Charles Barkley says LeBron James left Cavs in 2010 because he felt pressure from media to win NBA title

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is claiming in a new interview that LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 because of media pressure over not leading the franchise to an NBA title.

Barkley appeared on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” and discussed how James’ struggles to win a title during his first stint with the Cavs led to him signing with the Miami Heat.

“Everybody feels the pressure,” Barkley said. “That’s why LeBron left Cleveland the first time. That’s why Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City.

“First of all, now you got social media so if you’ve got any of that, which I don’t have, you’re like, ‘Oh you suck as a basketball player because you haven’t won a championship,’ and LeBron’s one of the best ever to do it. So he went to Miami and ever since then, the guy’s like, ‘Hey man, these guys are gonna kill me on TV and radio if I don’t win a championship, so I’m joining the other stars.'”

During his first seven seasons with the Cavaliers, James only managed to lead the team to the finals once, which ended in a four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

When James left for the Heat, he led them to four straight finals appearances and titles in 2012 and 2013. Upon returning to the Cavaliers in 2014, he led them to four NBA Finals trips and the franchise’s first title in 2016.

In 2018, James left Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers. He led them to a title last season.

While the pressure to capture a title has subsided for James, he continues to strive for more to close out his career.

James’ second departure from the Cavaliers has again resulted in the team struggling to fill the void. The Cavs remain in an ongoing rebuild.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.