It has been stated many times that white men can’t jump. This generally accepted fact has an equally acknowledged truth that everyone knows, but few admit publicly: Black people can jump, which is punctuated by the nearly 80 percent of NBA players being of primary African descent. However, to admit that white people might be impaired when it comes to leaping abilities is to invite a whole slew of stereotyping that could be detrimental to white basketball players development and instead, turn him into primarily an assist machine, or a mere spectator:
“This is a perfect example of the stereotype threat, a theory postulated by sociologist Claude Steele. This stereotype threat is the fear that one’s behavior will confirm an existing stereotype of the group which one identifies. The white basketball player, no matter what his particular skill set is, fears that he will be grouped with other white players, because he might exhibit those characteristics commonly associated with them (perhaps a legitimate fear). According to Steele, this may greatly affect his performance. In a basketball sense, a white basketball player with just as much or more athletic ability than his black counterpart will fail to perform in many instances because he is aware of the stereotype that “white men can’t jump.”
Racial divisions in basketball have been brought to the forefront of the national discussion with the recent news of an all-white basketball league potentially forming (All-American Basketball Alliance):
“According to the Chronicle, Lewis said he wants to emphasize “fundamental basketball” instead of “street ball” played by “people of color.”
Basketball is played differently by white people and Black people, a fact that any connoisseur of the sport could point out. Darryl Dawkins, a former NBA all-star, pointed this out in an interview back in 2007, validating the point made by Lewis:
“White basketball is pick-and-roll, spot-up, guy got his toes together and he shoots. And white guys will box you out until the ball hits the floor. Black guys will jump over you. They had all kind of shake-n-bake and would do everything to entertain the crowd. Nowadays, people appreciate both styles of ball; but back then, they didn¹t appreciate when a black guy just played white ball. They just said, “Hey, man, ain’t you got no flash in your game?”
Black people know this to be true and find the individualist aspect of basketball to be liberating, considering most of the Black mentality centers around group cohesion and collectivism. Strangely, white people perform with unity on the basketball court, executing complex plays and distributing the ball equitably in an attempt to produce the highest percent scoring opportunity. Dawkins again makes a valid point on the difference between the Black and white styles of play in basketball:
“Black basketball is much more individualistic,” he told Charlie Rosen of FoxSports. “With so many other opportunities closed to young black kids, … if somebody makes you look bad with a shake-and-bake move, then you’ve got to come right back at him with something better, something more stylish… It’s all about honor, pride, and establishing yourself as a man.” Dawkins, whose showboating Philadelphia 76ers lost to Bill Walton’s Portland Trailblazers in an epic 1977 NBA Finals confrontation between the black and white games, now says, “The black game by itself is too chaotic and much too selfish… White culture places more of a premium on winning, and less on self-indulgent preening and chest-beating.”
ESPN and its parent company ABC are the main purveyors of basketball on television (outside of the CBS when they broadcast the NCAA Tournament in March), and this method of distribution supplies the nation with one of the few positive images of Black people in America. The sights of Black people gracefully jumping to execute a towering jump shot over outstretched Black defenders hands is a route visual on ESPN’s Sportscenter. Without the numerous images of Black people dunking a basketball, where would positive images of Black people and their contributions to the world come from? Haiti? The Nightly news? Riotless high school basketball games? Gilbert Arenas? One venue where Black people find themselves appreciated for their conformity to the notion of white basketball is also a safe-haven for white basketball players: Duke University. Yes, Duke University, coached by the venerable Mike Krzyzewski, offers a sanctuary for the style of white basketball in the United States that Dawkins referred to above. And white players flock to this shelter in North Carolina to display their particularly skills, with the help of Black players (who have the academic ability to get in to the elite private school) who strive to replicate the white methodology of play on the hard court, acting white in the process. Duke’s 2009-2010 is almost as lily-white as the one that appeared in the 1980s basketball film Hoosiers, and the past few years have seen teams that reflect Pre-Obama America demographically. Star white players leading those teams include J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts and Mike Dunleavy, all whom currently play in the NBA. The team is almost universally hated outside of their campus, as many basketball fans live by the acronym ABD – Anybody but Duke – when filling out their NCAA tournament brackets for March Madness. Strangely, opposing teams find their fans chanting homophobic chants -directed primarily at the white players – when Duke is in town for basketball game. Perhaps this is because the fans are less threatened by the white players, who see the Blackness of the Black players threatening?:
As to why Duke suffers so many such jests, Seyward speculates that it “has something to do with race and class.” Explains Seyward, “Disparagers of Duke typically frame their opposition to the school, and its basketball team, in terms of anti-elitism,” and continues on with, “Duke, according to this view, is a private school plopped in the Carolina Piedmont, where it caters to wealthy, mostly white elites who have zero regard for the local community–in Will Blythe’s words, ’those obnoxious students and that out-of-state arrogance.’” Seyward finds that to be “a defensible sentiment, as far as it goes, even a liberal one in many respects. “But, in the world of sports, being white as well as wealthy often translates into a perceived softness. (And Duke’s white players seem to attract the lion’s share of the homophobia directed at the team.) “For many Duke bashers, expressing anti-gay sentiment seems to be just one more way of delivering the message that Duke players are whiny, wimpy, pampered products of privilege.
“Duke Hating” is a popular pastime among basketball enthusiast, as they see in this asylum for white basketball an evil that must be stamped out completely. Is it a class issue (since Duke is an elite private institution) or is it primarily a racial issue (since the basketball team provides a glimpse into what an all-white professional league would look like)? Obviously, it is racially motivated:
But there’s another element we alluded to earlier, and there’s not too many ways around this: antipathy towards Duke often coalesces around the successful white players. Whether it’s Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Chris Collins, Wojo, Chris Burgess, Taymon Domzalski, Mike Dunleavy, J.J. Redick, or Greg Paulus, being a successful white player at Duke calls forth a peculiar racial response that didn’t happen at Stanford in their glory days under Mike Montgomery, nor at Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, or any other schools which tend to be perceived as elitist white-bread schools. And Laettner isn’t the only one to have his sexuality impugned, although he managed it brilliantly and often turned it against his critics who were no doubt mortified to get their asses kicked repeatedly by a guy they thought was a bugger. It’s long forgotten, but Tech’s Tom Hammonds regularly called Danny Ferry “fairy.” The standard taunt against Bobby Hurley “Hur-lee! Hur-lee! always struck us as being more than just his name. And J.J. Redick was taunted around the ACC for any number of things he supposedly was, but unique (thankfully) among Blue Devils, even his sisters were fair game. Basketball inverts the American social structure which sees whites as the most powerful group and blacks as an oppressed minority. In the hoops world, whites are a distinct minority, and subject to racial taunts which are accepted, but which would be quickly shouted down if they were reversed.”
Consider the problems faced by Tyler Hansbrough – a star white player at the University of North Carolina – it is obvious that Black people find the style of play exhibited by the white minority on the hard court aggravating.
College basketball – as played by teams like Duke – is beginning to see a new crop of white players who are bringing a white style of play to a game dominated by Black people:
“African-Americans are still the dominant racial-cultural force at the high end of the college game, and (Adam) Morrison and Redick don’t necessarily represent a new trend. But if nothing else, this season can serve as a reminder that basketball is an inclusive sport. It can be played on a virtuoso level by kids with braids and buzz cuts.”
What has happened to basketball fans that they feel compelled to taunt white players with chants of homosexual; denigrate their athleticism; and generally feel they are less talented and unable to compete (like the Vanderbilt team recently in the NCAA tournament)? One reason: they fear Black people coming into the stands – like Ron Artest did – and beating the crap out of them. Not every white player will be the next Larry Bird, but if they play for Duke they will be hated vehemently for their shocking display of whiteness on the court and flagrantly disavowing the Black style of individualistic play on the court.
Whiteness on the court means a complete lack of trust from the fans in athletic ability and any white player daring to play the Black man’s game is practicing a heresy against the High Priests of the Court – Black people:
For some college basketball fans, players such as Redick represent what they believe Duke embodies: a rich private school with a privileged student body. From Danny Ferry to Laettner to Bobby Hurley to Wojciechowski, Duke’s white players have often received the brunt of fans’ bile. Many of Duke’s great black players, such as Battier, Johnny Dawkins, Jason Williams and Hill, seemed to be respected by fans of opponents more than they were hated. The white Duke players “seem to be so every-guy-like,” said Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Study of Sport in Society. “Guys sitting in the stands might say, ‘What gives you the right to play like that when you look so much like us?’ ”
You want an all-white basketball league? Look no further then Duke, an institution where Black people have assimilated to the white basketball mindset and white players excel – to the dissatisfaction of opposing teams fans (current white stars at Duke include Kyle Singler, Brian Zoubek, Jon Scheyer and Ryan Kelly). Stuff Black People Don’t Like will include Duke basketball, because this is one of the few instances where a bunch of white boys might actually rape a group of Black people, for the white style of play has chalked up plenty of titles of wins at the school.