|photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc|
Every year, NBA.com surveys the general managers of National Basketball Association teams about the upcoming season. They are polled about which player is the most versatile, who would be the best player to start a team with, and which team they think will end up winning the championship. They are quizzed about who is the fastest, the best shooter, and the most creative. And way down near the bottom of the list is “The Player Who Makes the Most of Limited Natural Ability.” This year’s winner? All-Star forward Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Love is white, and five of the last six selected for this honor have been white or Latino. When Love found out he had been picked, he tweeted, “It’s the white guy award!” This all seems innocent, even humorous. But it is indicative of some insidious thinking. In a league that is made up of supreme athletes and is about 80 percent African-American, athleticism has become equated with blackness. The even uglier flip side of this thinking is that effort and intelligence are often associated with whiteness. There is an overarching sense that basketball ability is innate in one race and must be worked for and learned in another. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN’sHoopSpeak.com put it, it’s as if people are saying, “Hey white player, your talent is actually wisdom. Hey black player, your wisdom is actually talent.”
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