Inside Stuff: Puerto Rico’s Son, J.J. Barea
Kristen Ledlow sits down with Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea to talk about how he and the Dallas Mavericks are helping hurricane relief efforts in his homeland.
DALLAS — A few minutes after he handed J.J. Barea a trophy for receiving the October NBA Cares Community Assist Award, Bob Lanier was gushing about what the Dallas Mavericks’ veteran guard was able to accomplish while helping Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The award, presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of Barea’s continuous relief effort in Puerto Rico, was given to Barea during an on-court ceremony at halftime of Monday’s game against the Boston Celtics. Along with the prestigious award, the NBA and Kaiser Permanente will also donate $10,000 to the J.J. Barea Foundation.
Lanier, the NBA Cares Ambassador, said he’s glad Barea’s heartfelt contributions didn’t go unnoticed.
“By himself, J.J. raised over $500,000 and brought a lot of food and commodities (to Puerto Rico) for the people who need it,” Lanier said. “His whole family has been involved, and his dad is still there helping in the community and helping assist people in need.”
“His heart is behind his words and his actions are behind that.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Barea, if he could, probably wishes he could break up his award and give a lot of different people a piece of it. He described it as an award that should be shared by many.
“I’ve got a great group here in Dallas, starting with my wife and my boys,” Barea said. “And then my Dallas Mavericks family, starting with (owner) Mark Cuban, who has been amazing for the help in Puerto Rico.”
“My foundation is now bigger over there in Puerto Rico. They’re still helping. Every week we go to a different place. All of the support that we get here we can help my hometown.”
Barea acknowledged that Cuban surprised him when he allowed him to use his private airplane to carry much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico not once, not twice, not three times. . .but five times.
“I thought we were going to take it one time, but he just kept filling it up,” Barea said. “He was awesome.”
“Like I told Mark every time we sent a plane, I texted him: ‘There are no words to describe, but thank you.’ “
In conjunction with various partners in North Texas, Barea delivered more than 100,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico, including 14,000 pounds of water, 10,000 pounds of food, 32 generators, and 3,000 pounds of clothing, diapers, cleaning products, medical supplies and toiletries — on just the first trip to the devastated island.
Barea also launched a fundraiser that raised more than $250,000 on YouCaring.com for families affected by Hurricane Maria. In addition, he worked with the Mavs to donate 100 percent of all single-game ticket sales from their Oct. 25 contest against the Memphis Grizzlies to Puerto Rico, and that generated an additional $114,000 for the island’s recovery.
During the last six months the NBA Cares Community Assist Award was handed out the past season, the winners were CJ McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, Zach Randolph, Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday and Jimmy Butler. Thomas also won the NBA Cares Season-long Community Assist Award for the 2016-2017 season.
While becoming this season’s first regular-season recipient of the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, Barea simply just wanted to do something to help his home town. He wasn’t in it for the award or world-wide notoriety, but is grateful for the acknowledgement.
“I think it’s great that the league does this,” Barea said. “I know there are a lot of players here throughout my career that has been awesome in the community.”
Lanier noted that it’s a clear-cut process on how Barea was chosen as the award-winner for the month of October.
“There’s a panel of people that look for the impact that players have on communities across the board,” Lanier said. “Depending on how many people are up for the award, there’s a panel of people that look at it, and then everybody takes a vote and they see who they think has the most impact and then we go out and give the award.”
“The blessing for us is we have a lot of players now that are involved in trying to make a difference in communities around the globe.”
Lanier also recognized the roles Cuban and the Mavs played in helping Barea bring some relief to the folks in Puerto Rico. That includes coach Rick Carlisle allowing Barea to skip practice during his first journey to Puerto Rico.
“You’ve got to give Mark Cuban and the Mavs credit that they assisted with Mark’s planes and got a lot of the commodities there,” Lanier said. “I thought that was pretty special that Mark would do that.”
“That shows the kind of heart and consideration that Mark has for not only his players, but for a community that’s far away from here.”
Ordinary citizens also pitched in to assist Barea.
“I’ve got fans in the first row of games, and some of them have given me a check for my foundation,” Barea said. “There are no words to describe it.”
“I just want to thank them for wanting the best for Puerto Rico.”