Sports Nut

Should We Care About How Many White Players Are in the NBA?


Well, the Suns certainly gave it what they had tonight, but unfortunately, what they had fell two players short. Steve Nash loves a good hockey metaphor, and he got his hockey game tonight, as the Suns spent most of the time defending against the power play. And David Stern got the result that he for some reason wanted. Charmless efficiency again triumphs over style in the post-Jordan NBA.

My anger of the last 24 hours has receded to a sort of resigned acceptance. My entire sports-fan life, with the exception of the 1988 World Series, has been a series of almost-but-not-quites: Three decades of the Suns, the Dan Fouts-era Chargers, the McNair/Eddie George Tennessee Titans Super Bowl team. So, this feeling of my team not quite having the luck and/or skill to win the big game is one I know well. I’ve internalized it, with the help of an IV drip of Pepto.

Let’s move on for now, because I’m sad. You asked me about how I would change the NBA, and also for book-tour advice. For the latter, I’d say, if you write a satirical novel about rock critics, don’t expect it to become a best seller. Also, don’t form a punk-rock band and take it on tour to promote your book. But those are mistakes I doubt you’ll make. Hell, you’ll probably sell more books in a month than I do in a year.

As for the former, I would say three things: Fire David Stern; don’t allow Jeff Van Gundy to get another coaching job; and don’t let any more middle-aged men do silly dance routines between quarters. Also, stronger T-shirt cannons would be nice. And I think the league might benefit by shedding a couple of its weaker franchises. I seem to remember contractionlike movements made by the NBA before Magic and Bird arrived. Cut 30 roster spots, and suddenly all the other teams improve. Even the D-League improves. You’ve informed me about a Spanish League method of dropping teams. Care to share with the public?

Something’s been bothering me a bit, I must say. I really enjoyed your book. You’ve got a nice descriptive style, a great pop-culture reference base, and strong comic timing, along with an original story to tell. But what’s with the obsession with white American players in the NBA? I realize that you are one, or have been one, and maybe I’m still hanging on to antiquated early–’90s notions of “cultural diversity,” but I have to wonder why it matters. It strikes me that the one thing most NBA players have in common, other than incredible basketball skills, is that they’re all rich, or at least relatively rich. I know that some of these guys came from tough backgrounds and that you stepped fully formed out of a Waltons reunion. But it’s been my experience in life that class identification trumps racial or ethnic identification. Yes, if there were a 3-point-shooting Jew in the NBA, I’d probably pull for him a little harder. But a regular white guy? There are enough successful white guys in the world. They don’t need our help.