"Larry Bird isn't walking through that door!"
Yesterday morning on ESPN's Outside the Lines they had a great segment on the decline of the white American NBA player. The statistics are staggering. Currently less than 10% of NBA players are white Americans, and the last one to make an All star team was Brad Miller in 2004. In fact, the last one to start an All Star game was John Stockton in 1997. When asked who the best US born white player was in the NBA right now, Jerry West was stumped. When your league logo can't name a great White American player you know it is a problem.
There are varying opinions and theories on why white American players are so rare in the NBA today. Some say it is because of the influx of international players over the last 10 years. Others say it is because of the way the game is played now, emphasizing one on one isolation plays more than passing and fundamentals. Still others say it is because in general African American players are more athletic than white players. I don't like this argument because we have a good amount of high level white players in the league(Steve Nash, Dirk), but they are just not American players. I think the issue is that in America players are taught a certain way to play that is more athletically based, while in International basketball, fundamentals are taught more.
The segment focused a lot on white players not being good enough defensively to play in the NBA. Lakers guard Derek Fisher was quoted as saying that every time he saw a white player defending him "he knew he could take him." Hell, all of us Celtics fans know Larry Bird always said he felt disrespected when they put a white guy on him.
It's amazing to me how many great White American college players there are compared to how many are in the NBA. Why is it that players like Adam Morrison and J.J Reddick are bench warmers in the NBA after being superstars in college? It seems that it's a combination of lack of athleticism and ability to both defend and create their own shot that has stymied many of their NBA careers. I also wonder if the decline of interest in the NBA since the 1980's is a result of the audience not being able to relate to the product. This might make sense as the audience for NBA games is predominantly white middle-class Americans.
Look, this is a touchy subject so I think it might be best to open this up for discussion. What do you think is the cause of the decline of the White American player? Do you think it matters that there are so few White Americans in the NBA? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Make sure to check out the full video if you haven't already seen it at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/index. Karl Dillinger 12/07/2009 05:44:00 PM Tweet