Stepping aside from the Great Gatsby, Sui Sin Far, and other texts we have covered, with illustrating the theme of white supremacy and privilege, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to something very close to my heart that I yearn to learn more and gain a full understanding about: whiteness and basketball.
It is far beyond common knowledge at this point in time that basketball is a keystone to African-American culture, along with hip-hop. With both dominated by African-Americans, hip-hop integrates basketball into its lyrics and basketball integrates hip-hop culture into its style and identity, with the most profound example being Drake’s position as brand ambassador for the Toronto Raptors.
Marc Spears of The Undefeated published an article back in October, posing the question: Where are all the white American NBA players? It investigated the experiences of several prominent white American players like JJ Redick and Ryan Anderson, but ultimately, it did not dive beneath the surface level. Only 18.3% NBA players this past season were white (European and American), according to Spears’ research. This begs the question: how are white basketball players seen in the eyes of a basketball follower, and why don’t they have a bigger presence?
To be completely honest, when I think of suburban white kids playing basketball, I think of eight-foot hoops. I think of unnecessary shooting sleeves and the mantra of “all show, no go.” I also think of the guys that sit on the end of the bench, waving towels, flashing three point hand signs, and just going batshit crazy. There is even a popular Twitter account called “White Basketball Pains”, featuring bloopers of white players and shared sentiments present in the population.
White players are informally and comically known as the ones that “stretch the floor” and provide “grit”, especially at the high school and college levels, where there exists a need to fill rosters of 15 players for countless teams, rather than the 30 teams in the NBA. Brian Scalabrine and Matt Bonner, both currently retired, rose to fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it) during a time where there was a decrease in whiteness in the NBA. Scalabrine was known as the White Mamba, a play on Kobe Bryant’s “Black Mamba” moniker, earned standing ovations in the Boston Garden every time he checked in and at 6’10”, displayed some semblance of athleticism. On the other hand, Bonner played a crucial role for the San Antonio Spurs as a three-point shooter in his old-man looking sneakers and unorthodox shooting form. The constant attention the two received through social media and jokes among teenagers keep the unscientific idea of white players being “goofy” alive.