Matt Barnes recalls Kobe Bryant convincing him to reject Heat despite Dwyane Wade recruiting him'
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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Former NBA forward Matt Barnes shared how Kobe Bryant won him over to join the Los Angeles Lakers over the Miami Heat and their Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Barnes, who left the Orlando Magic after the 2009-10 NBA season, explained how his battles with Bryant led to a mutual respect that ultimately had the Hall of Famer reach out to him to join the Lakers in the 2010 offseason.

At the time, Miami was in the process of bringing James and Bosh to play with Wade in South Florida, ultimately forming one of the best trios in NBA history.

“After that season, he called me,” Barnes said of Bryant. “And my situation in Orlando didn’t work out, so I was talking to Pat Riley and D-Wade about going to Miami. This is the same season Bron and Bosh are coming, and they’re trying to sell us on what it’s going to be.”

Even though Miami made a solid pitch, Bryant himself ended up convincing Barnes to come to Los Angeles.

“I get a random call from a number I don’t know, and I just happened to pick it up, and it was him,” Barnes said regarding Bryant. “I didn’t believe it was him. F— outta here – it was really him. We talked back and forth, what I was going to do. ‘Anyone crazy enough to f— with me is crazy enough to play with me. Do you want to be a Laker?’ And four days later, I’m there.”

Barnes infamously faked a pass in Bryant’s face during a game when he was on the Magic, yet the Lakers legend didn’t even flinch.

That play and Barnes’ tenacious defense on Bryant appeared to be reasons that the five-time champion wanted Barnes to join him.

Barnes ended up spending two seasons with the Lakers playing alongside Bryant, but he did miss out on a chance to win a ring with the Heat. Miami went on to make the NBA Finals in four straight seasons, winning the title in the 2011-12 season and again in the 2012-13 season.

Still, it appears Barnes was happy with his decision.

“The story started in the late ’90s, just admiring him and seeing him, being around him,” Barnes said of Bryant. “And kinda being like, ‘That’s our bar.’ I missed M.J. (Michael Jordan) by one year. So, Kobe was our guy.”

In the 2010-11 season, the Lakers ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs, getting swept by the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The following season, the team lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round – the team Miami would beat in the NBA Finals.

Heat fans can wonder if Barnes would have helped them win the 2011 NBA Finals, as the 2017 NBA champion revealed what Miami was planning for a closing lineup if he had joined the Big 3.

“I talked to Pat Riley like two or three times, put D-Wade on the phone and he was – I don’t know if Pat will remember this, if I’m lying I’m flying – he’s like, ‘ You know the closing lineup is Bron, D-Wade, you, Mike Miller and Chris Bosh,’” Barnes said. “That’s what he was telling us. Can you imagine that on the floor?”

Barnes said that he was “for it” to join Miami, but he grew up a Laker fan and after getting the call from Kobe, he had “no choice but to come” to Los Angeles.

The fact that both the Lakers and Heat were recruiting Barnes at the time shows just how valuable of a defender and role player he was in the prime of his career. Luckily for him, he still ended up winning an NBA title later on in his career even though he missed out on winning one with the Heat.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.