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'Bus rider' meaning explained amid Charles Barkley and Kevin Durant drama

Joshua Rogers April 27, 2022
New York Nets' Kevin Durant is dejected in first quarter of Game 4 of Eastern Conference first-round playoff series
Photo by J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images

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Here, we break down the meaning of ‘bus rider’ and ‘bus driver’ as Charles Barkley and Kevin Durant continue to call each other out.

Charles Barkley and Kevin Durant are currently involved in a highly entertaining back and forth following the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round loss to the Boston Celtics.

A lot has been said between Inside the NBA host and Nets star, and one of the arguments that keeps coming up is ‘bus rider’ vs ‘bus driver’. But what is the meaning of ‘bus rider’? Let’s explore it in more detail.

Charles Barkley calls KD a ‘bus rider’

On Sunday’s Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley questioned Kevin Durant’s leadership after the Nets’ Game 4 loss to the Celtics. Barkley called KD a ‘bus rider’ rather than a ‘bus driver.’

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“He is (a great player) and let me tell you something, I don’t want to bad mouth the dude but you guys always talk about the championship stuff,” Barkley said on the show.

“Let me tell ya’ll, all these bus riders, they don’t mean nothing to me. If you ain’t driving the bus, don’t walk around talking about ‘you a champion.’ If you’re riding the bus, I don’t want to hear it. Come on Shaq, tell’ em. All these guys walk around with these championship rings. Hey, ya’ll bus riders. But let me tell you something. When you’re the bus driver and you got all that pressure when you have to play well or you going to get the blame? That’s a different animal.”

KD responds on Instagram

KD clearly didn’t take too kindly to Barkley’s words, responding by posting a series of photos of Charles playing with other superstars during his career. The first set of photos showed Barkley playing with Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on the Houston Rockets.

Durant also shared photos of Barkley’s early days with the Philadelphia 76ers surrounded by legends Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks.

“Where would Chuck be without the big homies,” KD captioned the post.

‘Bus driver’ and ‘bus rider’ meaning explained

Naturally, there’s been some confusion as to what the meaning of a ‘bus driver’ and a ‘bus rider’ is. Essentially, a bus driver is a superstar-calibre player who leads a team to success as the unequivocal ‘man’ on the team.

For instance, when Charles Barkley made the 1993 NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns, it was without question his team, making him a ‘bus driver.’ Although he didn’t beat the Chicago Bulls, he was still the face of the franchise. A more recent example of a ‘bus driver’ is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who lead his team to the NBA title last year.

However, on the other side of the argument are ‘bus riders’. These are players who made up part of a successful team but weren’t a) the leader or b) the sole reason for the team’s success. Kenny Smith, who won two championships alongside Hakeem Olajuwon on the Houston Rockets, would fall into the ‘bus rider’ category, despite his objections. Inside the NBA co-hosts and verified ‘bus drivers’ Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal have even levelled this at Smith in the past.

Why Barkley thinks KD is a ‘bus rider’

And this is where Kevin Durant comes in. After failing to win a title in OKC, alongside some pretty amazing albeit young talent, Durant joined the 73-9 Golden State Warriors with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. KD won two titles and two Finals MVPs during his time in Golden State, but Barkley maintains he did so as a bus rider rather than a bus driver, given that it was still Steph’s team.

The 33-year-old has not won a title since, and the Net’s recent sweep at the hands of the Celtics is further proof for Barkley that KD is not a bus driver.

Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Chuck addressed KD’s posts on last night’s Inside the NBA

On last night’s edition of Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley addressed Durant’s social media posts he made earlier in the day.

In the segment, Chuck reiterated his opinion that he thinks Kevin is a great player, but the only point he was making was that ‘life is different when you’re driving the bus.”

Smith then tried to explain things in more detail before Shaq interjected by saying, “bus driver means it’s you team.” Check it out below:

What do you think? Is KD a bus driver or a bus rider? Let us know in the comments!

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.