Jeremiah Short, Feature Columnist
The NBA needs something it hasn’t had in a while. They need another Larry Bird. They need a white “superstar.”
I’m not talking about a foreign-born, white superstar (See: Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash). I’m talking about a white superstar that is home grown.
With the recent comments of Nik Stauskas, who stated that he felt that his opponents came at him harder because he’s white(which I feel is a fair statement), I began to think of the place of the white player in the modern NBA or the lack there of–especially the U.S.-born, white player.
I don’t think NBA needs a white superstar to save the game. The league did just sign a nine-year, 24-billion dollar TV deal with Turner(TNT and TBS) and Disney(ESPN/ABC). But they do need a white superstar to help grow the game and make all fans feel they are represented.
Larry Bird shared a similar opinion ten years ago in a town hall panel with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
“You know, when I played, you had me and Kevin [McHale] and some others throughout the league. I think it’s good for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. But it is a black man’s game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American,” Bird’s response to journalist Jim Gray, who was conducting the panel, question about the lack of White superstars in the NBA.
Bird was criticized for the seemingly racially-charged statement. But he was right in 2004. And it’s still the case in 2014. The NBA, in reality, is a black man’s game. According to the 2011 Race and Gender Reports Cards, 78 percent of the NBA is comprised of black players compared to 17 percent White/European players. That’s a pretty big disparity. It doesn’t help that all the superstars are black.
The NFL is comprised mostly of black players (67 percent). But where they differ from the NBA is the fact that they have white superstars: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and J.J. Watt.
The NBA does have a white superstar. Kevin Love has been balling the past few years. He’s about to do his thing with LeBron.
Yea, that’s the problem. He’s about to do his thing with LeBron, not by himself. He never got Minnesota into playoff contention. If the NBA needed a white star, then he fits the criteria. But the NBA needs a white superstar.
Everyone loves Kevin Love…the double-double machine.
Here’s the problem: You called him Kevin Love. Every superstar is known by a nickname or one name. Kobe Bryant is “The Black Mamba.” LeBron James is LeBron. Kevin Durant is KD.
Kevin Love is Kevin Love.
It may be silly. But you haven’t made it in the NBA until you have a moniker. Fans have to want to pay to see a superstar play. No one wants to pay to see Love play.
With the NBA, black kids have players they can look up to. I don’t think White American kids have someone they can look up to, emulate or want to be. The reason the NBA is becoming global because of for one, the “Dream Team”, but secondly, because several countries have a player they can boast as a countryman.
Germany has Dirk.
France has Tony Parker.
Spain has the Gasol brothers.
Canada has Steve Nash.
And China had Yao.
There are several other players I can name from foreign nations. But I think you get the point. They have someone they can be proud of and brag about. I don’t think American Whites have that player.
Why doesn’t America have that white superstar? There are two reasons.
1. They’re playing other sports. While football and basketball are populated most by black players, baseball is still considered a “White” sports in America by most in the black community (62 percent of MLB players). Of course there are a high number of Hispanic players in the majors (27 percent of MLB players). But most come from foreign nations. In American youth leagues, it’s viewed as a “White” sport. It makes sense that young, white kids would play sports (football and baseball) where they have a chance to be star, not just role players, which is what the majority of
white American players are in the NBA. I don’t say that derisively but more as a fact.
Everyone wants to be a star, and not just a star, but a superstar.
So, why not play the sport that gives you the best chance to be one?
2. In the NBA, a superstar-driven league, you have to have an intrinsic motivation to be great. I’m not saying white players don’t have that motivation. There are plenty of hard-luck stories. But it seems that the top players in the NBA have something extra derived from their socio-economic status growing up.
A few examples.
LeBron James: LeBron is considered the best player in the NBA. But it was born from a tough upbringing. He was raised by his mother and doesn’t have a relationship with his biological father. His mother was addicted to drugs and he lived house to house in his early years. He eventually got some stability. But you can tell, with his approach, that he has an internal drive to be great–possibly due to knowing the feeling of not having anything.
Kevin Durant: KD is considered by most the second-best player in the league. But like LeBron, KD had a tough upbringing and basketball was his way out. He was raised by a single mother and had very little. In his MVP acceptance speech, he talked about how his family moved into an apartment with no furniture and he thought his family had made it. He famously said that his mother was the “Real MVP.” It was “Meme” gold. But it was also a superstar showing true vulnerability. It gave us a viewpoint into his motivation for succeeding.
Derrick Rose: D.Rose, before suffering through a series of injuries, was considered one of top-5 players in the league and had already won the MVP. But he had a tough upbringing, as well. He grew up in Englewood, one of the most dangerous parts of Chicago, which is saying a lot. Rose is strong-willed almost to a fault. It’s hard for me to believe it doesn’t have something to do with that “Chi-Town” background.
The lack of will to play the sport contributes to the lack of white superstars. But maybe the lack of edge or “street” in the game of white players contributes to the dearth of white superstars in the NBA. Even Larry Bird was a “Country Boy” from French Lick. I’m sure he had some extra motivation to be the best.
I know it seems crazy that a black writer thinks the NBA needs more diversity. But I want every barrier to be knocked down, even the ones created by a De Facto process.
Where’s the next Larry Bird?
The NBA needs you.
Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.