“He was just on his Kobe stuff,” Barnes recalled on an episode of ESPN’s The Jump. “You know, elbowing, talking trash, hit me a couple times. And you know, ‘I just told him, forget it we’re about to fight.’”
So on a Magic inbounds play under the basket with 8:29 to go in the third quarter, Barnes directed a fake pass at Bryant’s face. The Mamba didn’t flinch. Not even a little bit.
This was one of many plays that defined Kobe’s career. Incredible scorer: Check. Clutch performer: Check. Champion: Check. Tough as nails: Check-plus. If the threat of a basketball to the face didn’t faze the Black Mamba, what would?
The two later bumped chests and had to be separated. After the game, Bryant said, “It’s funny to me.” And asked why he didn’t flinch, he responded, “Why should I?”
That was nearly eight years ago. Now, new evidence has emerged in the court of public opinion regarding this years long debate. That evidence comes in the form of an alternate, aerial camera angle that shows Barnes may not have aimed that pass directly at Bryant’s face in the first place.
And this new camera angle shook basketball Twitter to its core.
He wasnt standing in front of him when he did it my whole life is a lie pic.twitter.com/8pGF2IRAjQ— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) October 2, 2018
I just puked into a garbage can at work https://t.co/H1l2kWpQQi— Mike Golic Jr (@MGolicJR57) October 2, 2018
I’m shaken to my core— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) October 2, 2018
To be clear, the ball is still pretty close to his face:
Barnes himself admits he wasn’t looking at Kobe during that out of bounds possession:
“If you look at me, I’m actually looking at the play developing,” he says. “I’m not looking at him. And then I realize how close he was and that he didn’t flinch after the fact.”
Barnes also said Kobe not flinching was one of the reasons he decided to join the Lakers the following summer:
“That’s what led to me coming to the Lakers,” he said. “Right after this happened, the season was over and Kobe called, and that’s when I wanted to be a Laker. ... That was like an audition or something.”
Kobe’s tough as nails, man
I don’t know about you, but I’m 100 percent flinching at that. Few things have a sharper pain like a basketball to the face. Matt Barnes is one of the most unpredictable basketball personalities, right up there with Metta World Peace, Stephen Jackson and Rasheed Wallace. There’s no telling what they’re thinking, and if they’ll actually follow through on said thoughts.
I’m good, fam. I’m real good.
It doesn’t mater if it was a half-centimeter to the left, or 32 degrees east of Kobe’s head: it was still in his general direction. The fact that he didn’t flinch is ridiculous.
And even if Kobe did flinch, he played if off beautifully. He kept his composure and dodged the fake pass in his natural stride. That’s some GOAT-level stuff there. One of the many reasons he’ll go down as the second greatest shooting guard of all-time.