On Tuesday, Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes took part in DICK's Sporting Goods' “Sports Matter” program. He met 21 girls from the Boys and Girls Club's “She's Got Game” initiative at DICK's Daly City store, and then gave each of them $150 for new gear and acted as a personal shopper. The Sports Matter program is a $25 million, multi-year commitment to saving youth sports that fits into the company's goal of giving “Gifts that Matter” this holiday season.
After the event, Barnes caught up with SI.com to discuss youth sports, the Warriors' season and more.
Rohan Nadkarni: How did you get involved with DICK's Sporting Goods and Sports Matter?
Harrison Barnes: When DICK's reached out, it was a no brainer. Being able to play sports in a school or public environment was everything for me—basketball, soccer, track. Seeing now how funding from schools is trying to eliminate that. An opportunity to help kids get equipment, shoes, shirts, gear, basketballs. It's huge.
RN: How would you have reacted if you were surprised like that as a kid?
HB: These kids, they were way more mature and relaxed than I would have been. They were laughing, cracking jokes. I would have frozen up. If I saw someone I'd seen on TV, I would have just froze.
RN: What are some of your favorite youth sports memories?
HB: Playing AAU, my first park and rec league games. Playing in that team environment. You'd always be shooting in the backyard, but playing in that environment, that was a lot of fun for me. It was such a great opportunity. I want kids to have that same experience.
RN: Could you have imagined being on such a successful team this early in your career?
HB: Man, it's a dream come true. I didn't have cable growing up. The only games I saw were the NBA on Sundays and the NBA Finals. I only saw great teams play. To be part of a team that won a ring last year, got off to a great start this year, and hopefully can make another postseason run this year, it's special. You just want to live in the moment.
RN: Is there any way to slow this Warriors team down?
HB: It's funny, everyone always tries to say what’s the key to stopping us. Our biggest strength is our depth. We have so many guys that can step up at any point in time. You can gameplan to stop one, two or three people, but, guys 14 and 15 can have a huge game. You never know. That’s what makes our team so special and allows us to have this success.
RN: Did you guys pause once the streak ended to look back at the accomplishment? How did you absorb that moment?
HB: There was some reflection after the loss to Milwaukee. We were like, 'Wow, we got off to a 24–0 start.' But there's still a lot of season left. It's 82 games and then the playoffs. There's so much for us to get better at. That’s kind of left everyone feeling inspired. It's like look, we got off to a great run, we broke some records, that’s cool, but there’s still a lot we need to get done.
RN: How did you guys fight complacency early in the season while knowing you will be judged by the playoffs?
HB: It's that taste of success that you get after winning a championship. You hit that mountaintop, it's an amazing feeling. Coming into the season, you want that feeling again. Every night is a rehearsal for that big stage. Every little thing that you go through. If you mess around, and you don't take every game as seriously as possible, there's going to be a time you get to the Finals and say look, 'We’re not sharp right now.' At that point, there’s nothing you can do. So I don’t think anyone wants to end the season with regret. So we’re approaching every night with a must-win attitude.
RN: Do you consider the Spurs to be your top rival right now?
HB: In the West, every team is great, from top to bottom. You see that not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs. Last season we played the “eighth seed” in the first round, but New Orleans is a great team. Yes, we beat them 4–0. But they pushed us, they challenged us every night. Memphis, Houston, yes, we won those series. But even Cleveland, yes, we won, but it’s tough. It’s not fair to say just San Antonio is a rival, or just OKC is a rival. No, every team in the West is a rival. On any given night, anything can happen.