Basketball: Is It A Black And White Issue? Kool-Aid, Volume Three

Euno LeeCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2010

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Jason Williams #44 of the Orlando Magic in action during their game against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena on January 12, 2010 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

First of all, I'd like to give big ups to my friend E.T. (I'll publish his real name if he wants me to) for sending me the best article I've read all day.  Billy Blyer of the Augusta Chronicle reported that an all-white basketball league named the "All-American Basketball Alliance" is attempting to establish a team in Augusta, Georgia

In order to make a basketball squad in the AABA, you must have "two Caucasian parents" and be a "natural born U.S. citizen" (sorry, Dirk, Pau, and all of you other supremely gifted white-European players).

I've already refrained from using a tasteless title (some scrapped ideas include "J.J. Redick:  The White Michael Jordan" and "Tyler Hansbrough Refuses an Offer to be America's Basketball Jesus"), but I will further this position by not taking the traditional journalist's route and poking at all the obvious racial indiscretions.  You can read the article, but an assertion made by AABA commissioner Don Lewis makes the article this time:

"There's nothing hatred [sic] about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."

But wait!  There's more!

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."

I can't speak for Mr. Lewis's intentions, but I can say the outcome has become, at best, a misguided concern for America's deteriorating values ("what values?" yeah, I know.), and at worst, well.  You know.  That ugly "r" word we all try to avoid.

This raises two questions for us NBA fans to ponder, one which was partially answered with the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, and the other a question of David Stern's legacy as commissioner, which will be addressed when he actually retires. 

As for David Stern's policies, many of them have had positive outcomes.  I honestly believe Stern doesn't see color or attempt to dissociate the NBA from hip-hop culture in a way that invokes racial stereotypes.  I think David Stern understands that men (and some very, very great women) watch these games with their children, and that there are certain levels of irresponsibility that will not be tolerated.

That said, there is one major question right now that needs to be addressed:  are the playing styles and tendencies (apparently the two sides here are "fundamentally sound" and "street-ball") of NBA players divided by racial lines? 

The answer, of course, is an absolute no.  The color of a person's skin does not determine their playing style by any means.  Jason Williams (above), perhaps the flashiest (and far and away the most entertaining) basketball player of our generation, once had his picture doctored by Phil Jackson during the Kings-Lakers playoff series in 2000 to look like Edward Norton's character in American History X.  I can't make this up, but I wish I could.

If anything, one of the undeniable kings of showmanship basketball was actually white:  his name was Pistol Pete Maravich.  To get a distilled, crappier version of what The Pistol looked like, search "Ricky Rubio" on YouTube. 

Need I mention Steve Nash and his array of gaudy passes?  The list really goes on.  White players aren't fettered to a fundamentally sound style of play and black players aren't all street-ballers.  Both of them have a jobget the ball in the basket and stop the other team from scoring on your basket.  How you do it is a combination of a multitude of factors, from coaching schematics to playing styles and opposing team match-ups.

Having many of the best basketball players in the world, from all over the world, in one league, is what makes basketball so distinctively American.  Each player might bring a different playing style to the table, but in the end, the way the different styles come together is what makes basketball such a beautiful game; it elevates sport and turns it into a competitive art form. 

I only wish I could say that Don Lewis felt the same way.