I've been a huge Matt Barnes fan and apologist for quite a while now. Many years ago I read about his struggles with racism in high school, his collegiate career at UCLA, and always thought he'd be a perfect fit with the Suns when he was at Golden State. Needless to say I put him in my off-season wish list for the Suns last year. And when I read he was officially signed, I was through-the-roof ecstatic.
A column today by Paul Coro on Matt Barnes affirmed how thankful I am that he is a member of the Phoenix Suns.
No, it wasn't the clutch shot he hit last night that propelled us to a win. It wasn't the energy and defense he's brought to the Suns this year. And it wasn't his myriad of tattoos (which I'm jealous of by the way).
It's the way he has taken Barbosa under his wing during an extremely difficult time not only in Leandro's life, but Matt's as well.
As a cancer survivor, that is something I respect even more so than his play.
A few of us on the Bright Side talked about how fortunate Suns fans are to have always had a great core group of character players. The list can go on and on in each decade the Suns have been a franchise. Not every team can say that.
But Matt Barnes strikes a cord with me personally due to my own history with cancer. I won't go into any details on this post but I came close to losing my leg and not being able to play walk again, much less play basketball. My fiancee is also a survivor of non-hodgkins lymphoma. We've all known someone afflicted with the disease and it's something that takes time to get over (if at all). And it's certainly not easy to think about or deal with during the holidays. I've been around the game for quite a while and playing consistent, smart, and tough basketball is not easy when these things are happening in a person's life. Especially at such a high level.
That's why I respect Barnes so much. Barnes mother passed away only a year ago from cancer. However, recognizing how close Leandro is to his family, Barnes displayed great kindness in mentoring and becoming close with LB during the past few months. As Suns fans know, Leandro is a soft-spoken and sensitive guy who just wants to make the fans, coaches, and players happy. As evidenced by his time away this season, this has been one of the most difficult periods of LB's life. But Barnes has been there for him every step of the way.
Putting his own feelings and memories aside during the one-year anniversary of his mother's passing, Barnes has continued supporting LB and is helping him cope with his loss. He even ordered wrist bands with LB's mother's name, Ivete, which the entire team can wear; the same kind of wrist bands he wore to honor his mother, Ann, just over a year ago.
Seeing that type of kindness from a member of the greatest team on Earth should make fans beam with pride.
So this year, Suns fans, amongst all of your other reasons to be thankful, make sure Matt Barnes is on that list.