Brothers On and Off the Court
By Josh Herwitt @jherwitt
Ever since they met as teammates more than a decade ago, these former NBA players have been rooting for each other no matter where their lives have taken them.
“We just want to see each other win,” says Jackson, who isn’t actually related to Barnes despite the tight bond that they have formed as friends.
Related or not, Barnes and Jackson have experienced plenty of winning, with each capturing an NBA championship at one point in their professional basketball careers. That’s where the similarities they share only seem to begin, however.
As second-round draft picks at the small forward position, both built their reputations and legacies on being two of the NBA’s most fierce and outspoken competitors, combining for a total of 210 technical fouls, 32 flagrant fouls and 22 ejections following each of their 14 seasons in the league.
Barnes, known for his pestering defense and reliable 3-point shooting, played for nine different teams. Jackson, a versatile scorer who brought a sense of toughness everywhere he went and was involved in the infamous “Malice at the Palace” brawl while with the Indiana Pacers, played for eight. And as most NBA fans probably know, each faced their own set of issues on and off the court before hanging it up a few years ago.
“There are a lot of misunderstandings, rumors and hoaxes about people,” Barnes says. “There has been a huge misconception about who we are.”
But just because Barnes and Jackson are retired now doesn’t mean they still don’t love watching and dissecting the game. In fact, that’s exactly what has inspired their transition into television, providing viewers with fresh perspectives and real, authentic opinions that you won’t hear anywhere else.
“There are so many people talking about our profession and other professions who have never done it,” Barnes explains. “People appreciate that we’ve been there and done it.”
“We go on TV and say things that people are afraid to say,” Jackson adds. “We’re both NBA champions, so we have the experience to back it up. We speak from an honest place, and we speak with a passion for the game. … People don’t want to hear the politically correct answer all the time.”
For as close as Barnes and Jackson were during their playing days though, their forays into the world of sports media have come mostly on their own accord, with each making regular appearances on ESPN’s “The Jump” and FS1’s debate-style programs like “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” over the last couple of years.
Still, not until after those opportunities arose, did they decide to join forces again — this time with the impetus to start their own show as co-hosts.
“It’s always been about more than basketball for us,” Barnes insists. “We’ve been family. We enjoyed playing together, so why not do the same thing in our next step of life?”
Barnes and Jackson had jokingly mentioned on ESPN that they maybe should start a podcast, they wouldn’t have to wait long before their idea was realized.
Showtime, which has focused its sports coverage primarily on boxing and the NFL, had been looking to expand its horizons, and between Barnes and Jackson, the network’s executives had seemingly found a new pair of stars to launch their Showtime basketball platform.
“Matt really made it happen with the connections that he had,” Jackson says.
That he most certainly did. Because by the time Barnes got the call, he looped in his managers from Cul∙ti∙vate Entertainment and his longtime mentor Ellen Rakieten (EP – Red Table Talk), and after some weeks a deal was in place for them to launch their own video podcast series on the company’s “SHOWTIME Basketball” YouTube channel.
“They just took a chance on us,” Barnes says while recalling the negotiations. “They didn’t really know what we had. We didn’t really know what we had. It was trial and error.”
So far, the experiment has proven to be fruitful for both.
While neither Barnes nor Jackson had any prior experience working on podcasts, it has only taken them a few short months to grow an audience since their first episode of “All The Smoke” dropped. Of course, part of the podcast’s early success has been due to the guests across basketball and pop culture that the duo has been able to land each week, whether it has been Stephen Curry, Kevin Garnett, Snoop Dogg or the late Kobe Bryant (whose interview with Barnes and Jackson was one of the final ones he did before his tragic passing).
But the hour-long talk show, with a name that not only references Barnes’ and Jackson’s penchant for delivering hot takes but also conveys their long-term relationship using cannabis, has become more or less an open forum for them to address a wide range of topics each week and voice anything that’s on their minds these days.
Raw, unfiltered and uncut conversations — that’s just the way these two athletes-turned-pundits like it.
“No script, no nothing,” Jackson says. “Turn the cameras on, and we shoot from the hip.”
The New Kings of Sports Media are Filling the Void
By William Roebuck @williamroebuck
The tragic and unexpected death of Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna, forcefully reminded everyone that time on this earth is not promised. We mourned all of the lives that were lost that day and forged ahead with a sense of urgency. We became more conscious of our legacies, leaving a positive mark on the world, and making the most of our time. As we began to hurry up and live our lives to the fullest, a global pandemic brought the world to a halt.
Shortly before 2020 went off the rails, NBA Champions Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson were able to sit down with Kobe Bryant for one of his final interviews. It was an insightful look into the world of Kobe Bryant, and the hosts peeled back layers and layers to further reveal the impact Kobe had on the game of basketball.
Barnes and Jackson delivered such a remarkable episode because of the respect they commanded on the hardwood. NBA players admire them for their willingness to stay real, even if it means being misunderstood or criticized. Probably, the most significant moment of the interview was when Kobe said, “I can’t believe you guys are doing media and doing it great.” It was no passing compliment. One of the greatest players of all time acknowledged that the media game has changed and that Barnes and Jackson are the future.
Despite the global pandemic, Barnes and Jackson have continued to burn up the sports world with their Showtime Video Podcast “All The Smoke.” When they aren’t chasing their kids around or keeping them occupied, they are busy producing the show remotely. Instead of one episode a week, they are now doing three. They have almost single-handedly filled the void in basketball, and pop culture with their no holds barred show that’s honest and real. An inviting space where superstars of the game open up and tell it like it is.
While basketball is the primary focus of the show, pop culture and cannabis also play a huge role. Jackson started smoking weed at age 13. He explained, “I started smoking to get away from the streets, to get away from shit that I was afraid of. I was one of those guys that always hung around all the bullshit in the streets. I wasn’t afraid of being around it, but I was afraid of it happening to me. So when I started smoking, I started being in the house and transitioning myself to smoke and get away from that stuff. It translated to me playing basketball, and it helped me focus on basketball. It helped me escape, it helped keep me calm, and I know for a fact that if I didn’t have cannabis at a young age, I would be dead or in jail.”
Barnes shared a similar story of early cannabis use to escape reality. The benefits he derived from smoking were the ability to focus, remain calm, and the ability to sleep better. He said, “through high school, college, and the NBA, it allowed me to recover better even though there was no medical research on it yet. But, after I smoked, I was like my ankle doesn’t hurt anymore more, my fingers don’t hurt anymore, my knee doesn’t hurt anymore, so I knew it was doing something.” It’s refreshing that nearly 26 years later, there is medical research that backs up everything that we said cannabis did for us.
As the NBA season hangs in the balance, no one is certain whether the season will resume, but Barnes and Jackson are hopeful that it will. Jackson revealed, “I got a DM from Dejounte Murray telling me how he loves that show and that he’s been working out at home, but there’s nothing like being in the gym, and I know a lot of players are feeling like that.” Barnes added, “players know it’s a part of their responsibility to stay in shape, but there’s no simulating practice or a game.” You can be in the best shape of your life, but basketball shape is a whole different shape.
We’ve never been in a position where we have no sports on any level. I think people are starting to go stir crazy, realizing how important sports are to our society. Sports have always been the one common factor that brought different races, ethnicities, and different ideas together. Through 9/11 and through other tragedies that our nation has faced, there have always been sports to turn to. This is the first time there are no sports to turn to, and we are really feeling that hit. Hopefully, the NBA can come through, finish out the season, and crown a champ because I think it will be good for the country and the world”.
Whether the season resumes or not, “All the Smoke” will continue to fill the void. Even though Barnes and Jackson have taken the media world by storm, they have only scratched the surface. Jackson says, “Going forward, I want to continue to be better. We’ve been through a lot in our lives and our careers. I believe that our best days are ahead of us because we paid our dues, and we’ve been through a lot, but we never wavered. We never sold our souls. We never turned our backs on the people that cared about us and supported us. We are stand up guys that want to continue to win and let people know that you don’t have to compromise who you are to win. You can be who you are. You can wear your tattoos. You can wear your hair how you want to. You can dress how you want to, just give the same respect you want, and things will work out for you.”
Producer – Travis Demetri @travisdemetri
Photographer – Demetrius Ward @meech213
Photographer Assist – Beast Williams
Stylist – Brandon Williams @brandonwills
Stylist Assist – Rita Sounthonephom
Groomer – Nick Shavatt @razorbladechamp
Creative Director – Jackie Miller @jjmille123
Production Assistant – Zack Alphonso @zack_alphonso
Vehicles provided by – Felix Velez @elsiete67
Los Angeles Car Club @losangeles.carclub