The NBA has become one of the most successful sports brands in utilizing technology and social media. Players have taken it upon themselves in recent years to get in on the action, exploring the world of digital and tech off the court.
One of those players is Mavs forward Harrison Barnes, who has discovered a second passion in the tech world. Barnes spent a summer interning at Facebook in 2014 and has now evolved into one of Fitbit’s main endorsers. Barnes helped introduced the brand's first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic at a media event in Montauk last month.
Barnes spoke with The Crossover about his burgeoning interest in tech, along with how his summer is going, his expectations for the 2017-18 season and more.
(Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed.)
JH: What made you get involved with tech so much?
HB: Just the curiosity. When I got to the Bay Area, everyone was talking about 'Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley,' so I just wanted to go and learn more about it. So I started off with social media, learning more about that and understanding that. You know, seeing the analytics explosion in the NBA. It wasn’t something I was really into in college but in the NBA everything is numbers and how you can be more efficient, so that led to me trying to make my body more efficient, and obviously Fitbit was at the top of the line for that so it made sense.
JH: How has Fitbit helped you as an NBA player?
HB: Just my overall cardio condition base, going from last year to this year it was a huge jump in usage, minutes, toll on the body and all of that kind of stuff. So I definitely needed to be prepared on how to get the most out of my body but also how do I stay on the court and not pull a hammy or hurt my knee, that type of thing.
JH: As you mentioned, you spent your first years in the NBA playing in the heart of Silicon Valley. What are some of the things you learned?
HB: It was great. I think the thing I liked about it was the creativity. There’s so much innovation. So much knowledge that’s being created, made into reality, I mean it’s nuts. And it all starts from from that place. I'm not saying there isn't creativity in other places, but there was so much happening there during my four years and I just tried to stay connected.
JH: You interned at Facebook. What was that experience like?
HB: It was great. It’s funny a lot of the stuff I was talking to them about and working on, came to fruition. A couple months later getting to see that stuff go live, everyone has like the live video chat and that type of stuff now. But at the time I didn't even see Q&A’s in the comment section, and now it has gone to a whole another level. It is pretty cool to see how quickly things can change.
JH: Is tech something you would like to dive into more once you retire?
HB: I think it will be an interest of mind for the rest of my life because we become more integrated with it every single day. I mean you look at apps like Uber, Postmates, Instacart, things that have revolutionized how quickly we can do stuff. I can be on a flight and schedule groceries to be delivered to my house and a car to pick me up when I land. It is nuts. And it is something that I will always be interested in.
JH: Mark Cuban is one of the most successful tech people in the world. Does he give you any advice about off-the-court ventures and investing in stuff?
HB: [Laughs] Well, he said the best investment of my time is on the basketball court. So that is the biggest advice he has given me.
JH: So there is no chance of you pitching anything to him on Shark Tank?
HB: [Laughs] Nah, I have had a chance to see it though, which is pretty cool. Just to see him in action and see the real thing happen. Like on TV the pitches are three minutes, but in real life every pitch is like 45-50 minutes. They go through the numbers and all that type of stuff and a lot of things that don’t make TV so it is pretty cool to see that stuff in person.
JH: The NBA has become so digitally focused and one of the best brands on social media. What makes the NBA such an attractive entertainment outlet on social compared to like the NFL?
HB: I mean, for us it’s the number of games. If you look at the things we have going on, you look at our season there’s 7-8 games happening on one night. There is all these different things. The media, the highlights, guys on their personal social media platforms and the NBA kind of boosts that. The game has become year round. You look at the draft, free agency, Summer League and there are still blockbuster trades going on and stuff happening so it’s really an exciting time to be in the league.
JH: What are some of your favorite apps currently and why? Do you have a top three?
HB: My top three favorite apps, that’s tough... The first one is the Bible app, I have it on the top left corner of my screen. I try to lead my morning off starting everyday with that. A lot of times you can get so caught up in social media and your day can get a bit crazy so I always try to start off with that. Next, I will check my Fitbit app so I can see how much I slept. I always try to get eight hours, which at this point is a bit unrealistic, but eight is something I want to do. And the next is probably Twitter. With everything going on nowadays things are happening so quickly, Twitter is where things happen most of the time.
JH: What are you looking forward to this NBA season?
HB: The next step is getting better individually and as a team. Last year was a tough season because we had a lot of guys coming in and out but this year hopefully we can start off on the right track. Individually, I obviously want to try to take the next step and become a better player and try to make the playoffs.