With the news that the Mavericks are releasing J.J. Barea, what is your favorite Barea-related memory?
Ben: Despite the big playoff moments, I still remember Barea breaking into the league best. 2006 was pre-Twitter, team blogs weren’t wildly popular yet, and D-League (that’s right, Gatorade wasn’t sponsoring it yet) coverage was nonexistent. Yet we kept hearing rumors of this 6’ nothing Puerto Rican guard killing it for the Fort Worth Flyers and how he’d be on the Mavericks soon enough. And when he finally took the court at the AAC, he played like he belonged there. Barea never felt like a publicity stunt, and it wasn’t long before he established himself as a capable rotation player for Dallas. Now he’s leaving as a champion and franchise pillar.
Jordan: If I had to name a single moment it has to be the second round elimination game against the Lakers, which i briefly revisited last year. It was an insane play, no doubt, but it’s also such a symbol for Barea’s game as a whole. His size didn’t matter, he had zero fear. And he was very willing to get underneath the skin of any opponent. That he and Rick Carlisle could find each other and maintain such longevity is a beautiful thing, rarely seen in sports. Cheers to a Mavericks icon.
Doyle: There are a lot of on-the-court moments that stand out for me. The first time I watched Barea play in person with the Mavericks was at a team scrimmage in the Super Pit at the University of North Texas, where the Mavs were holding training camp in 2006. Then there was the playoff run in 2011. Remarkable. However, one instance stands out above the rest.
The moment or action I’ll remember most is Barea’s involvement in the Puerto Rican aid relief efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated his native island in 2017. As federal relief efforts stalled, or simply didn’t exist, Barea took it upon himself to establish a relief foundation, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, and provide the people of Puerto Rico with much needed supplies. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even lent Barea the team’s plane in order to ferry supplies to the island.
Puerto Rico is still picking up the pieces from the disaster three years later. At the very least, Barea’s efforts helped mitigate some of the suffering. For his charitable work, he received the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Award from the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
Far too often we see professional athlete’s strictly through the lens of sports. Barea actions prove that what really matters is the character of a player outside the court and away from the game.
Jeffrey: My favorite JJ Barea moment was during the Mother’s Day massacre, game 4 against the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs in 2011. It was Barea who got under the Lakers skin so much during that series, that in game 4 when the series was well in hand, where Andrew Bynum, the 7 foot giant for the Lakers head butted the 5’10 Barea and got ejected from the game. It was at that point where Barea and the Mavericks really became serious contenders for the NBA championship and it really felt like they could go on to win the whole thing.
Kirk: Moments with Barea don’t come as clearly as plays, plays that often happened over and over and over again. The backdoor cut on the fast break he’d run with Devin Harris. The pick and rolls for alley oops he’d run with Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Powell, and so many more big men that played with Dallas for the last few years.
Barea, like Dirk Nowitzki before him, came to represent the Mavericks in a very real way. I’ve been very tough on him as a player the last two seasons. But Barea mattered. And I’ll certainly never forget him.
Kevin: A Barea memory that I come back to a lot is that crazy week in January of 2007 where he lit the D League on fire. If my memory is correct (and it probably isn’t) he scored 40 and 43 points in two games for the Ft. Worth Flyers. It was very exciting, especially after the 2006 letdown, to try to scour the the internet for clips or blurbs about this tiny dynamo who would be joining the big team.