The recently retired NBA player also discusses his Athletes Vs. Cancer non-profit and the upcoming All-Star Weekend in L.A.
Matt Barnes delivered scrappiness and edge to every NBA franchise he balled for — all nine of them — over the course of his nearly 15-year career in the league. If the 6-7 small forward was your teammate, he was ride-or-die. If he was your opponent, he was polarizing with the ability to dig up under your skin and get the best of you mentally at times.
After winning an NBA championship in his return to the Golden State Warriors last June, the veteran forward announced his retirement in December via an Instagram post.
“Love me or HATE ME,” he wrote in the caption, “I DID IT MY WAY!!”
He sure did. And now at 37, the half-Black, half-Italian product out of Santa Clara, California is in the midst of flipping the page to his next chapter — also done his way.
Here, Barnes speaks with BET.com about the next step for his Athletes vs. Cancer non-profit organization, how he doesn’t have the itch to return to basketball and several of his business ventures, including a Huey Newton biopic, promising oil business and proposed docu-series chronicling Death Row Records. (He did hash-tag “#BillionaireBy50” in that retirement post, so that explains this off-court hustle).
We also chopped it up with the former NBA journeyman about the upcoming All-Star Game’s new format, how fans view team trades and player free-agent signings with hypocrisy and why he thinks LeBron James ending his career in Los Angeles would be amazing. Barnes also gives his best two cents to fellow fathers about co-parenting, which is something he does with his ex, Gloria Govan, for their nine-year-old twin boys.
Tell us about your non-profit, Athletes vs. Cancer, and its latest moves.
Athletes vs. Cancer was formed in 2008. I lost my mom to cancer in 2007. She was diagnosed November 1 and died November 27, so it had been 26 days. We lost her, so after everything kind of slowed down, I wanted to create something to help people going through the same stuff. So, we started off by raising money and having health fairs, health clinics with free screenings and mammograms and that kind of stuff. But over the years, I kind of wanted to get more personal and more hands-on and really try to help these people, so I did everything from pay for surgeries, pay for medicine, unfortunately pay for a couple of funerals, some hospice situations. But I think my ultimate goal with the foundation is, I’m in talks with UCLA right now to start a fellowship program for kids who beat cancer and want to go on to college. Obviously cancer is a devastating thing and if you’re fortunate enough to beat it, usually it took all of your insurance and all of the money the family had. We want to give them congratulations for beating cancer, but let’s help you on with the next step. The [scholarship], that’s obviously a little bigger project and we’re looking for more help with that, so that should be up and going hopefully by the summer time.
You retired in December and it’s a busy time of year right now with all the NBA trade deadline moves and All-Star Weekend coming up in L.A. (Feb. 16-18). If a team calls you, would you get the itch to return and contribute to a squad?
No. There’s no itch. I was blessed to play 15 years, especially not even supposed to have made it. So, to be able to play 15 years, win a championship, I think that basketball chapter of my life is done. It was a tremendous opportunity, tremendous blessing, it opened doors that never would have happened otherwise. I’ve traveled the world, made a lot of money, met a lot of amazing people. But at the same time, there’s still more I want to do with my life. I have twin boys who are nine-years-old who are growing up now, so I need to be around them more. There a lot of business ventures that I’m very interested in and moving forward with and really just having some free time.
You mentioned business ventures and on your gram relatively recently, you posted a shot of you and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Anything that you could let us in on regarding your conversation with him and other business ventures you’re working on?
Joe and his son have a fund and they invest in different things. I just became a venture capitalist for a firm called Immersive. They’re an artificial intelligence fund, so they fund this next 10 to 15 years of how computers are kind of on the way to taking over the world-type situations. I just made a huge oil contact connection investment, which is going to change my life in the next year and a half. Producing and directing TV shows and movies. I have about six or seven scripted/non-scripted TV shows/documentaries we’re working on. In the process of starting making a Huey Newton movie we’re going to call Power to The People, so we just secured funding for that and a script.
We’re looking for our cast now. Also, in the works is a Death Row series. We’re in the process of securing Suge Knight’s life rights to do a Death Row series similar to Narcos, where we kind of get to tell the whole Death Row story, so I’m really excited about that because I’m a huge Tupac, Dre and Snoop fan. There’s just a lot of other things that I’m passionate about and that I have time to do now. Basketball almost seems like another lifetime. I still watch it, still take my kids to games, but there’s no urge to want to play anymore.
When do you think we’ll be able to see that Death Row docu-series?
It will probably be a year. We’re securing the director. I’ve learned that everything is a slow process in the TV and movie industry. As fast as you want to work on it, there’s always a lot of steps that need to be taken care of — especially in the situation of Death Row where there’s so many people involved, alive and not alive. You got to smooth over a lot of things, talk to a lot of people and most importantly put a great team together to tell that story because I feel that was such an important moment in music history. If you’re in your mid-to-late 20s, 30s, 40s, the 90s was really like our era of music. Music isn’t like that anymore. So, you got to make sure you have an amazing director, a great script and people who believe and see the same vision you do on the project.
All-Star Weekend in L.A. is just about here. Do you like the new format with captains (Steph Curry and LeBron James) and do you think it will make for a more competitive All-Star Game?
I think so. This is probably the first step in making the game more competitive, but I think the NBA is going to have to step up and pay these guys more. I think the winning players get a $100,000, and not to sound crazy, but I don’t think they really care about that. I think if they make the winning team’s players get more money, that would make them compete. You gotta think that these guys are out here and they could really get hurt, so why go that hard if I have the chance to get hurt and my team has a chance to win the championship? If you want the players to play harder and be in a more competitive game, you have to give some more money up because they’re making a s**t load of money off the game and off us. So, give some of that money up.
When Blake Griffin was recently traded, you and LeBron were vocal about essentially how the Clippers did him dirty. Do you think a hypocrisy exists that when a team trades a star player like the Clippers did Griffin or the Celtics did Isaiah Thomas, it’s considered “business,” but when a player leaves as a free agent — like a Kevin Durant leaving OKC to join the Golden State Warriors — he’s considered a “snake?”
Oh, completely. I think you hit it on the head the way you just explained it. They want it to always be business. So, when Blake gets traded, it’s not supposed to be any emotion, any feeling. It’s ‘Sorry, we’re done with you. You’re traded.’ But then, like you said, a perfect example of KD going to another team or LeBron going to the Heat for the first time, they’re snakes or villains or the bad guys, which is crazy. A team can trade you, cut you, waive you, bench you — whatever it may be — and it’s just the business. No one frowns upon that. But then on the other end, where we take our own happiness and freedom and ability to go somewhere else, we’re bad. They want us to have no feelings in it, but when you have to relocate a family, put your kids in a new school or you really like the situation you’re in and you get traded, it’s just supposed to be the business and you’re supposed to be fine with that. But everyone wants to blow up when KD wants to go to the Warriors and takes less money to win. Or LeBron wants to go to Miami and win, then that’s a problem. It’s always going to be like that. Fans are fans. They drive our game and we appreciate them, but we need them to understand both sides of it because it is a business, but at the same time, we are humans and we do have feelings and a lot more goes into a trade than going to a new team.
The Cavs traded Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers, seemingly opening up more cap space for L.A. to go after LeBron in free agency this offseason. The pathway seems open for King James to close out his career in L.A. if that’s what he wants to do. You have been quoted as saying you think it would be an amazing finish for him in L.A. As a guy who played for both the Clippers and Lakers, why L.A.?
I think he has done everything he can do for Cleveland, for the city of Cleveland, for his town and people. Obviously, [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert, the way he has treated LeBron through this process has been crazy. Just the level of disrespect, talking bad and all that kind of stuff. I know LeBron hears all that. I think he realizes that his time of winning championships in Cleveland, if it hasn’t closed, is very close to closing. Why not finish out in L.A. in the sun under [NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers president] Magic Johnson, knowing that you want to transition to owning a team and other business opportunities? I know he owns a few houses in L.A., his family loves it out there. I hope he does, just from the standpoint that Dan Gilbert is a d******d and doesn’t deserve LeBron.
Late last year we saw an IG post of you and your ex, Gloria Govan, celebrating your twin boys’ birthday. What advice can you give to fellow fathers out there about co-parenting?
It’s tough, man. Co-parenting is probably the toughest situation that I’ve had to deal with because my ex and I really just don’t get along. So, at the end of the day, I would tell any parents listening that once you’re separated from your significant other — the father of your children, the mother of your children — the most important thing is the kids’ happiness. Most of the time, there’s bitter people — either both or one of them are bitter and it makes it really difficult to do your job as a parent. I’m jumping through the hoops left and right because I want to see my kids which is crazy with all the deadbeat dads out there that don’t even want to see their kids. And I have to jump through hoops just to see my kids. At the end of the day, stay the course. I know it’s frustrating; I know it’s tough. It may seem like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but seeing the smiles on my two boys’ faces makes all the drama worth it. Like I said, it’s about the kids. It’s not about your relationship or your past relationship with your spouse.
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic