Today longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge posted an opinion piece for CNN.com that paints NBA All-Star Weekend as a portrait of black culture in America.
So, you want to know about Black Thanksgiving?
That’s what sports writer Mike Wilbon calls NBA All-Star Weekend.
First of all, what you need to know about Wilbon, whom I love, is that he has been known to exaggerate just a touch on occasion. But on this one, he’s on point.
The point of Aldridge’s citation is that NBA All-Star Weekend is America’s biggest meetup of black folks on the calendar because, “NBA players are royalty in Black America, and everyone wants to be near them. … It’s a party, to be sure. But it also is a family portrait.”
Aldridge also cedes to academia in his piece with this from Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts:
“Considering that the culture of basketball in a predominantly black league like the NBA is so strongly connected to African American culture, the NBA All-Star weekend has turned into a celebration of African American culture by extension. Baseball’s Negro League All-Star Game was once the biggest national black social event of the year. It seems that the NBA All-Star Game serves a similar purpose now, but on a much bigger platform.”
I can hear the reaction of many who read this, that what Aldridge wrote is racist and that an event the magnitude of NBA All-Star Weekend should not be defined by the race of those who most enjoy and participate in it.
Unlike Aldridge, I don’t find it necessary to quantify and qualify such an event by race, but I’m not black and have not had a life experience that allows for me to completely understand why the NBA All-Star Weekend for many black people transcends a sporting event.
Put another way, on a more superficial level, do you think a person who spent their entire life in Italy could ever completely understand the disdain Americans have for professional soccer? Or why we unconditionally embrace our own blood-stained brand of football?
While I’d never think to mention race in the context of a sporting event, Aldridge’s characterization of NBA All-Star Weekend comes from years of experience and a perspective I’ll never pretend to fully appreciate.