Why is NBA mostly black?

My kids asked me the question? I don’t know what to tell them. I lied. I said more black kids play basketball as kids. Is there a site or a previous thread to discuss this. I guess I could have called this “why cant white men jump?”.

The obvious answer is genetics. Unless you are a freak of nature white boy, you don’t get into the NBA. However, you can’t overlook the anthropological answer. They play basketball in the ghetto far more than they play any other sport, so it stands to reason that since a)there are far fewer rich black people than whites and b)they play the game a lot, black people get better at the game quicker than white people. Thats not even to mention the great societal pressures of being a successful athlete if you’re black because chances are you can’t do anything else.

I thought you couldnt mention genetics? Didn’t that get whats-his-ass kicked off the networks?

(rubbing the bumps on surfer’s head)

Let’s see if I can beat everyone to the punch:

(1) The construct of “race” is imprecise and lacking in any scientific validity; therefore, (2) your proposition of biologic superiority is a nonsequiter.

An explanation as to why the NBA has a preponderance of African-Americans (if we can use such an imprecise construct) would have to address complex issues of socioeconomics, culture, opportunity, role modeling, etc. etc. etc.

Actually, a rather compelling body of evidence suggests that African Americans can “do something else” other than slam dunk basketballs.

Before integration, in the 40s and 50s, collegiate B-ball was dominated by Jewish athletes,(CCNY comes first to mind) due to the fact ,it was said, that the game was one of " misdirection, duplicity and trickery" which, by implication , Jews possessed in spades.

Go to a ghetto project and you will always see a basketball court filled with kids year round. Go to a white suburb and the goals in the driveways are vacant. The kids are inside playing Nitendo or watching MTV.

Sports Illustrated had an article on this subject a couple years ago. They stated that many white kids have the genetics inferiority complex in their heads and don’t try to compete anymore.

Why is Allen Iverson the best? He was playing ball several hours a day while little Tommy sat at home vegetating.

In part I would guess that black kids, having historicaly been allowed few positive role models, identify with successful black athletes and seek to emulate them.

Also tsunamisurfer I think your point (2) is itself a nonsequiter. While race may be lacking in scientific validity that does not imply that different, genetically determined, physical attributes are uniformly distributed amongst the population. As long race persists as a social distinction and marriage within what are percieved to be racial groups is still more common than between them, any such distribution will continue more or less intact.

wahoo, I agree that is true about the ghetto playgrounds. and the shear number would explain the NBA. But how much does the inferiority complex play into it. In my local high school (which is middle class and 90% white) the basketball team is 50% black.

Because the majority of talented basketball players are black. I think that’s the best answer to your kids. This answers the question, literally. Then add, if you wanted to work really hard at basketball, you might be the next Larry Bird or John Stockton (assuming you’re white and your kids grow tall).

justinh - I guess it comes down to practice time. Whites are generally more well heeled and there is more diversions for their offspring. African American children for the most part must involve themselves in pursuits that don’t cost alot of money. Basketball is a thrilling sport that doesn’t cost much to participate in.

One interesting example in this debate which is often overlooked is that in the 1920’s and 30’s, there was a lot of talk about how and why Jewish players dominated basketball, using many arguments which sound very familiar. You have to dig a bit to find cites. I used this link befor e on this subject in GD. It’s an article from “Philadelphia” magazine which I found particularly good:


Of course, the common link is that Jews were the predominant inner city ethnic group in those days, and the Jewish kids played basketball incessantly. They got good at it. Basketball is a game particularly suited for inner city environments, in that it does not require a big empty field somewhere, or a lot of equiptment.

Because it’s the Negro Basketball Association. :D:D:D

You can ask conversely why MLB and the NHL are predominantly white.

I think the explanation is little more than just what certain groups of people find popular to play as youngsters and have opportunities and facilities available.

Would you care to expound on this at all?

You weren’t lying; you were SIMPLIFYING, perhaps, but the fact is that the majority of people playing competitive basketball at high levels of competition are black. Suggesting that blacks are genetically predisposed to playing basketball is just as dumb as saying that whites are genetically predisposed to playing hockey, or that Brazilians with one name are genetically predisposed to playing soccer.

It is neither unprecedented nor even unusual for ethnic groups to dominate a pro sports league. Even with the influx of Europeans, more than half the NHL is still Canada. Basketball was once dominated by Jewish players. Major League Baseball around 1890-1910 was dominated by Irish immigrants. That sort of thing happens.

wahoo11 makes a good point about Allen Iverson. The guy isn’t any taller than I am. He’s not absurdly strong and he’s not an Olympic sprinter. There’s no magic genes that make him a star; he’s a star because he busted his ass on a basketball court for hours, and hours, and hours, and hours, and when the other kids went home and played Nintendo, he stayed out for a few hours more. When nobody was around to play with, he practiced foul shots. He probably dribbled a basketball around the house and drove his parents crazy. When his Mom finally forced him to go to bed, he hid under the covers with a flashlight and read books and magazines about basketball. When he wrote a report on a famous person in grade school, it was about a basketball player. During recess? Basketball. After school? Basketball. After he did his chores? Basketball. In his dreams? Basketball. And when he was finally done playing basketball, you know what he did? He played some more basketball.

Bear in mind that the players we see in pro leagues AREN’T representative of the North American population. They are extreme outliers, the guys who are better than anyone you’ve ever played with or against, the extreme right edge of the performance bell curve. Success at that level requires lots of physical talent, but it also requires an astonishing level of dedication and practice and near-obsession. In the world of pro sports, having a bad attitude towards practice means you only practice 20 hours a week rather than 40. It’s hardly surprising that such an unusual group of people might not be representative of the population at large because of some cultural or economic factor that causes them to be drawn from one group over another.

For a variety of cultural reasons, blacks are likelier to play and practice basketball than whites.

David Halberstam, self-appointed deep thinking intellectual about the NBA, wrote a piece in Sports Illustrated about 10 years ago about how Larry Bird was perceived as a tireless worker who became great only through hard work, while Magic Johnson was perceived as a “natural” athlete, who came by his skills through some fluke of nature.

Halberstam pointed out that both players were tireless workers who spent hours perfecting their skills.

However, in today’s NBA, most white players are usually considered “gritty” or “scrappy”. Laker rookie Mark Madsen might want to add one of those words as a legal name.

Indy Cars are sleek and low to the ground and NASCARs are, well, stockier.

Secondly, I don’t think anyone has addressed that the game itself has changed, putting more emphasis on the need for speed and quickness.

Why can’t we just say that as a group, the best black athletes are often faster and better jumpers for their size, than the best white athletes? Modern basketball requires speed along with size, and more blacks fill that need than whites, of all players playing basketball.

I would prefer the term anomaly of nature. I would also like to point out that although East Africans have demonstrated superior long distance running, Black Africa hasn’t produced anything respectable in the way of olympic basketball that I’m aware of. So to ascribe basketball skills as an attribute of the negroid race isn’t valid.

However the African-American possesses a brand new mix of genes, each independantly developed for thousands of years,suddenly combined by Africans with Caucasians in America, resulting in a host of new permutations of characteristics, a very fewof which are applicable to the NBA.

On a lighter note…
The few African American blacks at the upper end of athletic skills also are more likely to pass on their genes. Wilt Chamberlain successfully penetrated 20,000 women in his lifetime, but I doubt Steve Urkel is getting anywhere.:smiley:

Geez, guys…I knew I was gonna get it for not expounding on that last comment. What I was implying was after everyone gets done calling you inferior, treating you as inferior, and doing everything they can to make you inferior, is it any doubt that minorities suffer from vast amounts of alcoholism, drug addiction, single-parent families and the like? You tend to become exceptional at things when it’s all you have. All you hear about on the news is how poorly minorities do on tests, how athletes can’t even make 700 on their SATs, so obviously school is out. Then your family is nonexistent. I’d be out playing basketball all damn day if that was the case. So, in conclusion, blacks are outstanding as a group as far as athletics is concerned because they tend to find that to be very satisfying, unlike most everything else in their lives.

P.S. These are just generalities, so don’t rip my face off, O.K.?

Does anyone mind if I just pop in here and remind everyone that this is GQ, not GD? No? Good. If it’s at all possible, can we try to increase the cite: assertation ratio a bit?

[aside]By the way, when did Iverson suddenly become good? Last time I saw him play (back when he was at Georgetown), he was a liability to the team. Now, Kerry Kittles, there’s a great basketball player…[/aside]