It's one of the biggest moments in the lore of Kobe Bryant, an incident that brought together his competitiveness, toughness and IDGAF ethos. It's taught in Myth Building 101, and it's part of the reason there's no one else quite like him. Except, new evidence suggests maybe it's more fantasy than reality. (Single tear, Kobe stans.)
In a late-season 2010 game between the Lakers and Magic, Matt Barnes—one of the NBA's genuine tough guys—appeared ready to throw the ball right in Bryant's face after an on-court snafu between the two. While Barnes was taking the ball out under the Lakers' basket, he faked a pass right at Bryant's dome. But Bean didn't flinch, despite the fact the fake appeared to extend mere millimeters from his nose. Kobe's ice-cold non-reaction became an important chapter in his legend.
Kobe's rationale was simple: he didn't think Barnes was actually gonna do it. "He’s crazy, but he’s not that crazy," Bryant told Daily News about the moment in 2015. “So I didn’t bother flinching.” The short reaction time still gave Mamba plenty of time to suss out the veracity of the fake: “It was a split second and I processed it pretty quickly,” he said. “I realized he wasn’t going to do it. We laughed and joked about it a lot when he played together.”
Barnes even talked about the whole exchange last month on The Jump, saying he wasn't purposely trying to mess with Bryant, but was instead following the action behind him and tried the fake pass as a way to help get one of his teammates open:
However, on Tuesday The Starters' Trey Kerby threw cold water on the whole premise of the story's allure:
Sure enough, an overhead angle shows that Bryant, who had been lilting from side to side in front of Barnes, wasn't even in the direct path of the fake pass. Of course he wouldn't flinch; the ball wasn't going to hit him.
Upon hearing the news from a journalist, Kobe was unfazed, saying, "He did it and I didn't balk."
Say a prayer for the Kobe faithful, who are all meeting in Temecula to mourn.