According to his own words, Matt Barnes wanted to fight Kobe during that great ball fake moment. He had to get himself ready to guard and play against the most competitive man in the NBA, and there was no room for half-assing it. Barnes said the ball fake wasn’t premeditated; it just happened in the flow of the game. Funny enough, that move turned out to be the key to their friendship.
“I ball faked, and that s**t kind of happened by itself, and I didn’t realize how close I came to his face and where his face was. I was looking at the play behind him, searching for Vince Carter going back door, and it made NBA history.”Matt Barnes
That offseason, Barnes was recovering from knee surgery when his phone rang. It was an unknown number, and Barnes did something he never does when it’s an unknown number – he picked up. To his surprise, Kobe Bryant was on the other side of the line, recruiting him to join the Lakers. Barnes was shocked, given their past on the court and the fact he was recovering from surgery. Kobe had a simple explanation.
“Anyone crazy enough to fu** with me is crazy enough to play with me.”Kobe Bryant
Four days later, Barnes was a Laker. Suddenly he was on the other side of the fence and became close with Kobe. They have kids of similar age, were in the second part of their careers, and clicked on more than just basketball. Barnes talked about Kobe being like an uncle to his kids, always sending them new Kobe’s and making sure to make time to see his kids play at every opportunity, even for a few minutes.
One time, Barnes’ twins were at a Kobe camp, and one of his sons had to run drills because he lost a scrimmage. He started crying as it was difficult, and he wanted to quit. Kobe noticed and went to his brother and gave him a challenge – Kobe gave him one left-hand shot. If he made it, his brother wouldn’t have to run anymore. He drained it and ran over to hug his brother and let him know he’s off the hook. Kobe walked into the hug right behind him.
More and more, we hear stories that show how many people had moments like this with Kobe. It explains why so many people are still shocked and hurting so much. As Barnes told it, in a town full of people, Kobe was The Man, and it wasn’t just because he was a great basketball player.