Summer 2024

Kings' Harrison Barnes, a 'devout Christian,' locked in playoff battle vs. former team

In one of the most entertaining first-round matchups in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the No. 3-seeded Sacramento Kings and No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors are tied with two wins apiece. After the Kings secured two wins in Sacramento to open the best-of-seven series, the Warriors have pulled even with two wins of their own on their home court.

The second one came on Sunday as Golden State edged Sacramento, 126-125. Kings small forward Harrison Barnes hit the back of the rim on what would have been the game-winning 3-pointer as the final buzzer sounded.

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Perhaps no one wanted that shot to drop more than Barnes, who was drafted by Golden State in 2012 and spent the first four years of his career with the Warriors. He helped them win the 2015 NBA championship, but wasn’t resigned after the season — and hadn’t been back in the playoffs until this year.

But Barnes is a pivotal reason why Sacramento is back in the postseason for the first time since 2006. He started all 82 regular-season games this season while scoring 15.0 points per game, grabbing 4.5 rebounds and providing important veteran leadership and playoff experience. His 10 years in the league are the most for any King.

Barnes is one of only two players on Sacramento’s roster (Matthew Dellavedova) who has won an NBA championship, and the only one who plays significant minutes. In fact, only a handful of Kings players have ever even reached the playoffs.

And of all the teams Barnes could face in the postseason, he and the Kings are up against some of his old teammates — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Golden State drafted Barnes seventh overall out of North Carolina in 2012, and he was part of building what has become an NBA dynasty. In 2014-15, he was the starting small forward on the team that captured the first of Golden State’s four titles this decade, including last year’s.

That 2015-16 Warriors team won the most regular-season games in NBA history (73) and was on its way to winning back-to-back titles. However, the Warriors lost in heartbreaking fashion, in one of the most memorable NBA Finals ever, to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after holding a 3-1 series lead.

When Golden State’s front office decided the following offseason to sign Kevin Durant, a few days later Barnes signed with the Dallas Mavericks. After two and a half of the most productive seasons in his career, Barnes was traded to Sacramento in February 2019.

He’s started every game he’s played with the Kings, and only De’Aaron Fox has been with the franchise longer. So Barnes badly wants to win this series. Had his shot gone in Sunday night, the Kings would have taken a commanding 3-1 grip on the series.

But Barnes will rebound from the disappointment of missing a big shot against his former team, like he bounced back from the disappointment of losing in 2016. Thanks to his faith in Christ, he knows his identity lies in what Jesus has done for him. He knows he’s not ultimately accepted by his makes and misses on a basketball court. He calls himself a “devout Christian” on his website and lists the Bible verse Acts 4:12 in his Twitter bio.

“Money, fame, and talent can be the top priorities for most professional athletes, but for Harrison Barnes, it’s his relationship with God that comes first. He is a Christian,” his website says. “Ever since he was young he grew up in the church. His faith has always been a big reason why he plays.

“On the inside of his shoes he has TGBTG, which is ‘To God Be The Glory’ and he just plays for Him. … He just realizes it is not his work, but His.”


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Barnes’ vibrant faith began to flourish in high school, thanks to faith-based retreats, perfect Sunday School attendance and high school Bible studies. In fact, Barnes led many of those Bible studies, which consisted of him leading the group through a timely Bible passage, discussing it and then praying about the topic.

“I wanted to leave an impact on the school, and I wanted Christ to be represented there,” Barnes told Iowa State Daily, in his hometown of Ames, Iowa, a month after committing to play at North Carolina. “So I wanted to start that Bible study just to get a coalition of believers together and also integrate non-believers in there and just have that fellowship.”

He continued later: “I try to make [God] the center of my life and then just have that infiltrate all other spheres, such as glorifying Him on the basketball floor with all the gifts that He’s given me.”

As Barnes and his Kings teammates seek to regain momentum against the Warriors, he’ll also seek to continue to glorify God in victory or in defeat. Game 5 is set for Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET in Sacramento.

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