As Shaquille O’Neal and his TNT cohort watched LeBron James try to will the Lakers to victory over the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors, Charles Barkley chimed in after one LeBron highlight with the comment that LeBron looks like “Michael Jackson playing with a bunch of Tito Jacksons.” Kenny the Jet Smith immediately defended Tito, saying he was a “great Jackson.” Shaq told Chuck not to say such things — “don’t say that Chuck, they’re gonna get sensitive.” (Shaq is referencing how trade rumors seemed to rock the young Lakers before the deadline passed.)
Nobody made mention of how being compared to King of Pop Michael Jackson right now isn’t the high praise that it used to be. Jackson’s legacy is under fire as the allegations that he was a predator have been resurfaced by a recent attention-grabbing documentary. But Barkley surely meant the comparison as a compliment to James and a knock on his teammates. Despite Smith’s defense of Tito as a great Jackson, his stats don’t quite compare with his brother’s — who, whatever his ethical breaches, remains among the best-selling musical artists of all time. Barkley was just dusting off an old assessment he has used before, when The King of Pop and King James were both taking less heat. Barkley upset Dwyane Wade‘s Miami Heat teammates back in 2010 with the same Michael/Tito dig. The Jacksons — er, sorry, the Lakers — lost to the Raptors 111-98.