Charles Barkley Says Airing LeBron James Jr.'s High School Games 'The Ultimate Exploitation'

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ESPN is broadcasting 15 of LeBron "Bronny" James Jr.'s games at Sierra Canyon High School this season. NBA legend Charles Barkley isn't a huge fan of that. 

"We always talk about college players being exploited. This is the ultimate exploitation," Barkley said during halftime of TNT's coverage of Pelicans-Grizzlies on Monday.

Zaire Wade, son of Dwyane Wade, also plays for Sierra Canyon. 

"What is the financial incentive other than the network making money on these high school kids?" Barkley asked. "We always complain about these college teams making all this money. ... You're making money on college kids. Now you're making money on high school kids."

Curiously, Barkley is an ardent defender of the NCAA's policy on amateurism, often refuting the notion that college players are being exploited. 

"I'm not here to pound the drum for the NCAA," Barkley told reporters in 2018. "But the notion they're screwing these players, I hate that."

Barkley has repeatedly argued that a free education is adequate compensation for an athlete's services.

"There’s not that many good college players," Barkley told USA Today in 2015. "Less than one percent are going to pay in the NBA. What about the other 99 percent that are getting a free education? Think about it."

Though, in one instance, the NCAA punished a school for giving its players too much money for textbooks, Barkley is steadfast in his beliefs.

"I'm more concerned about the guys who don't go pro," Barkley said. People who have to get a real job, who get it through education." 

Barkley serves as a March Madness commentator for Turner Sports, which partnered with the NCAA on a rights deal in 2011. 

"I hear these fools on TV - 'We have to play the players' - and I say, 'Well, how are you going to pay the players?'" Barkley said. "Are we paying the basketball and football teams? Then we have to pay the soccer team, the diving team, the swimming team. Then we have to pay the girls' sports."

March Madness made the NCAA $857 million in 2018, totaling 75% of its annual revenue. College basketball coaches are the highest-paid public officials in 12 U.S. states. The players, of course, see none of that money.