People who don’t think there’s a racist component in basketball are, well, I’ll just say deluded. Basketball players are overwhelmingly African American, which makes it wholly unlike Baseball (which has a truly multi-cultural makeup) and Football(which features mostly white athletes at the key quarterback position). I won’t even mention Hockey. But due to a number of factors with basketball: the visibility of the athletes, the great tv contract, only 5 starting positions, the popularity in urban areas, and the complete commercial synergy, Basketball is pretty much regarded as a “black sport”. The transition has probably weeded out the actual racist people, but this is not really about that and more about the subtleties of the situation. You see, white basketball players get too much due and a lot of times some black players don’t get enough.
For example, Chris Paul is having the best Point Guard season ever. He runs the pick and roll and high screen better than I’ve ever seen. He can score at will and is the complete core of his team. If he keeps it up (a big if) he could surpass Isiah Thomas as the greatest point guard ever. And yet he hasn’t got any of the journalistic fellatio that Steven Nash did in his two undeserved MVP seasons. Once again, I love Nash and he’s a terrific player, but come on. He won it in two years where there were clearly better candidates (Tim Duncan could have got his 3rd and 4th) and Nash didn’t get it last year when he actually might have deserved it (that honor went to the also white Dirk Nowitzski). Which brings us to Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina basketball.
Hansbrough is a damn fine player, again, don’t get me wrong. He has a complete game. He hits clutch shots. He plays with tenacity. His team is great. He’s one of the best players in the country. But he’s not an Oden. He’s not a Durant. He’s a top 5 college basketball player. And journalists are lining up to slobber all over him. He’s being heralded with such vast and uncompromising love you would swear he’s a sure thing on the NBA level. Well no folks, he’s not the sure thing. The reaction is completely out of whack and yes, it’s because he’s white. Completely, totally, wholly because he’s white. There have been a litany of players of comparable value. Just last year Al Horford put up similar numbers (though Hansbrough doesn’t have Horford’s size of physicality). David West too and he even has an eerily similar style of play. Neither of them got the kind of love that Tyler does.
Why am I so adamant about this? Hansbrough is still a good player right? Because a player should be judged for who and what they are on the court. America ha broken A LOT of its sports barriers and now it’s time to keep the trend going. It’s okay for most of the great players in the NBA to be black. We don’t have to over-reward the white players who “make it”. It’s okay to compare a black player’s style to that of an historical white player and vice versa. Steve Nash passes in a similar way to Oscar Robertson. There, why is that so hard to say? People don’t have to be shocked when black players are commended for their intelligence. Black players should be commended for their tenacity and defense, and at the same time there shouldn’t be this complete amazement when a black player “actually tries”. It’s a false perception and it’s kind of BS. It’s all the new epidemic, folks.
… and Tyler Hansbrough isn’t the next Larry Bird.