Matt Barnes will be forever known as the guy that tried to punk Kobe Bryant in an inbound play. Kobe didn’t flinch. That audacity helped him get to L.A. land. Bryant thought he was crazy enough to test him, so it would even be crazier to become his teammate. As one of the top defenders in his era, Barnes names his players the toughest to guard in the NBA.
Banana boat crew
In an interview published on Ball Don’t Stop Instagram, Barnes clarified he wasn’t scared of anybody and loved shutting people down. He included Kobe Bryant in his list, followed by Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade.
"Kobe, to me was the toughest I ever guarded. KD was number two. Melo was three. Bron was four. DWade was five. And I think maybe I would do... I might be missing someone. Damn I forgot about T-Mac, he had to be up there. That motherfucker jumps so high in his 3-point shot. Yeah Ginobili and T-Mac are in there. Ginobili was a motherfucker."
Barnes’ wingspan and quickness allowed him to guard positions from one to four. Bryant was expected to be on top of anyone’s list of hardest players to defend, so that was no surprise. Meanwhile, K.D. and Melo’s range plus height makes them a tough cover. Plus, they only need a little space to hoist a shot up and little time to get into their rhythm. Once they get hot, it’s over. Wade’s inclusion speaks of how great of an offensive player he was. He gave way to James in their time in the Miami Heat, but when he was at his peak, there’s only little you could do to contain him.
Dwyane was strong, shifty, and knew how to get to his spots. As mentioned by Barnes, it was KD, Kobe, and the Banana Boat Crew minus Chris Paul. Matt added two names, and one of them might surprise you.
Underrated Spurs player
The former Orlando Magic forward added Tracy McGrady and Manu Ginobili to his list. T-Mac is in the same mold as K.D. and Melo, a long and athletic sweet-shooting forward who, once he gets hot, it’s over before you know it. Manu, meanwhile, is a surprise pick.
Ginobili had always been an underrated scorer because he played in the Spurs system. He thrived both as a starter and a bench player. Manu’s greatest asset was his ability to attack the basket. He was so shifty, and his bag of tricks was deep. Plus, Manu was also a decent outside shooter. If the Argentinian played for another team, Ginobili would have been a bigger star than he was in San Antonio.
In today’s NBA, it seems like there are no defenders left who take joy and pride in shutting down their opponents. Matt Barnes was one of the last breeds ready to put everything on the line to defend.