The Golden State Warriors are well-known worldwide, but if you don’t know about the SF Bay Area Pro-Am, you don’t know Bay Area hoops.
And if you know about the SF Pro-Am, you know about Jovan Harris. He first appeared on the Kezar Gym court in 1996 as a high school baller from El Cerrito High School. Harris followed that up by playing for two renowned college basketball schools in the Bay Area. He’s had a lengthy and accomplished career as a professional, and Harris won multiple medals competing internationally along the way.
Harris’ story isn’t over, either. Far from it. Harris is the reigning MVP of the SF Pro-Am, and the former champion is still hungry, even as he mentors the younger players on his team, East Bay.
“I just want to win a championship, you know what I mean?” Harris said from the court at Kezar, just after East Bay lost a close game to fellow contender SF City. East Bay followed that loss with a win over Dream Team on July 13.
For those that don’t know: The SF Pro-Am started in 1979 and has seen a bevy of famous pro and amateur ballers from the Bay Area and elsewhere lace ’em up and put on a show for the crowd. Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, Aaron Gordon, Matt Barnes, Jason Richardson, and Stephen Curry have all played at Kezar, to name a few. Amazingly, the games were free to attend then, and they still are.
Harris first appeared on the court at Kezar with Bay Pride, one of the eight squads that comprise the Pro-Am. “I came out of the stands because Bay Pride didn’t have enough players, so I made fifth. It was on from there,” Harris told the BASH.
Bay Pride already had four Pro-Am legends on the court at that moment in time: Randy Duck, Raymond “Circus” King, Bennett Davison, and Jaha Wilson. Duck and King each played for Cal in the ’90s. King attended El Cerrito High School, as Harris did. Davison was born in San Francisco and attended high school at Analy in the North Bay. He went on to win an NCAA national championship with the Arizona Wildcats. Wilson went to Riordan High in San Francisco and starred at USC as a collegiate.
They didn’t know it at the time, but they had invited a future Bay Area hoops legend to the court in Harris.
After his teenage debut at Kezar, Harris went on to star at St. Mary’s and the University of San Francisco basketball teams. After leaving USF in 2004, Harris earned a spot in the D-League (now called the G-League) with the Bakersfield Jam. In 2009, Harris caught on with the premier Mexican basketball league, Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional, where he’s thrived during a 13-year career.
In 2011, Harris led Mexico to a victory against the United States in the Pan American Games, scoring a team-high 15 points. You can see Harris, who is a native of Richmond in the East Bay but also carries Mexican nationality, tear up Puerto Rico in the 2013 games here. In all, Harris won a gold medal and two silver medals at the Pan American Games.
At the SF Pro-Am, I’ve seen Harris have plenty of gold medal-worthy moments. He won his first MVP back in 2008 and won three Pro-Am titles before his second MVP performance in 2019.
So to recap: Harris first appeared at Kezar in 1996 and returned home to win multiple championships and MVP awards at the Pro-Am, with his MVPs coming 11 years apart. After the Pro-Am went on its two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Harris, now 41 years of age, is back for more, an astounding 26 years after his debut.
“I just like to hoop. I’m a hooper, man. I don’t know nothing else,” Harris said. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole career, getting paid for it. I never really had a job. I’ve been working out every day, just trying to stay young.
“I never sat down on a couch. I just kept playing.”
What’s in motion is hard to stop, and Harris seems to have mastered the art of longevity. Here he is in action on the night I caught up with him at Kezar. Harris wears No. 5 in black, and you can see him hit his patented lefty jumper about a minute into the video below, which comes courtesy of Untold Greatness.
Harris’ brother, Franco Harris, played ball for Diablo Valley College and Boise State, and he plays for East Bay, too. Here’s a photo of the Harris brothers and more shots of Jovan Harris from East Bay’s game vs. SF City.
So can Harris win yet another championship and perhaps an MVP at the SF Pro-Am this summer?
I wouldn’t bet against him. I’ve seen him lead East Bay to victory against a Dream Team squad that boasted both Matt Barnes and Tyreke Evans as leaders, as Harris rained down 3-pointers on their heads. Harris reminded me that East Bay also beat South Bay when they featured Palo Alto product Jeremy Lin.
As Harris continues at the Pro-Am, he’s a source of inspiration for other players in the league who want to experience the same longevity and status that Harris has enjoyed over his accomplished career.
“You can’t stop. You just gotta keep going,” Harris told me when I asked him what he tells his younger teammates. “You gotta have that Mamba mentality. If you sit down and you quit, it’s going to be over.”
After two and a half decades of experience at the SF Pro-Am, it’s still not over for Harris. And you get the feeling he could play as long as he wants to. For Bay Area basketball fanatics who religiously attend games at Kezar every summer, it’s a treat to watch such an accomplished Bay Area hooper put on a show.
But each game is simply another day in motion for Harris, as he dares other teams to beat the reigning MVP in the race for this year’s SF Pro-Am championship and perhaps earn a legendary status all their own.