Matt Barnes' Mohawk has meaning
PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- As Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes sits in a dining room chair in the middle of his house overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he looks down at the red bracelet around his right wrist that has his mother's name, Ann, written in white between two hearts.
Barnes lost his mother to cancer four years ago and not a day goes by when he doesn't think of her when he touches his bracelet, looks at the picture of her in his living room or sees her smile in the faces of his twin boys, Carter and Isaiah, who were born nearly one year to the day Barnes' mother discovered she had cancer.
Ann Barnes was diagnosed with lung cancer on Nov. 1, 2007, and died on Nov. 27, 2007. Barnes discovered his mother's condition just before the Golden State Warriors' season opener that year. She died 26 days later. It's a reality Barnes still has a difficult time coming to grips with as his twin boys run around the house as his fiancee, Gloria Govan, chases after them.
"I miss my mom," Barnes said Saturday on the eve of the Lakers' first-round playoff game against the New Orleans Hornets. "It saddens me but at the same time I know she's not in pain anymore. I know she's looking down on me and I know she's excited for what I'm about to do."
One of the fondest memories Barnes said he had of his mother was the look on her face after she first saw him and his new Mohawk before the Golden State Warriors' improbable run in the 2007 NBA playoffs and the joy she shared with him and the team that year as they became the first No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 in a seven-game playoff series.
"After the All-Star break that season we were like 16 games out and I was talking with Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson and we were like, 'What if we made the playoffs?' and I said I would get a Mohawk never thinking it would happen," Barnes said. "The day before the playoffs I got the Mohawk and drove to Sacramento and showed it to my mom. I was wearing a hat and wanted to cut it off and she said, 'No, I like it on you. I love it.'"
Barnes kept the Mohawk and the Warriors dismantled the 67-win Mavericks in six games while Barnes had 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the deciding sixth game of the series.
In his mother's honor, Barnes founded Athletes vs. Cancer, a foundation that raises money for local screening programs.
Barnes also gets the Mohawk his mother loved the day before his playoffs begin. Last season, with the Orlando Magic, he was able to ride the Mohawk all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. This year, in his first postseason with the Lakers, he is hoping it will finally win him his first championship.
As Barnes sits in a chair just outside of his living room, his friend Demorea "Truck" Evans cuts his hair as they watch the Magic play the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round playoff game. Evans flew in from Oakland for just a few hours to cut Barnes' hair. Evans, who is also a minister, met Barnes in 2007 and the two grew closer after Barnes' mother died.
"There was a bond created beyond the haircut," said Evans, who lost his mother to cancer in 2005. "I just became his barber no matter where he was at. It's a horrific transition to watch someone go through having experienced [it] myself."
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While Barnes got his haircut, his right knee was wrapped and attached to a device that buzzes in the background and adjusts the cold and compression. After missing the last two games of the regular season, he said his knee felt better than it had in three weeks since getting fluid drained from it.
Govan smiled as she looked at her fiance's nearly completed Mohawk.
"Now it's become such a trademark," she said. "When the playoffs come now people expect it and it brings this whole new kind of attitude into Matt and it's really cool to see him transform into that person and player."
Barnes said he knew he would probably get teased by fans and teammates for the new haircut, but he smiled when he looked at a picture of him and his mother wearing his Golden State jersey in 2007. As he got up from the chair after his haircut, he brushed himself off and looked at the mirror. He smiled as he touched the sides of his shaved head and looked up.
"It makes me smile more now when I think about the haircut," Barnes said. "Knowing that she loved the haircut and was a part of that experience with us and dying shortly after. It was basically her final memory of me playing, so it makes me smile a lot more."Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.