Lesser-knowns nab all-world talent

Zuleyka Rivera is just another reason to watch the NBA?playoffs.

There used to be a time when only the certified stars from the sporting world dated famous actresses and supermodels. If you’re Miss Universe, and Derek Jeter sees you on “Regis” the night after you won the crown, he’ll have his people call your people to set something up. Boom. Done.

Or if you’re the most recognizable athlete on the Miami Heat in the 1990s, and you can run an area like South Beach because you happen to model in the offseason (talking about Rony Seikaly here) and frequent all the right clubs … sure, you can land a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover model like Elsa Benitez.

But how in the name of Lyle Lovett did a backup NBA point guard like J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks capture the heart of 2006 Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera?

By text message, of course.

Rivera, who was 18 when she won the crown, was in a relationship when she met Barea in their native Puerto Rico, but just like riding the pine in the NBA, he waited it out. When her relationship ended, he shot her texts and drove the lane from there.

Not a bad job by the undersized assist man who went undrafted out of Northeastern and now plays about 20 minutes a night backing up Jason Kidd.

Barea and Rivera have been dating for more than six months, and with any luck, she’ll be able to pry herself away from her soap opera job in Miami to show up at some Mavs playoff games. The Lone Star State needs a new smoking basketball wife after Eva Longoria dumped Tony Parker.

Northern Exposure

Anyone else feel like baseball’s increasingly becoming a regional sport? Sure, the big-spenders like the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox are known nationally (thanks ESPN), but also-rans like the Toronto Blue Jays, who haven’t made the postseason since John Olerud wore a hard hat at first base, are completely off the radar.

Other than the guy who bopped 54 homers for them last year (Jose Bautista, in case you’d forgotten), can you name five Blue Jays?

Here’s some help: Ricky Romero, who is probably their best pitcher. Why will he be easy to remember? Because Romero is dating the reigning Miss USA, Rima Fakih.

Someone on Twitter had a great line: In Toronto on Opening Day, you had a kid of Mexican descent pitching; his girlfriend, Miss USA, is from Lebanon. Pretty neat. Cooler than that: Romero is making $30 million.

–Jason Raj McIntyre covers athletes off the field and runs the popular blog, TheBigLead.com

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Please send 100-word submissions to letters@metro.us.


OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…


Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…


Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."


Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.


'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…


Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.


Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…


Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.


Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.


Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.


Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.


Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…


Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.


Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.


Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.


Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.