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"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 Edit
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10 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Real touchy subject, but one all of us white basketball fans/players can relate. I dont really believe this but i thought about it while watching the outside the lines report and i think education plays a big factor. i think most white players see that glass ceiling and tend to spend that extra time they could be using to tweak their game is spent trying to get a degree so they can have a job after basketball. i know some of you are thinking im talking about college but im talking elementary and middle school where i think the message we send to kids matter, in fairfax county its get good grades and youll get into college, but in inner cities its excel in this sport and youll get into college. so in saying this, i believe we might stop young white athletes and push them towards the "safer" route, where as in other countries they take those kids out and have them attend athletically based schools. if we established some sort of academy for young american kids.

  2. Anonymous says:

    now the fun part...here is my AWANBAT, all white all nba team.
    PG..hinrich 2nd, ridnour, jwill, steve blake
    SG..mike miller 2nd, redick, budinger
    SF..dlee 2nd, walton, adam morrison
    PF..brooke lopez 2nd, humphries, hansburough
    C..spencer hawes 2nd, birdman, aron grey

    *jkidd is half and half
    also, i think starting five could prob win like 25 games for a season...not bad

  3. tb727 says:

    I think it's all video games. White kids play video games growing up and don't play sports as much.

  4. JR says:

    TB, how's your NBA Live season going?

  5. I definetly agree with the education part. Many NBA players are from low socioeconomic status which contributes to them having different goals. Thanks for the feedback guys.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow...very controversial subject. I didn't even think of the education argument and it makes sense. Plus other factors but I feel racist even agreeing or implying the factors. I need to think about this a little more but it is amazing statistically the black vs. white players. And I don't really think it is a good thing, the lack of diversity in this league.

  7. tb727 says:

    Just knocked off the Spurs in a blowout today- have top record in the league at 38-14

  8. tb727 says:

    Btw it should definitely also be noted that most point guards when they see Derek Fisher guarding them "know they can take him." :D

    This especially holds true for guys like Rondo, Derek Rose, and any other point guard with a quick first step.

  9. Honestly does it matter whether or not the players are white? I'm from a minority that hasn't had any NBA player (Indian for those who are wondering.)Plenty of black players in the NBA come from poor to lower mid-class families but often share one thing in common: a strong figure, usually a mother, who raised them the do their best, but there are exceptions ex Leon Powe. Genetics is the main culprit, because if a rich white kid is born with immense talent, he'll get good training, just look at Reddick or Morrison, but their bodily limitations stymy their NBA success.

  10. Brandon says:

    Scal? Possibly the greatest one on one player in the league, he is a white American. I can't believe you guys could over look him.

    On a more serious note, this is a touchy subject. It's very hard to make sense of this without people attacking you as a racist. You did a good job though, good post.

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