NEW YORK • LeBron James has been frustrated lately. His Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending champions, are mired in one of their worst stretches since he came back to Cleveland in 2014, losing seven of their last 11 games after a road loss to the lowly Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
During that stretch, he has not hesitated to make his feelings known about the state of the team's roster, openly questioning whether Cleveland are still as committed as they once were to bolster the talent around him after beating the Golden State Warriors in last year's National Basketball Association Finals.
But after Monday's loss, James, 32, took on a new target in an interview with ESPN - Charles Barkley, the Hall of Fame player turned iconic studio personality on TNT's NBA broadcasts. And he did so with brutal and ruthless efficiency.
"He's a hater. What makes what he says credible? Because he's on TV? I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," said the three-time NBA champion, before referring to numerous incidents Barkley has been involved in over the years.
"I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never (spat) on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, 'I'm not a role model.' I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.
POST BRINGING UP THE PAST
I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never (spat) on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, 'I'm not a role model.' I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.
LEBRON JAMES, referring to Charles Barkley's career lowlights.
"All I've done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that."
Later, he summed up his feelings even more bluntly: "Sc*** Charles Barkley."
Barkley has needled James for years, with the latest example coming on the Inside The NBA programme last week after James had called for the Cavaliers to add a playmaking guard.
"Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above," Barkley, regarded as one of the best basketballers to have never won an NBA ring, said. "The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history.
"He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted (Iman) Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver.
"He's the best player in the world. Does he want all the good players? He don't want to compete?
"LeBron's a great player and a great guy, but (there is) this notion that he's got to have all the best players on his team."
Barkley, 53, also said on Bill Simmons' short-lived HBO show that James could "never" break into the top five players of all time, despite the fact that he is on pace to be among the all-time leaders in just about every statistical category.
For years, James has been the target of scrutiny from players from past generations like Barkley, going back to "The Decision" and teaming up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat. The fact that he is a close friend of Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony has been derided as a sign that he is not being serious enough about the game, and that players from previous generations felt differently.
James was also forced to deal earlier this season with Phil Jackson's comments about his "posse" - which was how Jackson described James' circle of business associates, including agent Rich Paul, Maverick Carter and Randy Mims.
As James showed on Monday night, he is more than ready to respond. When he finished his comments, he told ESPN, "I'm tired of biting my tongue. There's a new sheriff in town."