Of all the elements of basketball which get me excited, cultural and social implications are pretty low on the list. I am primarily interested with what take place on court. Over the past few weeks, however, an issue has been building which is causing me to put on my “sociologist hat” today. With the Indiana Pacers not participating in the playoffs, the attention of the fans (myself included) has turned mostly to draft recommendations and prognostications. Unfortunately, I have seen some really disturbing posts around the internets referrencing a perceived racist bent by the Pacers front office. A few examples:
“pacers draft strategy: take the best available white guy”
“It’s got to be a 4 year college guy that isn’t really an NBA prospect.
A guy from Butler
The White guy from Nevada
Any A**hole from Duke”
“I already know what we’re gonna do though. We’re gonna pick Patrick Patterson. He’s a junior and he shoots the 3. If this guy were white he would be Larry Bird’s and Jim O’Brien’s dream player.”
To begin with, I disagree with the premise that the Pacers or Bird in particular have a preference for white players. Last year Bird drafted Hansbrough, a white PF. Since 2003, when he became President of Basketball Operations, he has drafted exactly one other white player, Erazem Lorbek, a 2nd rounder in 2005. He brought in Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. What else was being offerred for Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington?
My second point is, Who Cares? Along with their counterparts of other ethnicities, white players have led the league in scoring (Pete Maravich ’76-’77), rebounding (Bill Laimbeer ’85-’86), assists (Steve Nash ’05-’07), steals (John Stockton ’91-’92), and blocks (Shawn Bradley ’96-’97). There are slow, white shooters, fitting the prevailing stereotypes. There are also white players who have built careers on their athleticism, such as Chris Anderson, David Lee and Bob Sura. There have been white MVP’s and a white slam dunk champion. Does anyone really think the Pacers have been losing lately because they have too many white players? I think they have been losing because they don’t hit shots and they don’t guard anyone. Everyone on the team, white and black, has played a role in them stinking up Conseco Fieldhouse.
I don’t want this to sound like some white pride rant. My point is that race is not and should not be a factor in evaluating basketball talent. I don’t care what color a player’s skin is, if he has the skills to help my team then I want my front office to go get them. I have a dream. A dream that one day basketball players will be judged solely on their physical talent and mental makeup, and not stereotyped by the color of their skin. And with that said, I’ll hop off my soapbox and put it back in the basement where it belongs.