Skip to main content

Charles Barkley Appears to Blast ESPN Over Hype for Middling Lakers, Warriors

The Los Angeles Lakers (36–31) and Golden State Warriors (34–31) sit on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff picture, in ninth and 10th place, respectively. While both teams are in decent shape to make the NBA’s play-in tournament, they haven’t looked like real championship contenders through most of the season.

Even so, the two franchises are among the most notable in the NBA, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry starring for the two franchises, so they still get plenty of national attention. Charles Barkley of TNT’s Inside the NBA is getting sick of it, and on Thursday he took a jab at “the other network,” which has been widely interpreted as ESPN, for its focus on the two teams.

“The West is going to go down to the wire. It’s simple. It’s going to be fun to watch,” Barkley said. “You know, our sister network—the idiots on the other network keep talking about the Lakers and the Warriors like they got a chance…”

Barkley’s co-host Shaquille O’Neal—a Lakers legend—interjected, bringing up the play-in tournament as an indication that the two teams do have the potential to make playoff runs. 

Chuck wasn’t having it.

“The play-in is not a real thing, just for the record,” he continued. “That’s just something we made up, Shaq. It’s just like the CBI Tournament. … They should thank Adam Silver for making up some stuff. ‘Hey, let’s just add a couple teams to the playoffs so the Lakers and Warriors can get in.’”

Charles Barkley (middle) appears with Jay Williams and Roxy Bernstein of ESPN during an Auburn basketball game.

Charles Barkley has frequently appeared on ESPN programming, despite his recent comments that appeared to knock the network.

Based on the current Western Conference standings, the four-team play-in tournament would be pretty star-studded, with the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks—featuring Kevin Durant and Luka Dončić—occupying the two seeds above L.A. and Golden State. The Lakers are three games back of the current six-seed, the Sacramento Kings (38–27), with the Warriors one game further behind.

Of course, there is recent history of play-in teams making noise in the main 16-team playoff bracket. In 2023, the Lakers earned the No. 7 seed, and went on to knock off the No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies and No. 6 Warriors to reach the Western Conference finals, falling to the eventual NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

At the same time, the Miami Heat earned the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and knocked off the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, No. 5 New York Knicks and No. 2 Boston Celtics, reaching the NBA Finals.