Kobe: Barkley way off mark for calling him 'selfish'

Updated: May 17, 2006, 10:50 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Kobe Bryant said Charles Barkley was wrong to call him "selfish" for not trying to score more during Game 7 of the Lakers' playoff loss to Phoenix.

Bryant and Barkley discussed their difference of opinion face-to-face Wednesday night when Bryant appeared as a studio guest during TNT's NBA playoff coverage.

Bryant took only three shots and scored one point during the second half of the Lakers' 121-90 loss to the Suns in the deciding game of their first-round series. Barkley was critical of Bryant's play on the air, believing he should have tried to take over the offense when his team needed it.

The criticism upset Bryant, who told Barkley so during some text message responses.

"We had a strategy that worked very well for us in three games," Bryant said. "We tried to keep the strategy going in Game 7, and the other games as well, but it didn't work for us. But we're out there to try and win, so to label me as being selfish is something I had to take up with Charles."

Barkley maintained that the strategy wasn't working, but acknowledged he should have handled his criticism differently.

"I criticized Kobe in Game 7. He didn't like it and he let me know it," Barkley said. "I think I probably made one mistake by taking it public, but I wanted to get his side and his point of view. I have no problem with him disagreeing with me."

Bryant also addressed his plans to change his uniform number from 8 to 24 next season.

"No. 8 has been with me for a while obviously," he said. "I just felt it was time to move on and do something different. When I came back from Italy and I came to the States to play, the first number I selected was number 24. It is kind of a new beginning for me, and that's what the second half of my career is all about."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press