Puerto Ricans in the NBA

José Juan Barea

I’ve been following the NBA Finals closely and cheering for the Dallas Mavericks, even though most basketball experts predict the Miami Heat will win the championship. I’m rooting for the Mavericks mainly because of José Juan Barea.

JJ Barea is the seventh Puerto Rican-born player to be in the NBA and the third ever to play in the NBA Finals. As a proud Puerto Rican, I’m just in awe to see a Boricua in the NBA Finals. Barea was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, my mother’s hometown.

I’m relatively a new professional basketball fan, so I missed supporting Carlos Arroyo in the 2005 NBA Finals when he played for the runner-up Detroit Pistons (the San Antonio Spurs won that year.) Arroyo, who was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and now plays for the Boston Celtics, was a member of the Puerto Rican National Basketball Team that defeated the United States at the 2004 Olympic Basketball Tournament.

The first Puerto Rican-born NBA player and the first to win a championship ring is Butch Lee, who was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and was drafted by the NBA in 1978. He played for the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the 1980 championship winning L.A. Lakers.

The other four Puerto Rican-born NBA players include: Ramon Rivas, the second Puerto Rican-born NBA player; José Ortiz, also a member of the 2004 Olympic Puerto Rican Basketball Team; Peter Ramos, also on the 2004 Puerto Rican Basketball Team; and Guillermo Diaz, the fifth Puerto Rican-born player drafted by the NBA.

As we all know, you don’t have to be born in Puerto Rico to be Puerto Rican, so I have to give a shout out to New York Knick Carmelo Anthony, whose father is Puerto Rican. Go Melo! If I’m missing any other Puerto Rican NBA player, please comment below.

Last night the Mavericks tied the NBA Finals against the Heat forcing Game 6 in Miami this Sunday, which just happens to be the day of the National Puerto Rican Parade. I can’t wait to see Barea representing all Boricuas on Sunday!

Go JJ! Represent! Wepa!

(Please see the comments section for players I missed.)


About Phil Velez

writer, blogger, & communication professional
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8 Responses to Puerto Ricans in the NBA

  1. Alicea says:

    Well I am glad to see that you follow the history our players within the NBA. However, I think you may have one fact wrong. Butch Lee was born of American Parents in Puerto Rico. Yes he was born there so this gave him the right to play for the national team. To me J.J. is the first Puertorican blood NBA player to win an NBA title. Melo was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn NY. His father was Puertorican who passed when mello was two and his mother is African American. He is more P.R. than Butch Lee. You are right to say that a puertorican don’t have to be there to be one. It is all in the blood. But there again I might be wrong so check it out.

  2. Phil Velez says:

    Thanks for the comment, Alicea. You are correct. Butch Lee was born of American parents in Puerto Rico, making JJ Barea the first blood-born Puerto Rican to win an NBA title. It’s a big distinction but I had to include Lee since he’s credited elsewhere as being the first Puerto Rican-born player in the NBA. Congrats to Barea! Hope all is well and thanks again.

  3. Billy says:

    You left three Players who played in the NBA!! Daniel Santiago who played for Phoenix and Milwaukee. Ramon Rivas with the Celtics (used number 45 and Carlos Arroyo used his number as a tribute!) and last but Definetly not least Ramon Ramos, who had a great Collegue career in Seton Hall, and was signed by the Portland Trailblazers but did not played a game due to an very unfortunate accident coming home from a game!

  4. Billy says:

    Sorry you did have Rivas!!

  5. Phil Velez says:

    Thanks, Billy! I appreciate you listing Daniel Santiago and Ramon Ramos as Puerto Rican basketball players I missed.

  6. gil matos says:

    You forgot Renaldo Balkman who played with numerous NBA teams. And Beasley and Haslem who have puerto rican grandparents.

  7. Phil this is your day job bro nice!!!

  8. Juni rodz says:

    Shabazz Napier and Maurice Harkless are also of Puerto Rican decent

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