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Charles Barkley says Kendrick Perkins suffers from ‘ESPN disease’ over ‘asinine, silly and stupid’ MVP voter claim

Charles Barkley was the latest talking head to come to the defense of J.J. Redick after the ESPN analyst traded barbs with First Take host Kendrick Perkins after Perkins insinuated that the league’s mostly-white MVP voters could harbor racial biases against Black players.

“What do those guys have in common? I’ll let it sit there and marinate about it,” Perkins said of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jokic all winning NBA MVP since 1990 without being top-10 in scoring the season they earned the honor.

Barkley, appearing on Denver’s 92.5 FM Altitude Sports Radio, fired back at Perkins’ assertion, calling Perk’s claims “asinine, silly and stupid.”

“It’s a regular season award,” Barkley said. “It ain’t who the best player is. It’s who had the best regular season.”

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Barkley took offense with Perkins’ belief that Jokic, arguably the frontrunner for this year’s MVP award after nabbing the honor in each of the past two years, could be chalked up to voters’ inherent biases. The majority of writers who have an MVP vote are white.

Barkley stated that he believed Perkins was caught up in the “ESPN disease”, arguing that the network creates artificial debates about the MVP award every season.

“One of the things that’s silly about ESPN at times,” Barkley said, “They do this silly debate every year about the MVP, going back to even when I played.”

He went on to elaborate:

“A lot of these guys, when they get on TV and stuff, they’re like, ‘well I’m on ESPN, I got to say something provocative.’ And you know the thing about it, you’re always gonna get some fools out there, you guys probably get some fools calling in agreeing with him! … We can talk about race as much as you want to as long as you’re going to be fair and honest. But to slander this man (Jokić) in this situation is just total BS.” 

Perkins’ insistence that race played a factor in MVP voting caught much of the NBA world, namely Redick, by surprise. After all, Jokic is in the midst of perhaps the best season of his career, blending eye-popping stats with the No. 1 record in the West. From box scores to spreadsheets, Jokic has about as good a case as any that he deserves to hoist the  newly-minted Michael Jordan Trophy.

Despite Jokic’s statistical dominance, there are a number of players, namely Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokoumnpo, who boast similarly gaudy resumes. And although Jokic has become something of an analytics darling over his eight-year career, the fact remains that data analysis can be skewed by unconscious biases, too. After all, it’s proven difficult to measure a player’s defensive value — a facet of play that Embiid and Antetokoumnpo vastly outperform Joker.

The question then becomes who determines which parts of the game are more or less valuable to contributing to winning basketball. The concept that data analysts — many of whom are white — couldn’t have their views on winning ball skewed by unconscious biases seems folly, regardless of what Perkins said.

Although Perkins and Redick got into it early in Tuesday’s program, it seemed cooler heads prevailed by the end of the show.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose. 

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