Between Valentine’s Day, the NBA All Star game, and Fashion Week’s kick-off, NYC last weekend was a perfect storm of parties that had the FOMO-afflicted wiling and racking up the Uber bills. Thankfully I am known to thrive on three hours of sleep a night and six day party benders, so I was on hand to hit up all of the everything. At last Saturday’s Hennessy V.S. brunch honoring Dallas Mavericks forward Charlie Villanueva for his basketball career, NYC roots, and philanthropic work within the Latino community, I got to kick it with fellow caribeños Yasiel Puig of the L.A. Dodgers, Bay Area via Panama duo Los Rakas, and the man of the hour himself, Villanueva. Here’s what I learned from the NBA star (who also holds Dominican citizenship) in an interview that has just as much Spanglish as you’d expect:
How do you feel being a part of the small group of Dominican players that have made it into the NBA? (Only 6 Dominicans have ever made it, with only 3 currently active).
Es un honor ser parte de ese grupo de Dominicanos that have been in the NBA. Big shout outs to Tito Hartford who was the pioneer, el primer Dominicano. It’s an honor as well to have a son representing Dominicans in the All-Star game [Hawks center Al Horford]. Dominicans have come a long way in the NBA, and the Latin community in general. As you see, there’s more Latinos coming into the NBA every year so that’s definitely an honor and I’m glad that I’m a part of it, it’s a blessing.
You’re also the only Dominican of all of them that was born in the U.S.
Yeah, being a New Yorker but raised by Dominican parents y comiendo platanos, salchicha y queso frito — I’m excited that the All-Star game is here in New York.
10 years, 4 teams — how do you adapt?
La NBA es un negocio, you know? And I learned that early in my career when I got traded after my first year. I thought I had a great season in Toronto and then bam, it just happens. And I was only 21 years old, so I had to learn that this is a business, un negocio. So, four teams, ten years — you know, I feel blessed that it’s been 10 years. And I’m only 30, I still got a long way to go, God willing. But the average career in the NBA is maybe 3 years, so the fact that I’m here for 10 is definitely a blessing.
Are we ever going to see you in a Dominican jersey again, representing the country in any national tournament?
Definitely. Soy Dominicano de sangre, you know, so para representar mi país that’s something that I always wanna do. I’m Dominican and to wear that jersey, representing myself and my parents and the whole Latin community — Dominicans especially — is an honor and I’m definitely looking forward to putting it on again.
Ed Note: Villanueva has a history of beef with the Dominican National Team’s former coach John Calipari.
Anthony Santos or Romeo Santos?
If you asked my mom she’d say Anthony Santos, but me, you know, a new generation — I’m gonna stick to what I know, and that’s Romeo.