It’s fair to say Harrison Barnes is a popular guy. In just his first season with the Dallas Mavericks he was voted “Teammate of the Year,” and his well-attended July wedding was a headline-making event. His coach Rick Carlisle, a classically trained pianist, even serenaded the guests at Barnes’ reception with a rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
That was special, but don’t think Barnes didn’t feel it this year—the sting of missing the postseason for the first time in his career. Just two seasons ago, the 25-year-old forward was hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy as a champion with Golden State. This season? Despite the fact that he averaged a career-high 19.2 points per game, “this was the longest summer I’ve ever been a part of—I felt like I retired!” Barnes said with a laugh. It was a wake-up call, he told Complex, and motivation to help lead the Mavs back to contention as he heads into the second year of his four-year, $94 million contract.
Part of his extended offseason included honeymooning in Italy and meeting rabid European fans on a jaunt with NBA Spain, then making his way to the idyllic hamlet of Montauk, New York, for a Fitbit product launch. You wouldn’t blame the long-running brand ambassador if he pulled the usual “pose for pics and skate out the back door” move. But actually, Barnes put in work.
Sweating buckets with a gaggle of reporters getting their butts kicked by celeb trainer Harley Pasternak and cycling miles alongside pro biker Jens Voigt, Barnes was taking no shortcuts. It was easy to see how he could be a guy his new teammates on the Mavs might respect.
Before reps, Barnes talked to Complex about fitness, faith, and bonding with Mark Cuban over tech talk.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Congratulations on being voted Teammate of the Year.
HB: That was surprising. [Laughs] I always try to give myself to my teammates as much as I can—time, energy, effort, things I’ve learned throughout my first five years. So it means a lot that they see that, they value that, and I got that award.
So you feel like you’ve really been embraced by the city of Dallas and the team?
HB: Oh, no question. Since the day I got there the city’s always shown a lot of love. The players on the team have been great. We had a lot of transition last year and a tough season, but the guys are what allowed me to get through it, for sure.
What’s your initial impression of the new kid, Dennis Smith Jr.?
HB: Dennis is a great kid. I mean, I gave him a hard time because I feel like he should have went to North Carolina over NC State, but he’s a good kid. He comes from a good family and he’s got a lot of tools that will allow him to be a very good player in this league for a very long time.
You might get asked this a lot, but what have you learned from Dirk Nowitzki since being on the Mavs?
HB: I don’t get asked that! I think Dirk, just his work ethic. When he came in the league you look where he started, to be able to become MVP, be a perennial All-Star, a lot of people said he would never be able to lead his team to a championship—which he did with no other All-Stars on the team, which is very rare, especially in today’s NBA—I think how he is always just precise and diligent about his work ethic is the biggest thing I’ve learned.
When did you first get involved with Fitbit and what was attractive about the opportunity?
HB: I’m dating myself here; it’s actually been a couple years now. I’ve always been big into tech, big into how can I make myself a better athlete, but also how can I just be healthy in general. When Fitbit approached me with the opportunity it just seemed like it was a natural fit. I’m always into analytics on the court—how can I get better—so this just allows me to do that all the time now. When I’m training, I’m sleeping, I’m walking around, I can just see how active I am and get that real-time feedback.
What are your favorite features? Are there certain stats you really like to track and measure?
HB: Yeah, achieving the step goal every single day: 10,000. When I’m on the court it’s a pretty easy thing for me to do, but on days when I’m not on the court it’s one of those things where I look up like, ‘Dang what can I do to make myself active so I feel like I’m not just laying around?’ So that’s fun for me.
But the sleep as well, just because we travel so much. We’re in different hotels, different cities, the schedules move all around, so just making sure I really try to get that eight hours of sleep. A lot of times people will be like, OK, I’m going to sleep at midnight waking up at 8, I got eight hours, but in actuality you might be awake for 50 minutes, you might be awake for an hour—
—playing on your phone…
HB: Exactly. So then it’s like, dang I only got seven hours, or six-thirty, how can I get it up to eight? And those are the things that have really helped me, I think, give me more energy throughout the season because over the course of 82 games, it’s a lot.
Speaking of tech, you recently mentioned the popular startup Walker & Co. on your social media. What’s your involvement with them?
HB: Honestly, I like to have a clean shave. [Laughs.] But no, [Founder and CEO] Tristan [Walker] is a good friend of mine. I was fortunate enough to be able to invest with them back when they just had the single-blade razor, and now, I mean, it’s crazy to see where the company is going. They have the trimmer now, they just came out with Form Beauty, which is a line for women with textured hair—and they’re going to be sold in Sephora too, which is pretty cool—so it’s great to see how that company has grown and I’m fortunate enough to be aligned with great partners.
Is tech something you’ve been able to chop it up with Mark Cuban about?
HB: Cuban is great. He’s a huge techie. He’s all into learning the ins and outs of every little gadget, every little thing. I got the team Fitbit watches, so he’s a big Stairmaster guy, so he’ll be doing that and he really likes to compete and know the steps and all that type of stuff. It’s been cool to talk to him a lot about it because he’s literally so plugged in, it’s like I can either check Twitter or talk to him about what’s going on in the world and they can both give me the scoop.
You wrote a piece for Player’s Tribune about wanting to put down roots in Dallas and really get involved. Did you make progress with that goal this offseason?
HB: I had a few basketball camps this year in South Dallas for some kids just to help them get on the court, have fun that way, but also talk about life lessons as well. I think it’s just very important that people who have time and want to volunteer can go and reach these kids because a lot of times all they need is to know that somebody is caring about them, thinking about them, looking out for them. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of people look out for me when I was younger—not just on the court, but off the court, helping me stay on the straight and narrow and focus on the things I need to focus on to be successful. So now being in the position I am now even at 25, to be able to try to hopefully give those kids some advice, some opportunities that I had, I make it my business.
And out of curiosity, do you feel like the popularity of celebs such as Steph Curry and Chance the Rapper have made it easier to be vocal about your faith?
HB: For me, my faith has always been a big thing for me. My mom is from Mississippi, so we were raised old school, so that was the foundation for us. I think it’s great to see how...I don’t want to say how popular sharing your faith is, but I think that more and more people are being more open about what they believe in. And at the same point too, it’s nice to be able to work in a place like the NBA where you can be open about what you believe in. There’s no pressure at the top from what you should be believing and what you shouldn’t be saying; you can kind of do your own thing. So I’m proud to be a follower of Christ, and that’s what I’m about.