Charles Barkley wants to see LeBron James remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency this offseason.
James, who has a player option for the 2018-19 season worth $35.6 million, can opt out of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent come July, and while he will have no shortage of suitors, Barkley thinks that winning another ring somewhere outside of Cleveland won’t necessarily enhance his legacy.
“Stay in Cleveland. He’s a legend there,” Barkley said when asked what he believes James should do this summer on a recent appearance on Golic and Wingo, via Amico Hoops. “He’s not going to enhance his legacy. In my opinion, he’s one of the five or six, seven greatest players ever. Winning another ring as a mercenary ain’t gonna enhance his legacy.”
Barkley’s former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, has been floated as a popular potential landing spot for James in free agency, but Barkley shot that idea down earlier this offseason.
“He’s not coming to the Sixers,” Barkley said, via For the Win. “He’s not coming to the Sixers because he needs the ball, (Ben) Simmons needs the ball and (Joel) Embiid needs the ball. That would make Simmons useless. … He’s not going to give the ball up at this stage of his career. He’s not a great shooter, so you can’t play him off the ball. I guarantee you (defenders) would let him shoot threes all night. Guys would love him to shoot threes. … It would hurt Embiid and Simmons going forward.”
For what it’s worth, some players across the league’s landscape disagree with Barkley and think that James joining a young Sixers squad led by Simmons and Embiid is something that could legitimately happen.
Earlier this year, Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum said on the debut episode of his podcast, Pull Up with CJ McCollum, that he thinks that James joining the Sixers is a bigger possibility than people think.
“He’s always calculated about his decision-making process going back to his youth,” McCollum said of James, via Slam. “Ben [Simmons] is his young guy. Ben is a member of Klutch Sports, so that also could play a factor. Philly is in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has been fond of the Eastern Conference throughout his career on what seems to be his EZ-Pass to the Finals. I think it’s a bigger possibility than people think.”
As a player that left Phoenix (via trade) to join a talented Houston Rockets team that already included two future Hall-of-Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in an [unsuccessful] attempt to win a title at the end of his career, Barkley is speaking from experience, and is certainly entitled to his opinion. However, at the end of the day, James is going to do what he thinks is best for his family and his legacy (both on and off of the court), regardless of what Barkley thinks.