Mavs guard J.J. Barea had a chat with Time’s Stephanie Apstein, in which he talked about the state of Puerto Rican basketball, his experience coming to America, and giving back to the community.
Moving from the town of Mayaguez, a city of 89,000 people, to Miami in high school in 2001 created quite the culture shock. Apstein reports that 98 percent of Barea’s home town is of Puerto Rican descent, so moving to such a culturally diverse area for the first time at age 17 or 18 was a totally new experience for the young Barea.
“Puerto Rico is just different,” he said. “Even though I was in Miami, which wasn’t that far, it was my first time in a school with people from all over the world.”
Barea has been the most notable name in Puerto Rican basketball for a decade now, but while the sport has taken off in his native country in terms of popularity, he remains one of the few players to have reached the highest level in the game. He wants that to change, however.
“Hopefully before I retire we’ll get another player in the NBA,” he said. “Basketball is the co–No. 1 with baseball down there now. It’s not just because of me—we had Carlos Arroyo [2001–11], too. Every summer I spend time with [young players] in the weight room and we talk about the NBA, what the workouts are like. The 18-and-under national team did a good job the last couple of years—I think more than half of them are playing D-I basketball—so hopefully one of them has a chance.”