Lookback: Sorry, ESPN, White American Players Aren’t Vital to the NBA’s Success


I woke up at noon and the BYU game starts in an hour so I didn’t have time to get a new article up, but I do have an old article that loosely ties in to college basketball Saturday. Enjoy

A year ago ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” produced a report about the lack of white American players in the NBA and it hinted that white Americans are important to the NBA’s success in some ways.

And recently acclaimed author Buzz Bissinger published an article saying the reason the NBA is on a supposed decline is because older white fans just simply can’t root for black people like they do whites.

Well as a white basketball player, I enjoyed the insight the ESPN piece gave about the recent turnout of white Americans in the NBA and the reasons why they haven’t been getting their chance in the Association. I completely disagree with the fact that they are vital to the league’s success for a number of obvious reasons.

As for Bissinger, enjoy your Pulitzer Prize, but you are published something that a million ignorant failed writers/radio hosts have written/said to get a reaction, and ignored facts to do so.

I am going to ignore the obvious fact that the NBA’s TV numbers are up and attendance isn’t as bad as NBA detractors say and am mainly going to focus on the issue of race.

First off, during the period when the majority of players in the league were white, the NBA was basically a regional league that was second in popularity to the NCAA—the 1980 NBA Final was shown on tape delay. So the statement that the NBA’s most successful days were when the league was dominated by white Americans from Indiana is painfully false.

Oh and two of the main players in bringing the league into the national spotlight, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, who are black.

If you are searching for the peak of the NBA’s popularity, you have to look to the ’90s, specifically during the second Bulls run before the lockout. The NBA was arguably the most popular of the big four pro leagues and it had classic Finals match-ups between the Bulls and Jazz, probably the best match-ups of all time. (The Lakers and Celtics rivalry being in the discussion.)

The NBA was already dominated by black superstars at this point, with a few white American superstars in the league during the ’80s like Bird and McHale. Black superstars paved the way for that awesome decade of basketball in the ’90s that was the most exciting period in the history of the NBA.

During the ’90s I don’t remember one player who was a bonafide superstar, there were great players like there are now, but there were no Birds or Pistol Pete’s either. So don’t tell me the reason the NBA “sucks” now and is inferior to college basketball is because the lack of white Americans, you are off your rocker.

The NBA has never had to rely on white stars to succeed like the NFL and the MLB, so I don’t know why major media outlets feel that whites equal mainstream popularity.

Is the United States still so racially biased that they believe that Americans will tune in more to watch a white athlete at the top of his sport over a black one?

It just stuns me that a network fresh off making a documentary about Jimmy The Greek wouldn’t learn from the moral of the story.

ESPN: as good as you might be in your coverage of the NBA, in this case you are dead wrong.