Black Vs White in the NBA
NBA basketball is an exciting sport. The NBA features such star players as, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Keith Vanhorn, and John Stockton. You could ramble on all day about Pro basketball. And two big questions always come up when talking about pro basketball. Why are 2/3 of the NBA players black? And do black and white players have two different techniques for playing the game of basketball?
Jeff Greenfield cites in his essay The Black and White Truth about Basketball theories from the book Foul by David Wolf. In todays modern game of NBA basketball, over 2/3 of the players are black. Greenfield also cites that over the last two decades, no more than three white players have been among the ten starting players on the NBA All-Star team (Greenfield 209). David Wolf claims this dominance of blacks in the NBA is due to a natural inheritance.Wolf says basketball is a pastime of the urban poor since the fact most of them dont have finances to access equipment for hockey, baseball, football, or other fairly expensive sports. And basketball is something they can feel pride about (Greenfield 210-211). Most of the urban poor are the black. And black star Penny Hardaway is a prime example of this.
Penny Hardaway is one of the NBAs most recognizable stars in todays game. He came from very poor black slums. Because he didnt have the money for football, baseball, or hockey, he turned to the cheap playground sport called basketball. Like many other black players in the NBA, Penny took pride in honing his skills on those playground courts in the slum. Basketball was an activity that kept Penny out of trouble (Fox Sports Net: Beyond the Glory). Based on this story of Penny Hardaway, I agree with Greenfield and Wolf when they say that black dominance in the NBA is due to natural inheritance, and basketball is a sport for the urban poor. Greenfield stands by Wolfs idea; basketball isnt the same as it once was. I too can agree with Wolfs idea that basketball is the same as it used to be 50-60 years ago.
Basketball was once a game for the Irish and Italian Catholics in Rockaway and the Jewish on Fordham Road in the Bronx. (Greenfield 210). Back in the beginnings of basketball ethnic names like Red Holzmans, Red Auerbach, and the McGuire Brothers were etched as stars of the NBA (Greenfield 210). But in the present names such Michael Jordan, Shaquille ONeal and Allen Iverson are a fixture of pro basketball with national television exposure and million dollar salaries. This is a far cry from the old school basketball of white men with status playing it for leisure. Greenfield and Wolf believe there is a question of style with todays modern player.
Black and white, are there two distinct styles of players in the NBA? Jeff Greenfield believes so. Greenfield believes the two most important traits that characterize black basketball is leaping ability and razzle-dazzle moves. When coaches see a white boy who can jump or who moves with extraordinary quickness, they say, He should have been born black, hes that good. (Greenfield 212). This statement was used in the title to the hit film White Men Cant Jump. Most of the legendary jumpers in the NBA were black. Such players include Willis Reed, Julius Erving, and Wilt Chamberlain. In todays modern game razzle-dazzle moves are what its all about. Speed, mobility, quickness, and acceleration are traits that surround the black playground athlete and their razzle-dazzle moves.
NBA supers stars of today such as Allen Iverson, Tracy MacGrady, and Vince Carter posses all of the before mentioned traits. Allen Iverson has great speed on the court. Tracy MacGrady has quickness that nobody can match. And if youre looking to find someone that can run fast, move nimble and quick, and jumps like Air Jordan, watch the Vince Carter. Hes hailed as the next Michael Jordan. Iverson, MacGrady, and Carter are players that can be double teamed by the best defends in the NBA and they still can find ways to twist and contort their bodies around the defenders and throw or dunk the ball into the basket. Thus, I can agree with Greenfield when he claims a black player uses speed, quickness, acceleration, and leaping to his advantage. Black players seem to use speed, quickness, mobility, and leaping to their advantage. But do white players use these same abilities to their advantage?
Imaging a heated gymnasium in a small Midwest town during the middle of winter. Eight white boys suited up for a pick-up game of basketball. They play a game without frills, with out flow and rhythm (Greenfield 212-213). This type of picture is associated with the white mans game of basketball. It seems a far-fetched from the pickup games played by the blacks in the inner city. The so-called white player plays the game precise mechanics. They dont have the great razzle-dazzle moves to the basket.They dont have height and mobility for rebound effectiveness. The white man runs. He runs from the opening jump to the final buzzer (Greenfield 213). This is the way Jeff Greenfield sees the white style of pro basketball. I agree with what Greenfield has to say. This is much different than that of a black player.
White players Bill Laimbeer and Dan Majerle had very successful careers in the NBA. But neither of them did it with flash or style. They didnt run with enormous speed, they didnt have the moves stymie defenses. Bill Laimbeer was one of the slowest centers in the league when he played, no one bragged about Majerles speed either. But they did one thing, they ran up and down the court, from baseline to baseline, back and forth under the basket, looking for the opening, the pass, the chance to take the high-percentage shot (Greenfield 213). Youd wonder what they are doing in the NBA until you saw them swing free and throw up the shot. They actually drained the ball more times than many of their black counterparts who had much more skills. Bill Laimbeer and Dan Majerle played hard. They played hard from the tip-off to the final buzzer. In fact, Dan Majerle was the first and has been the only player to ever be a reserve on his team, but been selected to the All-Star Game. Stories like these prove the point that a white player uses a very plain approach to the game of pro basketball.
Not everybody who read Greenfields essay will agree with his views on the styles of play in blacks and whites. But Greenfield does try to make it a little more clear blacks and whites do seem to have two distinct styles when playing basketball. As for me, basketball is an exciting sport that Ill always be a fan of.
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