Does the white man jump from NBA because of race?

Talk about NBA racial affiliation intensified this week.

Talk about NBA racial affiliation intensified this week.

Russ Espinoza

While the NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles unfurled with characteristic flash and glamour, a controversial discussion of the league’s racial affiliations was taking place online. A pair of articles titled “NBA All-Star Game: White Men Can’t Root” and “Black Thanksgiving commences in L.A. this weekend” have sparked an animated debate about the NBA’s appeal across the races.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Buzz Bissinger, who wrote “White Men Can’t Root” for the The Daily Beast, explains the NBA’s injured popularity with some incendiary opinions about white America’s detachment from a league predominantly populated with African-Americans.

“But a major problem with the NBA, one that is virtually never spoken about honestly, is the issue of race,” Bissinger said. “I know that whites ascribe very different characteristics to black athletes than they do white ones…it’s why you hear more than you should about how players in the NBA don’t ever look as if they are trying. Lack of effort is what whites still assume of black athletes in basketball…and they don’t have that blue-collar work ethic that makes white athletes Playaz”—Wilbon explains that “NBA All-Star Weekend merges two of the three most popular cultural components of Blackworld: basketball and music. He portrays All-Star Weekend’s frenzied fusion of rap and basketball as an event the nation’s contingent of more.”

Like skin color itself, people’s definitions of what constitutes racism vary. Some are lightning-quick to charge others as having racists attitudes and behaviors, as Bissinger, having flirted with “reverse racism,” is certainly learning first-hand. I don’t believe it’s far-fetched to conclude that individuals tend to develop stronger ties with persons resembling themselves—our instinctual pack mentality. On this extremely basic level, the alienation a portion of white America feels with the NBA is understandable.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings across races and groups begat stereotypes like the ones Bissinger listed. These, and not an individuals’ failure to relate to people of other colors, are the real agents of racism, and I agree with Bissinger that the NBA and its profuse black culture are the inordinate victims of stereotyping by white fans.

The NBA is not my favorite sport, but I occasionally watch it. And though Steve Nash, who is Canadian and white, is not my favorite player, I enjoy Nash’s game because he’s exceptionally gifted. I also strangely appreciate his likeness to me because it’s an easier escapist exercise to picture me as him. At the same time, any willing citizen of the 21st century knows that only a bigoted Neanderthal would dismiss a person’s skill-set based on the color of their skin.