As we all saw in The Last Dance, Kobe wouldn’t even take it easy in an exhibition game, going hard at his idol in his NBA All-Star Game debut at Madison Square Garden in 1998.
“I remember he treated every basketball situation like it was a real game, whether it was the All-Star Game or not,” recalled Barnes. “But I remember he invited me up to his camp in Santa Barbara. He used to hold a camp, when Mike stopped doing his camp, KObe was doing his camp up in Santa Barbara and I remember I was just coming off a knee surgery that season. I came back at the end of the playoffs. We got swept by Dallas, but my knee was still a little f***ed up.
“So I’m thinking I’m just going up there to talk and hang out,” he continued. “We’re out there playing, I think, two-on-two with some teenage kids, and bro, when I tell you Kobe was playing harder than sh*t. Blocking shots, dunking, made one kid fall, and I’m like, ‘Damn, Kobe, these are f***ing kids.’ And he’s like, ‘So?’
“I was like, ‘Sh***t.’ So it doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t surprise me that he took that ’98 All-Star Game, his first game, like it was Game 7 of the Finals.
“Obviously, that’s what we know and love about Kobe, rest in peace, my brother, but he didn’t give a sh*t who was in front of him. If a basketball was thrown up, it was going down.”