« Beat the balls »: a player admits to having snubbed LeBron for the Lakers!
If LeBron James is known for knowing how to surround himself with high-level players, he has also caught a few winds on occasion. A former champion had chosen to snub the King in favor of the Lakers, a dozen years ago. A rather daring choice, given the context of the time.
In principle, when you have the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James, the hesitation is not too much. Matt Barnes had just been contacted by the Heat in the summer of 2010, when the South Beach Big Three began to form. In the end, however, he refused to join the Floridians and favored them with Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. It must be said that the latter had recruited him outright, as the retiree explained to Shannon Sharpe:
Matt Barnes’ story about joining the Lakers
.@Matt_Barnes22 on playing with Kobe: I wouldn’t change that for money or rings. pic.twitter.com/Fq9lREkIba
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) October 13, 2022
I talked to Pat Riley and D-Wade and they said they were going to build something in Miami. It was said that LeBron was coming, the same for Bosh. It seemed obvious to join them and I was literally having discussions with Pat Riley. And then one day, I received a phone call. I was still in Orlando relaxing, and I got a call from a number I didn’t know. And I never pick up my phone. But I picked up this time and it was Kobe Bryant.
We started talking, and he asked me what I was doing. And I literally tell him I’m going back and forth, I’m talking in Miami right now. He said to me “No, beat the balls of Miami, you want to be a Laker”. And I said « fuck yes », and four days later I was a Laker. I took less money to win…I wouldn’t have given that up for the opportunity to play with Kobe. We became brothers, we shared, I went to his daughter’s games, and he came to my son’s games, I wouldn’t trade that for money or rings.
Remember that before that, the two men were not friends at all, the winger even allowing himself this famous sequence of the false ball throwing towards the face of the Mamba. A behavior that had however greatly pleased the latter, who had felt that anyone crazy enough to attempt such a thing had the potential to be a decisive teammate in the title race. The ring was not at the end, but a real friendship was born between the two men.
Everyone has seen the clip of Matt Barnes faking the ball in Kobe’s face without him flinching.
The part you didn’t know?
Kobe called Barnes that summer saying « Anyone that is crazy enough to f**k with me, can play with me. You want to be a Laker? »
What a legend. pic.twitter.com/12FCGnO7Y9
—Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) October 18, 2020
Matt Barnes was so drawn to the idea of playing Kobe Bryant that he was willing to snub the Miami Tres Amigos, especially after the Lakers guard signed him in person. He did not regret this choice, especially after winning his championship years later, at the Warriors.