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Charles Barkley calls Cleveland 'one of the most underrated cities in the world'

Appearing on "Inside the NBA," Charles Barkley had plenty of praise for both the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — With the Cavaliers having reached four consecutive NBA Finals from 2015-2018, the league's national media has become plenty familiar with Cleveland in recent years.

But while some have complained about the constant trips to Cleveland -- which also hosted the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend --one of the NBA's most prominent personalities has enjoyed his time in Northeast Ohio.

Appearing on TNT's "Inside the NBA" following the Cavs' nationally televised 116-102 victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Charles Barkley discussed Cleveland's early season success. In doing so, the Hall of Fame forward had plenty of praise for not just the Cavs, but the city they play in.

"It's great to have the Cavaliers playing well again," Barkley said. "Cleveland, to me, is one of the most underrated cities in the world. I love going to Cleveland. And you know what?"

But before Barkley could finish his thought -- presumably that more trips to Cleveland could be in the crew's future if the Cavs continue on their current trajectory -- his co-host, Kenny Smith, interrupted.

"Stop, man," Smith, a former NBA guard, said.

"You don't like Cleveland?" Barkley replied.

"I'm not saying I don't like Cleveland," Smith answered. "But when was the last time you ever called me, Shaq[uille O'Neal] or Ernie [Johnson] and been like, 'let's go to Cleveland. Let's go hang out in Cleveland?' There are no vacation spots. It's a nice city. Come on."

"It's a nice city, that's what I said," Barkley replied.

Shaquille O'Neal -- who played for the Cavs during the 2009-10 season -- then proceeded to put Barkley on the spot.

"What's your favorite restaurant in Cleveland?" the Hall of Fame center asked.

"My favorite restaurant in Cleveland? I'll have to talk to Mike Fratello," Barkley said, invoking the former Cavs coach-turned-broadcaster. "He's taken me to some really sweet Italian places."

While the sincerity of Barkley's enthusiasm for Cleveland could be open to interpretation, the 11-time All-Star appears to be genuinely excited about the Cavs' success this season. Following Tuesday night's win over the Lakers, in which All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell scored 43 points, Cleveland now boasts the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at 16-9.

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