile, another ESPN employee who is working the Nuggets-Lakers series recently admitted she hadn't watched Jokic before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Sideline reporter Lisa Salters explained it had been a decade since she’d worked a game in Denver and she couldn’t recall watching Jokic, who is in his eighth NBA season, on the road or in the conference finals in the 2020 Florida bubble, also against the Lakers.
“This is really the first time I’ve had a chance to watch him play, and I’ve got to admit, I have been sleeping on this guy. He is spectacular. He is ridiculously good,” Salters told Rich Eisen Show guest host Suzy Shuster the next day.
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