Matt Barnes is ready to tell his story. The retired NBA Champion has continued to keep his name in the conversation within the sports world, appearing on ESPN’s “The Jump” and “Get Up,” plus co-hosting the popular Showtime Sports podcast “ALL THE SMOKE” with Stephen Jackson.
The former basketball player has also invested in a few businesses, creating his cannabis line, SWISH, which he says aims to generate economic opportunities for marginalized communities while educating the world about CBD and THC’s health and wellness benefits. He also founded the Athletes vs. Cancer organization, which provides resources for families of cancer patients while raising awareness about innovative treatments.
While Barnes is enjoying the fruits of his labor, the journey wasn’t easy. The 42-year-old recently partnered with 1091 Pictures — a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. company — and award-winning filmmaker Joslyn Rose Lyons on an eight-part film anthology called (R)evolution. The documentary gives fans an inside look into the superstar’s background and struggles as he rose to stardom.
In a conversation with REVOLT, Matt Barnes and Joslyn Rose Lyons open up about the workshopping process for (R)evolution, why Barnes embraced being the “villain” in the NBA, and his thoughts on Brittney Griner’s Russian imprisonment. Read our exclusive interview below.
Why did you decide to tell your story now, and how was the workshopping process for the documentary?
Joslyn Rose Lyons: It’s essential to go into the lives of the people we look up to — [there are] many celebrities and heroes, but we often don’t understand what made them who they are. It’s an excellent time to hear and see stories from our lens. It’s essential to tell the untold parts of our story that the media doesn’t share, which is why I’m happy we made (R)evolution.
Matt Barnes: For myself and other athletes, there’s a misconception or an opportunity given to the athlete for people to understand who they are. In my case, I was the villain in my career, so the good stuff wasn’t getting told — other athletes may be closed off as they live a private life. The opportunity to learn about your favorite athletes or celebrities on a different level is what fans want to see, and this project shows it to a deeper degree.
You touch on embracing the “villain” role in the NBA. Looking back, do you regret that? What villainous act, if any, do you wish you could take back?
Barnes: There’s nothing I feel like I can take back. I was able to learn from everything I went through with all the mistakes I made — and the good I’ve done, but you learn the most from the mistakes. Regarding the villain role, my journey was different from my childhood, upbringing, and my grounding. When I first got into the NBA, I didn’t get a real opportunity — I was out there on a daily audition for every game, and I was going to make it no matter what. I was OK with it if it was physicality, toughness, having my teammates’ backs, or cursing the referee out. The incident that brought it all to a head was the incident with Kobe when I ball-faked in his face. I was already seen as the villain, but that incident earned me the Black coat with people thinking I was the bad guy because I messed with Kobe. At first, after gaining colossal backlash, I was content with being the bad guy since it was making me millions of dollars while continuing to play the game that I love from a competitive standpoint. This project highlights what you don’t necessarily see on television, where people will be able to see how I’m not a bad guy and just a competitor.
As someone who was raised to fight consistently, how has life become softer for you after achieving fame?
Barnes: The fight came from racism, and it became my mentality growing up as my parents permitted me to defend myself if I was bothered. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned to prioritize situations and let things go to understand the bigger picture. I have more to lose now than when I was an athlete… from being a father to having my hands in different businesses outside of basketball. I enjoy being a father and giving other athletes a platform to tell their stories.
What has been the most prominent fight you’ve faced as an adult, and how did you handle it differently compared to when you were younger?
Barnes: My biggest hurdle has been the preconceived notion of who I was as an athlete to who I am as a person — from being a father, cannabis advocate, and business owner. To have interviews like this with you, to having this project produced for the world, which shows who I am… it’s documented and coming from my mouth. You’re able to see the honest Matt.
Brittney Griner was locked up in the Russian prison system for nearly 10 months. What are your thoughts on what happened?
Barnes: Sending love and light to Brittney and her family. It [was] an unfortunate situation, and life is all about timing — when you look at the political side, you’ll see how women athletes aren’t paid well in the states. They have to have several positions to maintain a lifestyle, to cannabis being legal in the states, and, unfortunately, a woman superstar [had] to pay for that. To think this woman [was] in prison doing hard time for something we take for granted, where people are smoking in public, is crazy and unfortunate — sending love, light, and prayer to her family.
What was your favorite music release in 2022?
Barnes: While I’m a ’90s R&B person, I will say Drake since he doesn’t miss too often, if at all, and I like the album he did with 21 Savage called Her Loss.
What is your New Year’s resolution?
Barnes: I’ll be 43 next year, so I want to continue to inspire, motivate, and evolve as a person. I want to continue to show people if I can do it, so can they.