Larry Bird's Pacers: A Whiteout?

ChiCitySports .ComCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Larry Bird answers questions with Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (not pictured) during a news conference to relive their 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Indiana State and Michigan State before the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Last week, I’m sitting in my favorite eatery and I see a discussion on TV about the Indiana Pacers

Why are the Pacers in the news?  I see the words sliding across the screen:  “Pacers facing diversity problems.”

What type of diversity problems are the Indiana Pacers having?  Is this an episode of "The Office?"

Upon arriving home, I checked out the Pacers upcoming roster on the Internet and sure enough, they will be lacking some color this upcoming season.  .

Putting it bluntly, the Indiana Pacers will be very white.

What I don’t understand is, why this is newsworthy?  Is there a specific number of whites, blacks, foreign-born players, etc. per squad in the NBA?  Is there a limit on the number of forwards, guards, and centers too?  As I see it, each team can field the best players they can put on the court (per salary cap rules, money available, etc.). 

But now color (or lack there of) is an issue?

As of now, the Pacers have six white, American-born players on their roster.  Those players are:  Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts, Travis Diener, Jeff Foster, and Tyler Hansbrough. 

Hansbrough is their first round pick out of North Carolina.  Dunleavy and Murphy are starters.  Foster has started, but was sidelined by injuries.  Diener comes in off the bench.

GM Larry Bird has taken some heat for putting this group together.  According to Bird, he simply wants players who can play.  He doesn’t care what color they are, he just wants them to give everything they've got and put the Pacers back in the playoffs. 

If anyone would know about playoffs, it would be Larry Legend.  As a matter of fact, Bird would also know a thing or two about playing on some teams that were relatively white, too.

The last time Bird and the Celtics won the title, it was 1986.  That ’85-’86 team defeated the Houston Rockets in six games.  The Celtics roster that year, along with Bird, were:  Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, Scott Wedman, Sam Vincent, Kevin McHale, Greg Kite, and David Thirdkill.  Of the twelve, eight are white.

The following year, the Boston played Los Angeles in a classic seven game series, won by the Magic Johnson-fueled Lakers.  On that Celtics team were:  Bird, McHale, Johnson, Parish, Ainge, Darren Daye, Fred Roberts, Sichting, Vincent, Walton, Kite, and Conner Henry.  Once again, eight of the twelve are white.

Have times changes so much that color has become that big of a difference?  I really don’t know.  But I don’t think Bird should be catching so much heat when he has six of twelve white players.

Is this a diversity crisis?  I hardly think so.  If the Pacers win fifty games, no one will think twice. 

Then again, maybe they will.

As always, I welcome your comments.


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