There is a belief among a certain segment of NBA fans that modern players are far too friendly, a faction that once again made its voice heard on Saturday.
The day after a fun duel between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, the Phoenix Suns posted a picture of the two Hall of Famers amicably talking to each other with the caption “respect.” A Twitter account by the handle @BlindLivin didn’t like that all, writing “”I hate this ‘we all fiends’ laughing during the game s***!!” and arguing that Michael Jordan’s infamous hostility is what made him the GOAT.
Durant, as he is wont to do, responded, writing “At some point, yall non athletes gon realize that friends compete harder against one another.”
That was a fair enough response. The James jumped in with a picture of Jordan smiling with fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and, well, we might want to unpack that.
Of all the people to point to as a friend of Jordan, James picked the player whom Jordan is most definitely not friends with these days, and possibly never was.
There is a well-known and possibly apocryphal story, as told by former Chicago Bulls assistant Johnny Bach, in which Jordan supposedly treated Barkley to 48 holes of golf and a $20,000 diamond earring during the 1993 NBA Finals. When asked why he did such a thing, Jordan allegedly said “He won’t get in my way the rest of the series, what’s $20,000 to me? Charles thinks we’re great friends. I hate that fat f***.”
Even if that weren’t true and Jordan and Barkley really were friends, it is well-established that is no longer the case. Barkley has spoken multiple times about how Jordan no longer talks to him due to criticism of his Charlotte Hornets ownership.
So if you’re trying to convince people that you don’t need to be mortal enemies to compete with other NBA stars, you have to be careful looking for counter-examples in Jordan’s career.
It was at least a good game between the Suns and Lakers on Friday, with the two stars combining for 70 points. The Suns, still missing Devin Booker, led for much of the game, but James helped power a comeback to get the Lakers their first road win of the season.