It’s been a couple of months since billboards encouraging LeBron James to sign with the Sixers and “complete the process” were erected on Interstate 480 in Cleveland. Since then, the rumors about James leaning toward Philadelphia as a potential destination when his contract expires at the end of this season have appeared to die down.
Charles Barkley wants to kill the talk completely.
During a Monday interview with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Anthony Gargano, the Sixers legend and TNT basketball analyst predicted there was a 0 percent chance James would sign with the Sixers during the offseason.
“LeBron won’t fit with the Sixers because he’d take the ball out of Ben’s hands,” Barkley said, referring to Ben Simmons. Barkley was emphatic that James wouldn’t be taking his talents to Philadelphia “in any form, shape or capacity.”
Barkley’s not entirely wrong. Sunday night, the Cavaliers edged the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of their first-round playoff matchup, 105-101, with James dominating the court with 45 points. But at times, James’ dominance left his teammates somewhat paralyzed on the floor.
“He needs shooters. Ben’s not a shooter. … [LeBron] dominates the ball way too much,” Barkley said. “He’s not coming to Philly for sure.”
Barkley echoed the thoughts of one of my colleagues, columnist Bob Ford, who wrote that he sees little chance that James would be wearing a Sixers jersey next season.
“I could be wrong, but I think LeBron James is playing the city of Philadelphia,” Ford wrote. “He abandoned his hometown once before and suffered being labeled a mercenary. Will he do it a second time?”
For his part, James has said little about the possibility of joining the Sixers and Simmons, other than telling reporters it was “dope” that fans were trying to woo the three-time NBA champion.
“You can say it’s a distraction – it’s not. Not a distraction,” James said in February “It is actually very flattering that I’m sitting here at 33 and in my 15th year and teams or guys — I don’t want to say teams because that becomes tampering. But people in their respective city want me to play for them. That’s cool, I think. That’s dope.”
Regardless of James’ interest, Barkley doesn’t seem to think the Sixers need the NBA superstar. In fact, he predicted the Sixers would easily defeat the Celtics in as few as five games (“If they don’t win this series, I’ll be disappointed”), and said he thinks the team would face the Toronto Raptors for the Eastern Conference championship. Whether the Sixers can win and earn their first trip to the NBA finals in 17 years comes down to one person: Joel Embiid.
“I’ve been in the NBA for 30-some years. … I don’t think you can compare him to any player,” Barkley said, taking umbrage with Gargano’s comparison between Embiid and former Houston Rockets Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
“Olajuwon was great in the post, but he couldn’t go out and shoot threes like Joel does,” Barkley said. “There’s never been a guy that big who can shoot threes and post up. He’s just a very unique talent.”