360 Degrees of Matt Barnes
Badass. Troublemaker. Thug. If we judged the book by its cover, Matt Barnes would be in the adult reading section. If we judged him by the headlines, he’d be a Cheater, a Fighter, and a Domestic Abuser. But we’re not. Today we are hearing it straight from the LA Laker’s mouth. Matt finally talks breakups to make-ups with Gloria Govan, his interesting friendship with Eva Longoria, conversations with Kobe, and what happened on that night the police were called to his California home.
With twenty plus tattoos, looks can be deceiving. But on this sunny Friday afternoon in Cali, a very tatted up Los Angeles Laker by the name of Matt Barnes is on daddy duty. He’s just picked up his twin boys from school and they are demanding doughnuts.
“Yes baby” says Matt
I want a doughnut.
You want a doughnut or you want candy. You only got one dollar, so you want to get a doughnut?
After dropping the kids at karate, he’s off to pick up his longtime on-again off-again girlfriend Gloria Govan from the spa where they met for lunch and had manis and pedis together. It seems he’s the consummate Family Man. But that’s not what you’d expect from the man that a CBS sports columnist named as one of 2011’s players behaving badly, when he allegedly punched an opponent in the face at a Pro AM game. It’s not what you’d expect from the man the blogs call a cheater. But this sportsman turned reality star has learned the hard way that the press can be your worst frenemy. Still that doesn’t bother Matt. He’s been in the league over a decade and he’s been called every dirty name you can think of. But since his children’s’ mother and former fiancé, Gloria Govan joined the cast of a little reality show called Basketball Wives [VH1], his family has taken a firm step into the limelight and things have been very different. “This is my tenth season in the NBA,” reminds, Barnes “so I’ve learned not to really care what people really think about me….whether it’s good or bad. The hardest thing I had to struggle with was the way they talked about Gloria or the way they would talk about our parenting. I think the hardest thing for me was hearing people talk about my family. People can talk about me everyday, whether it be good or bad. That doesn’t really bother me.”
Gloria and Matt met ten years ago but were together for five years before they made the decision, as VH1 camera’s rolled, to take a six to eight month break. “When Gloria and I separated, Matt remembers, “Even when we weren’t together I still loved her. We are back together now. But just to hear the negative stuff about her—whether it be true or false, it’s crazy.” During the separation, both dated other people and were linked by the blogs and paparazzi alike to a plethora of other celebrities.
It was only a few weeks after Matt and Gloria announced their breakup that Matt and Eva Longoria were photographed together out and about. Still Matt maintains that, “We were just friends. We went out a few times. It was nothing more than that. Everything out here is blown up times ten. The next thing I know I’m dating [Eva Longoria] and she’s the reason why [Gloria and I] split up. Since Gloria and I got back together we [Eva and I] don’t talk at all anymore.” The blogosphere also linked Gloria to a number of new suitors, the most prominent being west-coast rapper The Game. “Even when we were dating other people,” recalls Matt, “when people would say things about her, it bothered me. Even though we weren’t together it was something that made me mad you know? It’s different when they are talking about the mother of your children; or they are talking about your kids or any aspect of that.”
But the members of the press were not the only people talking. Matt’s teammates had plenty to say about the highly watched TV show as well as Matt and Gloria’s involvement. “It’s funny to this day I’ve never seen an episode [of Basketball Wives]. When it first came on, my teammates would always try to fill me in on what happened,” says Matt, “Once they finally saw what the show was about, they were like wow, no my girl doesn’t act like this. Our wives don’t act like this. It was tough being the only NBA guy on the show. Like I was almost representing everybody. I mean everybody that I play with knows who I am. Guys in the league know who I am. They really know who I am. They know I’m not about all the bullshit that was portrayed. I keep it real.”
But, talks of girlfriends, wives, prenups, who’s breaking up and who’s getting half, has become a common conversation among ballers these days. In fact it was a famous rap lyric penned by Drake that sparked a heart to heart between teammates Matt Barnes and Kobe Bryant.
Kobe ’bout to lose a hundred fifty M’s
Kobe my nigga I hate it had to be him
You wasn’t with me shooting in the gym
Matt is definitely more hush than gush about Kobe’s current marital status but he will say, “I can’t speak on everybody’s situation but Kobe and I actually had a laugh about [Drakes verse in Stay Schemin]. I was actually the one who told him about it. After he heard about it, he told me some real stuff. He told me no matter what’s going on…that is the mother of my children and I love and respect her,” Matt recalls, “he really didn’t appreciate it at the time. Even though it’s fun and games and our lives are kind of played out for everyone to pick at. But at the end of the day if we end up splitting up or staying with our significant other or the mother of our children, we are always going to love them. They are always going to be important to us. So no matter what, we don’t want nobody talking crazy or talking bad about them.”
Still one can’t help but to wonder with so much love between the two, why did Basketball Wives would-be perfect couple break-up in front of the whole world in the first place. The other basketball wives said it was Matt’s continued infidelity, while the blogs blamed it on abuse. “I made some poor decisions early on in our relationship,” confesses Matt, “that caused us to split last year. It’s something I regret but it’s also something that I can man up and own up to. I made my mistakes but at the end of the day, these women come and go. What’s important is family and Gloria—someone to share my success with and come home to and feel loved and wanted with. In the league, women come a dime a dozen. Not to sound stuck-up or anything, but that’s just how it is. At some point you have to wake up and realize what your priorities are. Some guys wake up sooner than others. I woke up and I realized what was important to me.”
Matt won’t give us all the specifics on his “poor decisions,” but he will say that it was never domestic abuse. So what exactly did happen on the night police rushed to Barnes and Govan’s California home? “It was a loud argument,” explains Matt, “that our nosey neighbors called the cops about”. The way that it was explained to us, “In California when the police are called for domestic abuse, which the neighbors said it was—then one person has to go to jail. I opened the gate, the cops came on our property, and they put handcuffs on me. And I was just like ‘do you want to hear what happened?’ and they were like ‘no that’s not important.’ Gloria was like ‘no I don’t want him arrested. What’s going on?’ I went to jail for like two hours, then I was out. It was written that I hit her and she was hitting me, but it was just a loud argument. We have nosey neighbors. We are just like every other couple. We have arguments but we love each other.”
Forget the press, fame and the fans, for Matt Barnes family is his number one priority. He’s always been that way and nowadays even more so. “November 1st 2007, my mom was diagnosed with all different types of Cancer all in stage four”, remembers Matt. “She died November 27. So 26 days within finding out, she was gone. Cancer had never been a problem in our family. Up to that point, she looked healthy and fine and that hit me out of left field. She was my best friend and the one person I could talk about everything with. Once I got my head back together…after that I talked to my family and Gloria came up with Athletes vs. Cancer to just try and give back. I was hit hard so I can just imagine younger kids –to lose their moms…I just understand how hard it can be and we just try to make a difference with the foundation.”
Fast-forward. Matt Barnes and Gloria Govan are talking marriage again. “We basically started over,” says Matt. “We totally started over. We just talked about it the other day. Do we say we’ve been together for five years or do we say we’ve been dating for two months? We have three-year-old boys, so what do we say? We justified it. This is a fresh start. We had five years in the past and that was a roller coaster. We have two beautiful children out of it. We do talk about being engaged again and eventually getting married, but we have a long way to go to get there…Whenever the time is right.”
Talking marriage, of course, means one other question too. To prenup or not to prenup? That is the question. “That’s always tough because you say until death do you part but [you have to] be realistic, says Matt. “You like to go into a situation saying yes we are always going to be together forever and what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine, but sometime it doesn’t work out like that. That’s going to be a tough situation. Gloria and I will be getting married within the next two years and it was discussed early on in our relationship but it hasn’t been discussed lately. So it will be a tough bridge to cross and when it comes to that we have to deal with it.” But it sounds like Matt and Gloria are up for anything. The duo has a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to staying together. “You have to keep it fun, keep it fresh. Be spontaneous, says Matt. “With us having kids it’s kind of hard to plan out things at night because a lot of times once we get the kids down, we’re shot. So sometimes that means middle of the day sex. Sometimes that means after lunch you go and have sex in the bathroom. We do things outside the norm. We’ve been together for five years. We had our little break but we are back on now. You don’t want to get too comfortable. Being together for five years has its perks, like being comfortable enough to get it on in a London bathroom. I think we were in London last year in a really fancy nice restaurant and….the bathroom,” Matt laughs.
In the end, Matt Barnes gets the last laugh. He has it all again—family, philanthropy, and an amazing career that is only growing. Matt not only has a clothing line, but he and Gloria are currently in the process of developing multiple TV shows. And with all that, they still make the time to get it on in the bathroom. Matt confesses, “My career is very important. Her career is very important. The kids are very important, but I feel like in the past our relationship took the biggest hit. So this time around, we make our relationship a top priority.”
by RaVal “Vee” Davis