Jason Barrera never let adversity stand in his way. Although the Elmsford local lost his father at a young age, he was soon making waves in the world of college basketball — that is, before he suffered a devastating injury. Undaunted, Barrera clawed his way back to stardom, first teaching kids’ basketball and then, after winning two slam-dunk contests, playing his way onto the Harlem Wizards. Today, Barrera travels the world as a member of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters. We caught up with the baller to get a sense of where he has been and what his achievements mean to him.
I lost my father on December 22, the day before my 12th birthday. It was a reality check, and it really shaped my work ethic. Before my father’s passing, I was a subpar student and was failing classes. But after, it made me focus on school and athletics. I was able to get my grades up to a 3.0 before graduating, and I played varsity basketball for Alexander Hamilton High School. My freshman year in college, I had a 3.65 GPA at Monroe College. I got on the dean’s list and received a scholarship to the College of St. Vincent, which is where I finished up. I like to tell my young fans to make sure you are working just as hard on the court as you are off the court — on your skills and education — because ultimately that is what is going to make you successful.
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I graduated in 2019, with a bachelor’s degree in sports management from the College of St. Vincent. I had two decisions: I could either go overseas, get my master’s there and play basketball for a club or go semipro. I decided to go semipro, and two weeks into the season, I broke my foot. I had to get surgery; they put a screw in my foot. My doctor said I might never be able to jump the same way, but I was able to 100% recover.
“I like to tell my young fans to make sure you are working just as hard on the court as you are off the court.”
I was playing a game with my friend Maxwell Pierce, who is also a Harlem Globetrotter, and he said, “You know, there is a tryout coming up for the Globetrotters.” I am from a small school in the Bronx and only 6’1”, so I was very nervous of what it was going to be like. He pulled some strings, and they flew me to Atlanta for the tryout. There was a whole bunch of D1 and D2 talent there, 6’8” and 6’7” guys, and they all had stories about NBA players they’d played against. I had played for a small high school, class C, a small AAU team, and ended up going to a small college — so everything I knew was small. After the tryouts, the coaches told me I impressed them and that they didn’t expect me to stand out among all the D1 talent. They offered me a contract in July.
Our main goal is to travel around the world, spreading the joy of basketball. For some, it’s an introduction to basketball. For others, it’s tapping into the nostalgia of growing up with the Globetrotters. You have kids coming in with no confidence, who are going through personal problems. But because of losing my father and getting hurt, I can relate.
I want to give back with basketball lessons and education to inspire kids. Outside of that, I am trying to grow my social media presence and get into acting. I am an extra in a Disney movie coming out next year, and I’m excited to get into entertainment and to give back to what basketball gave to me.