Shortly after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September, Mavericks guard J.J. Barea returned to his native country:
“You go to Puerto Rico and fly in and look out the window and it’s beautiful. The water’s blue. People are moving and you feel the vibe. Yesterday, you look out the window and it was dead, completely dead. People are struggling. It was good to be there to help, but it was tough. We need a lot of help and it’s going to take awhile. It’s going to be a long, long process.
He became an active participant in that process, and for that, he won the NBA’s 2018 citizenship award.
Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea has won the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, as administered and selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA). The honor, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Barea was one of five finalists for the award, along with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. The finalists were chosen by a committee of 25 PBWA members from a list of 25 nominees submitted by NBA teams. The winner was determined by a vote of the entire PBWA, which is composed of more than 200 writers and editors who cover the NBA on a regular basis for newspapers, magazines and websites.
A 12-year NBA veteran, Barea is being honored for his swift and sustained response to disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Born and raised in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Barea married his wife, Viviana Ortiz, on the island in August 2016. His parents and other family members live in Puerto Rico and were among those affected by the September storm.
“J.J. Barea’s impassioned and tireless efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico are inspiring and should spur us all to contribute in our own communities,” said PBWA President Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “PBWA members salute J.J., his fellow finalists and fellow nominees for their outstanding and heartfelt work.”
In the days immediately after Hurricane Maria, Barea coordinated five trips to the island and worked with partners in North Texas to deliver generators, food, water, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities. He borrowed the Mavericks’ team plane from owner Mark Cuban to facilitate delivery.
In addition to providing more than 100,000 pounds of supplies, Barea helped organize financial support for families affected by the hurricane. He has personally raised nearly $500,000 and launched a fundraiser on YouCaring.com that has generated nearly $270,000. Barea also worked with the Mavericks to donate 100 percent of all single-game ticket sales from their Oct. 25 game against the Memphis Grizzlies, raising an additional $114,000 for Puerto Rico’s recovery.
In January, the J.J. Barea Foundation – which offers economic assistance to nonprofit entities in Puerto Rico – partnered with ofo, the world’s leading station-free bike-sharing company, to donate 600 bikes to help with transportation on the island. After being shipped to Puerto Rico and assembled by the foundation with guidance and training from ofo, the bikes were distributed among the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico and communities along the Martín Peña Channel.
Barea, 33, averaged career highs of 11.6 points and 6.3 assists in 69 games (11 starts) for Dallas in the 2017-18 season. The undrafted 6-foot guard has career averages of 8.9 points and 3.9 assists in 764 games, spending nine seasons with the Mavericks and three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Below is the complete list of winners of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
1974-75 Wes Unseld, Washington
1975-76 Slick Watts, Seattle
1976-77 Dave Bing, Washington
1977-78 Bob Lanier, Detroit
1978-79 Calvin Murphy, Houston
1979-80 Austin Carr, Cleveland
1980-81 Mike Glenn, New York
1981-82 Kent Benson, Detroit
1982-83 Julius Erving, Philadelphia
1983-84 Frank Layden, Utah
1984-85 Dan Issel, Denver
1985-86 Michael Cooper, L.A. Lakers, and Rory Sparrow, New York
1986-87 Isiah Thomas, Detroit
1987-88 Alex English, Denver
1988-89 Thurl Bailey, Utah
1989-90 Doc Rivers, Atlanta
1990-91 Kevin Johnson, Phoenix
1991-92 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
1992-93 Terry Porter, Portland
1993-94 Joe Dumars, Detroit
1994-95 Joe O’Toole, Atlanta
1995-96 Chris Dudley, Portland
1996-97 P.J. Brown, Miami
1997-98 Steve Smith, Atlanta
1998-99 Brian Grant, Portland
1999-00 Vlade Divac, Sacramento
2000-01 Dikembe Mutombo, Philadelphia
2001-02 Alonzo Mourning, Miami
2002-03 David Robinson, San Antonio
2003-04 Reggie Miller, Indiana
2004-05 Eric Snow, Cleveland
2005-06 Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
2006-07 Steve Nash, Phoenix
2007-08 Chauncey Billups, Detroit
2008-09 Dikembe Mutombo, Houston
2009-10 Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia
2010-11 Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers
2011-12 Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
2012-13 Kenneth Faried, Denver
2013-14 Luol Deng, Cleveland
2014-15 Joakim Noah, Chicago
2015-16 Wayne Ellington, Brooklyn
2016-17 LeBron James, Cleveland
2017-18 J.J. Barea, Dallas
Good for Barea, and hopefully his efforts culminate in Puerto Ricans regaining their quality of life.