Sports: Married to the NBA

Three
kids and hectic schedules can be a strain on any marriage – especially when the
husband plays for the NBA.

Jennifer
Nájera has been married to Dallas Mavericks reserve forward, Eduardo Nájera for
10 years. They met as college sophomores while Eduardo helped the Sooners through
four consecutive NCAA tournaments.

These
days, Jennifer resides at their Edmond, Oklahoma home with their children, ages 7, 5 and
2. Eduardo stays in their Dallas home during the season, which starts in
September and can run until June if the team makes the playoffs. Jennifer and
the kids visit him every weekend the Mavs are at home in Dallas.

“It’s
hard being away from him so much,” Jennifer says. “Family life is definitely tough in the NBA. They’re on the road;
they’re tired from practicing. Mentally, they have to be completely focused on
basketball, so it’s really hard to come in as a family and have his full
attention.”

Jennifer
says Eduardo is great with the kids, but he has to make basketball a priority. She
says it’s similar to other demanding careers — if the phone rings, he has to
drop everything and go.

“It’s
neat to be able to say that my husband is an NBA player,” Jennifer says. “It’s
still a lot of fun and the kids enjoy it.”

Eduardo
usually calls Jennifer in the mornings, when he gets out of practice and in the
evenings to say goodnight to the kids. “We try to communicate throughout the
day and we text,” she says. They recently bought a cell phone for their
7-year-old daughter, and she text-messages back and forth with her dad all day,
talking and sending each other pictures.

Jennifer
is mostly a stay-at-home mom and part-owner of Funky Monkey Clothing, located in
NW Oklahoma City at 14101 N. May Avenue. “It’s kind of like my fourth baby — my
last baby,” she says.

In
the summer, Eduardo hosts basketball camps in Mexico. “He has a gift to work
with people and teach them,” Jennifer says. “He’s really smart on the court; he
always knows where the ball is. As a player, that gives him an advantage, but
as a coach that’s even better.”

In
2000, Eduardo became the first Mexican-born player drafted to the NBA and the
second Mexican-born NBA player in history. He played for the Mavericks until
2004, while Jennifer and their only child at the time lived in Dallas with him.

When
Eduardo was traded to the Golden State Warriors, they’d just found out Jennifer
was pregnant with their second child and made a decision to be near family in
Edmond. “We decided that we were going to make a base here and I’d travel back
and forth with the kids,” she says.

By
the time that child was born, Eduardo had been traded to the Denver Nuggets. In
2008, he went to play for the New Jersey Nets. This year, he returned to the
Mavericks. “Now that he’s back in Dallas, it’s much easier to go down there
every weekend,” Jennifer says.

She
says there are a lot of perks to having a famous husband. Long waiting lists at
nice restaurants seem to disappear when her husband is recognized. “It’s
nothing major, but it’s nice,” Jennifer says.

Eduardo
and Jennifer were invited to a State Dinner at the White House in 2001. “When
you have dinner at the White House, you don’t get to sit with who you came
with. He was at table number one and I was at table 21,” Jennifer says. “I
thought I was going to be at the back of the room, but it wound up being
totally opposite.”

Eduardo’s
table was at the back of the room and Jennifer shared a table at the front with
Laura Bush, former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, Mexican President
Vincente Fox and Clint Eastwood. Jennifer says she’s met many famous people during
Eduardo’s NBA career.

“The
fans in Dallas are really good to him,” she says. “They appreciate the effort
that he puts on the court, diving for the ball and sacrificing his body. The
wear and tear on his body after ten years is certainly taking its toll. He
fights for the ball, instead of crying about not getting it.”

Jennifer says she’s glad Eduardo is able to play
basketball. “He enjoys it and it’s nice that he can get up and look forward to
going. I’m glad that he can do something he loves.”

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