A hot head, a disturbance, a disruption on the court. These are common phrases to describe Matt Barnes’s time in the league. An NBA journeyman would be one of the best ways to describe Barnes’s time as an NBA player, as he would play for nine different franchises during his 14 years in the league. During these 14 seasons, Barnes would be involved in all types of media coverage including, a situation involving his ex-teammate and his soon to be divorced wife, a lawsuit for an altercation alongside a teammate in a New York City bar, and even receiving a fine for $50,000 for assaulting an NBA player’s mom. Even with all the negative light that surrounds Barnes he has continued to be a leader in the community when it comes to social justice and issues. Barnes has been a huge voice in the situations of Donald Sterling and the recent events of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Stephon Clark throughout the pandemic. Barnes is not scared to speak his voice and be heard by those who disagree with him and that’s what makes him different from so many others in the social media world.
Early Life and High School Issues
Matt Barnes was born to his mother Ann and his father Henry Barnes. His father was a major drug dealer in the Los Angeles area, in an interview with Vice Sports Barnes would say, “My dad was the biggest drug dealer [he] had cops on his payroll, cops tried to jack his stash one night, my sister was four and I was seven, we were in the window watching these undercover cops, my dad beat them both down, and we got a U-HAUL that night and left for Sacramento.” From a young age, Barnes would understand what being tough was all about. His family started a new life in Sacramento and Barnes at Del Campo High would become a two sport varsity athlete. Barnes would play football and basketball for the Del Campo Cougars, excelling in both sports. In his senior year Barnes and Sacramento would receive national coverage but not for his basketball or football skills. One day while at school Barnes’s younger sister would have a classmate call her a racial slur. Barnes would go and beat the kid up for using that racial slur against his sister. The next night KKK members would vandalize the school, writing racial slurs, and defacing a jersey with Barnes’s football number. The NAACP would arrive in Sacramento along with the national news. This disgusting event that Barnes had experienced at a young age showed him that racism exists. Matt Barnes realized he should always speak up against injustice and racism because although it may not mentally affect him it does hurt other people.
College and Early Career (1998-2006)
Instead of choosing to play football, Barnes would stick with basketball. Barnes would decide to attend UCLA and play basketball for the Bruins. Barnes would continue to work hard in college and during his four years he would accumulate averages of 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. This would obviously not be the end of Matt Barnes’s basketball career. Barnes would be drafted with the 46th pick in the 2002 NBA draft. During his first four seasons, Barnes would be linked to six different franchises. After half a season with the Clippers, Barnes would sign with his hometown team, the Sacramento Kings in the fall of 2004. With the Kings he would start out with a bang, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine boards in his debut. The Kings wouldn’t hold onto Matt Barnes long at all. They would trade Barnes to the 76ers alongside Chris Webber. Matt Barnes would blossom into the player we all know today when he would sign with the Golden State Warriors.
The Beginning (2006-2008)
Matt Barnes’s best decision was to sign with the Warriors. Matt Barnes would join a team filled with veterans like Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson, and a rising star in Monta Ellis. Playing under the great Don Nelson paid dividends for Barnes as he would show his full repertoire with the Warriors. Barnes would shoot 290 three pointers in his 76 games and would connect on 106 of those. Before signing with the Warriors Barnes would make only 10 career three pointers. During the 2007 playoffs the Warriors would have their peak. As the eighth seed facing the Nowitzki lead Mavericks the “We Believe Warriors” would dominate the number one seed, beating them easily, winning four of the six games they played. The “We Believe Warriors” are still one of the most memorable teams to NBA fans because they played hard and did not care who scored the most that night. We Believe was about the jerseys, the swag, the hard work, dedication, and unselfish play to win the game. Matt Barnes would play valuable minutes I the playoffs and regular season and would showcase his talent for the other 29 teams in the league for years ahead.
Three Teams in Four Years (2008-2012)
The way Barnes performed on the court for the Warriors would give him the opportunity to sign with a team the following year. Barnes would sign with the Phoenix Suns, playing alongside the likes of Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Shaq. Barnes would once again show out averaging 10 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. After his stint with the Suns, Barnes would sign a two-year deal to play for the Orlando Magic. In the year with the Magic Barnes would make the infamous fake pass on Los Angeles Laker great, Kobe Bryant. The clip would go viral because of the focus by Kobe and the reputation Barnes had in the league for being an instigator. This moment would earn all the respect Kobe needed to want Barnes as his teammate. Barnes would opt out of his deal with the Magic and the Lakers would sign him for two years. In those two years, Barnes would be solid but the team would not go deep in the playoffs like they were expected to. The next step was for Barnes to try and compete for a championship.
The Clippers Fiasco (2012-2015)
The Clippers were fun, exciting, and they were the definition of LA, the problem was they were missing a small forward. In 2012 Barnes would sign with the Clippers to try and fill that role. From the start Barnes would be in trouble with the league, being fined for obstructing an officer in his personal life, but on the court Barnes would be named DPOTY for the Clippers. His play would be worthy enough of a multi-year deal with the Clippers. Again the hothead Barnes would cause more drama with another fine of $25,000 for not leaving the court in time, after an ejection. In 2014 while playing for the Clippers heading into a game four against the Golden State Warriors the team would have to decide whether or not to play that night for the franchise. Heading into that night audio would drop of Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments towards his assistant. This would cause outrage around the league and the NBA would have to bring down a penalty on Sterling. During this time Barnes would speak out against the owner and would stand for what’s right. Barnes would compare it to his issues in HS and would always stand up against these issues. Barnes would stay a year too long with the Clippers and would rack up fines after fines including a fine of $50,000 where he would cuss out James Harden’s mother in a Game 2 vs the Houston Rockets after she would continue to try to instigate Barnes into responding to her.
After leaving the Clippers Barnes would be sent off to play for the Grizzlies, Kings, and Warriors. With the Grizzlies, Barnes would play mediocre in his time and the biggest moment he had was hitting a half-court shot buzzer-beater. For the Kings, Barnes would throw an alley-oop to Rudy Gay but it would unintentionally go in as for the rest of the season it was subpar. Then in 2017 Barnes would finally get his ring. After a Kevin Durant injury, the Warriors would sign Barnes for him to play in 20 games, starting 5 of those 20. The Warriors would win the NBA championship in 2017 but Barnes would say he doesn’t count that as a ring. Barnes would say on his All The Smoke Podcast, “ I didn’t sweat … I didn’t get to guard Lebron (James). I don’t count that as a championship. Barnes grew up earning everything, that ring he received with the Warriors, he didn’t believe he earned that ring. The mentality of not everybody gets a trophy is what Barnes grew up on.
Life After the NBA (2017-Present)
There are NBA players who go bankrupt after retiring but that is not the case for Barnes. Barnes’s time out of the league has done him well. Barnes has created a podcast with his friend Stephen Jackson called All The Smoke where the two former NBA players have guests on and talk about different NBA stories. His podcast has been a platform to speak on different issues and current events going on in the current times. All The Smoke has been a platform for players to speak on the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and how it has affected them. More importantly, the podcast has been an outlet to speak on social justice issues. Barnes has been vocal in the issues of George Floyd and other major social issues. Barnes has been vocal online and in peaceful protest, in a Sacramento protest, Barnes spoke about needing to vote to win. Barnes has continued to use his voice to inspire the youth and minorities to use their voice to stand up for what is right. Barnes has never been a bad guy. Yes, he speaks his mind, yes, he can be hotheaded, but Matt Barnes is a good guy who has always been perceived in the wrong light because of issues he was involved with in his career. Matt Barnes continues to use his voice and influence to inspire people to use their voice and influence those around them.
Written by: Carson Cook