‘From Opponents to Teammates to Brothers’: Matt Barnes Details How Kobe Bryant Invited Him to Lakers

Published 04/09/2021, 6:30 AM EDT
SAN ANTONIO – MAY 7: (FILE PHOTO) Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers bites his jersey in Game two of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at SBC Center on May 7, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas. Bryant was released on bail by the Eagle County Sheriff’s office in Colorado July 6, 2003 after posting a $25,000 bond on a felony count of sexual assault. (Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)


Drafted in 2002, Matt Barnes’ journey in the NBA has been a memorable one. He has played the most elite teams in the league – from the LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers’ and many more. However, he had also made a pit stop for two seasons, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he was one of the few lucky ones to have been given an opportunity to play with Kobe Bryant.

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Kobe passed away last year in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. Since then, many people have come out in the open to talk about what the legend was to them. And now, it’s foe turned friend, Matt Barnes’ turn.

Matt Barnes’ friendship with Kobe Bryant

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It all started with an iconic ‘No flinch ball fake’, that actually impressed Kobe and got Barnes to play with the Lakers. In a recent interview, Barnes opened up about how his relationship with Kobe began.

“I met him in 98′ when I went to UCLA. Him coming to LA at 18, he was young. He was at UCLA all the time and we would see him, he would play pick-up games in the summertime. He would work out and I would sneak back and watch him train. So, it kind of became like, ‘I have to guard someone like this someday to eventually make it in the league,” narrated Barnes.

Then, he opened up about the kind of bond they had and how he ended up playing for the Lakers. He said, “Just respecting each other every time. We played each other and I really looked forward to it. It kind of came to a head in Orlando, 2010, with the ball fake.”

“And after that season, he called me up and literally said, ‘Anyone crazy enough to fuck with me, is crazy enough to play with me Do you want to be a Laker?’. Literally three days later, I was a Laker. So we went from opponents to teammates to brothers… I got a chance to really know him as person, not just as a basketball player,” Matt explained.

The famous Ball fake

The incident goes back to a matchup between Orlando Magic and Lakers. Barnes was only part of Orlando for one season because this game changed his fate.

It was in the third quarter that Barnes was about to inbound the ball when instead he ended up fake throwing the ball just millimeters away from Kobe’s face.

Although Barnes was trying to get a reaction out of him, Kobe did not even flinch. This ended up becoming an iconic moment, and it was after this that Bryant was so impressed, and he made that phone call to Matt.

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Can you imagine that this is what it takes to impress a great player like Kobe? Well, anybody can play but who doesn’t like a teammate that doesn’t fear anybody despite their reputation. That was Barnes, for Kobe.

Read also- ‘Couldn’t Sleep When I Seen Him’: Former Teammate Reveals Interesting Kobe Bryant Story off the Court

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Yashima Bhatia

1338 articles

Yashima Bhatia is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports who specialises in providing nuanced predictions and updates for matches. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Yashima's love for playing the game came up at a young age, when the excitement of the games coupled with the intensity of the Playoffs had her hooked.

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