ESPN THE MAGAZINE has a treatment this week on the perception fans have of the NBA. Of course, race is the central issue. Brian Scalabrine of the Boston Celtics, who is white, said this in the piece:
“The misperception of our league is definitely race-driven. Suppose that for a whole year, none of our players got into a fight, no one got arrested, no one got ticketed for speeding. Do you think the public would have a different opinion of the league? I bet not. But I do think public opinion would be completely different if 75% of the players in the NBA were white instead of black.”
Having lived in a major city that does not have an NBA franchise (Kansas City), we half-agree with Scalabrine. There is a tinge of racism in the view non-black fans have of the league. But in towns like KC, opinion is also shaded with the comparison of the NBA to college hoops. If a city has a prominent basketball school nearby, most local fans absolutely despise the NBA (look at the failure of the league to penetrate Charlotte).
For us, it’s not about the players being black that has us down on the league. It’s the length of the season and lack of polished individual player skills that kills our interest.
Because of the NBA’s interminable regular season, the importance of individual games is out the window. And of course, player intensity also suffers. And no one will disagree that execution of fundamentals is at an all-time low in the league.
All that said, we do believe that the NBA truly is a microcosm of the still-racist nature of our society. Maybe it’s the cynic in us, but as long as varying skin pigments exist, we doubt that will change.