On January 20, 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the first ever basketball game was played. The game’s invention is credited to James Naismith, (who I just discovered was Canadian. So much for basketball being All-American.) Interestingly, and with a nice dose of contemporary irony, Naismith came up with the game “to occupy a class of disagreeable male students at the Springfield YMCA, who were bored with the calisthenics and children’s games in their gym class.” Boy does that goes miles in explaining the basketball culture I know and love.
Today basketball is played in more than 170 countries officially and who knows how many others as just something to do to pass the time. Of course I am biased, but I find it to be one of the best spectator sports – though it is not so popular to watch over here. In Hong Kong people actually like to watch cricket, or paint dry. And soccer, which is akin to watching the marathon on television: lots of running with an occasional mishap. Though with the success of Yao, basketball is catching on in China, and, as we say about all things related to Chinese potential, if the Chinese get organized, they could be serious competition based on the whole numerical advantage alone – of a billion people there must be a few hundred studs-in-the-making. [IF.]
There are a lot of pragmatic reasons for the popularity of basketball. Like, anyone can play – you only need a ball (I did not suggest that anyone can play well…) and a playground. No special equipment is required (though most of my former players would have you believe that there is no way they could play without US$200 shoes, new uniforms, practice gear and all sorts of accessories…) Rich or poor, you can play. Black or white or brown or red or yellow or whatever, you can play. In 2009, there were nearly one million high school basketball players in the US. That seems low to me, but I am going to trust the NFHS. Then again when you consider that most teams only carry twelve players that is a freaking lot. The same report says that basketball is the most popular high school program with nearly 18,000 participating high schools. Damn. Of course, of those only about 3% will play in college (according to [a totally bitchin’ report from] the NCAA there were approximately 32,000 total basketball players – men and women – in all three divisions in 2008) and only about 1% will be at notable D-I schools (there were less then 10,000 total players at the D-I level in 2008.) From there less than 1% of that 1% will make it into the W/NBA. Add to that the influx of international players… and, whoah.
Remember when Hitler got all pissed off about Jesse Owens? How he had the nerve to win four gold medals in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics while being black? Or maybe you remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City at the ’68 games when they received the gold and bronze medals respectively in the 200 meters and raised their gloved hands in protest that they could represent “One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty And Justice For All” but couldn’t sit and have some lunch with white folks, even if they wore said medals. Remember back in the day when there was such a thing a “negro leagues” for baseball? Well, probably not unless you were watching baseball in the 1960s or before. But seriously, that is how it was back when, when what? People were afraid of the competition? When people were still hampered and handicapped by prejudice?
Luckily for us that is all in the past.
Oh, unless this good lookin’ piece of white meat has anything to say about it:
Don “Moose” Lewis (who I am suuuuuuurrre is a total baller) announced, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day no less, the formation of an all-white basketball league in twelve Southern cities including. He says, in what is certainly infinite wisdom, the goal is “to restore “sanity” and “fundamentals” to a game that has been hijacked by undisciplined thugs.” [apparently, Don is unfamiliar with Jason Williams.] So, I am thinking Don would be a big fan of netball (a game still played in Hong Kong… why ask why) – and, Bill Laimbeer…? He went on (and on and on and on) in another interview saying, “There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.” Yo, my man, that is not even good grammar. And by the way, if sport used to reflect our society and culture, why shouldn’t it keep doing the same nowadays? Can we get a little consistency here?
I am so glad people who call them self “Moose” (apologies to my Alces alces amigos) are telling me the kind of basketball I like. I mean, really, do you think the NBA not to mention the All-Star game would have fans in attendance if it was all John Stockton and Chris Laettner? “Moose” points to Nash and Nowitzki as great white hopes (serious) but apparently he forgot that neither of those two would even be allowed in his league as they are not ‘natural’ citizens.
I’ll be the first to admit that the NBA has stepped away from fundamentals, and that would be an understatement of huge proportions. But you know what? You can’t do the stuff they are doing in the NBA if you lack the fundamentals. That’s like saying anyone who can jump from thirty feet can be an Olympic diver. It is sofa king re todd did. Plus some of the best flash players in the world cannot even make it into the NBA – just check the And 1 Streetball saga. I prefer college hoops where athleticism combined with fundamentals and that visceral hope of pro glory fuel the game. March Madness is the heart and soul of the sport, in my (not so) humble opinion. And for pure fundamentals where do I go? Right next door to the women’s game. The girls up in there will run a clinic for you, “Moose.” Let the athletic talent fall where it may, if there are not enough white folks in the league it is because there are not enough white folks who can ball on par with the non-whites and those pesky foreigners.
When I was coaching, one of my favorite sayings (especially in response to whining) that I would like to shout out to Don, who is clearly whining, was: