Friday night I was watching the Rockets-Lakers game. During one point of the game Josh McRoberts was having a streak of good plays. Instead of getting praised for the abilities, which Josh has, the announcers were poking fun at him. The local LA Laker broadcasters were poking fun at the expense of one of their own guys. On a play where the ball was thrown towards the rim only for McRoberts to slam it down, the announcers made it a point to let the audience know, sarcastically, that if there is a fast break and a oop needs to be thrown, to throw it to McRoberts.
McRoberts is a fine player. He will never be an elite power forward, more likely a slightly below average to average one at best. But clearly the kid can play, he is on a NBA roster and gets decent minutes. But being white, the announcers could not let the opportunity pass them by to make a joke. And somehow the actions of the announcers are okay, because we all know “White Men Can’t Jump”. Which was actually kind of only funny almost 2 decades ago.
That is part of the “white” player typecast. Along with, the dreaded white player tag, that guy works hard! Which means, he has no athletic ability but will grab you 8 rebounds. Also, he is smart but his potential is limited.
If McRoberts were not white, yet with the same skill set, no mention of his hops would be on the NBATV broadcast. Instead it would of ,likely, just been met with praise. Unfortunately, the race issue is a factor for every race.
While white players do not have the ability to jump over a phone book, Europeans are soft. Usually tagged as “soft” or “finesse” players. And those tags are not terms of endearment. They are a shot at the way Europeans play ball.
Every year in the draft there is some 6’8-6’11 guy from overseas, thought of highly by some NBA scouts. They praise the players ability to shoot the rock but question his weight, toughness, and ability to finish around the basket.
In this years NBA2k12 video game Washington Wizards rookie Jan Vessly is said in the game to be “different” then most European basketball players to come over to the states, as he is more of a slasher then a pure shooter. A guy who can finish around the basket. I guess that info had to be put in the game because being that he is from overseas, we Americans would naturally think he just shoots 3s.
African-American players get it just as bad. Pretty much the exact opposite of the white player tag. Athletic, huge potential, character issues, basketball IQ needs work. This tag of an African-American player gets applied to all sports. Just look at the Wonderlic story going on in the NFL right now.
Of all the “typecasting” of players, this is the one that bothers me most. The NBA is a predominately black league. Most of the guys in the league come from urban enviroments. Just because an 19 year-old kid is coming out of the Bronx does not make him any more or less stupid then it makes him more athletic compared to a white kid out of the suburbs. And don’t question his IQ, if their basketball IQ was that bad to begin with, you would not be looking to draft him to start.
I am going to give you two examples of regression and progression in terms of the way the world thinks of race in the NBA.
1- Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets is white, he can jump. The NBA used him as a novelty at All-Star Weekend in the Dunk Contest. If the NBA says otherwise, they are lying. And it is a shame. Budinger should of been there on his dunking merit alone. We, along with ESPN, Fox Sports, and the NBA itself are at fault here. We openly acknowledge the novelty of Chase in the dunk contest. We should be ashamed, but are condionted to not think it is a big deal. Judging a person by his color and not his talent or skill, is NOT normal.
2- Ray Allen is a smart and very well skilled perimeter player, who happens to be black. He also does a lot of other things on the court. But his ability to hit 3 point shots has garnered him his fame and fortune. Nobody looks at him and wonders why it is that a black player can hit outside shots with such regularity. I don’t know if this is a sign of progression or just a general belief Ray Allen is one of the best 3 point shooters ever. I like to think it is smart people realizing, oh Ray Allen is a really good shooter. Not based on skin color, but on his ability.
I hope the case of Ray Allen is more of the general belief system in and around the NBA, not the one of Budinger. I also, honestly, don’t believe most of the people watching, scouting, coaching, the players are racist. I think they get caught in the “typecast” a player mode. And instead of typecasting them by ability, they use race as a “curve”.
Next time you are watching any sporting event, listen to the announcers. See if they are “typecasting” players based mostly on race, and not the players actual abilities. Then think to yourself, what if they applied “typecasting” to all walks of life, They call that stereotyping.
Joseph Nardone is a Writer/Blogger for Sir Charles In Charge. You can follow him on the twitter machine@JosephNardone