Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2008 NBA Draft Preview

Beasley vs. Rose

All of the talk at the top of this year’s draft doesn’t make much sense to me. Throughout the history of the NBA, and this can even be evidenced in last year’s draft, the thought is to always go with a big over a guard.

All of a sudden, Chicago and several other pundits are all the rage of Memphis PG Derrick Rose instead of Michael Beasley. This is a huge head scratcher for me.

First, Beasley fits in with what the Bulls need. He could start right away, with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah on the front court and he would give them a double-double almost right away.

Meanwhile, drafting Rose would mean Kirk Hinrich would have to go. He’s a great player, but after a bad year last year his stock is down. Not to mention the demons Rose would face playing at home. Not to mention, he’s not the pure point guard everyone says he is.

The thing that made his stock jump this high was his performance in the NCAA final this year. He was nearly unstoppable on offense, but he was more like a short 2-guard than a 1. I think everyone is overestimating his ability as a pure point guard and I could see him more as a Jamal Crawford type than the next Deron Williams.

On the other hand, Beasley is like David West with a three-point shot. He will be an all-star within the first three years of his career guaranteed. I don’t know why anyone would want to pass that up.

The rest of the crop:

Headscratchers
O.J. Mayo – I’m not a big O.J. Mayo fan. In the game his team got eliminated from the Pac-10 tourney, I watched O.J. Mayo dribble off the last few seconds of the clock with his team down by three, and throw up a wild three-point shot at the buzzer. Ever since then, I’ve always put him in the category of overrated or poor basketball IQ.
Jerryd Bayliss – He never impressed me at Arizona this year. I saw him play live in their tourney game against West Virginia in D.C. this year and he didn’t do squat.
Brook and Robin Lopez – Stiffs in the making.
Danilo Gallinari – Don’t know enough about him to make an opinion.
D.J. Augustin – I think he’ll be good, but a lot of people think his size will be a problem for him, especially on defense. At the same time, wasn't he the best point guard in the nation last year?

Future Busts
Anthony Randolph – As much college basketball as I watch, I should have heard of this guy at least once.
DeAndre Jordan – Ditto
Eric Gordon – I loved his game initially, but I think he should have stayed in school and developed more endurance and became more of an assassin. He’s the next Rashad McCants.
Kosta Koufus – Should’ve stayed in school as well
Roy Hibbert – Stiff.

Solid Picks
Kevin Love – He’s short, fat and slow for a power forward. But he has NBA 3-point range, can rebound with the best of them and he passes like Chris Webber. He will be a lot better than people think.
Russell Westbrook – He’s not, and will not, be a point guard. He’s a 2. But he’s a heck of a defender and he can make up for his height with his athletic ability.
Joe Alexander – Might end up being the best player from this draft. He can do it all on the court and he might even be the best athlete in this draft.
Brandon Rush – He’s a bit spacey, but without the pressure of having to be the number one guy, he would become a solid contributor to an NBA team.
Chris Douglas-Roberts – He was the most dangerous scorer on Memphis last year and can be really unstoppable off the dribble. He has a sleek game and is a tad unorthodox, kind of like a right-handed Manu Ginobili on the offensive end. I don’t know why he’s not going to be a lottery pick, but he’ll put up lottery pick numbers on the right team.

Sleepers
JaVale McGee, Donte Green, DJ White, Kyle Weaver, Courtney Lee

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Bad Rap for Kobe

TMZ.com has footage of Shaq freestyling about Kobe Bryant posted on their website.

First, its a pretty bad freestyle.

Second, its probably not the big deal that ESPN is going to try to make it. Stephen A. Smith was right when he told the Sportscenter anchors on the 6 PM edition that Shaq probably had to resort to dissing Kobe because he didn't have much other material.

In a freestyle, you say the first thing that pops in your head. Its also good to either have complicated lyrics or say something funny. In Shaq's case, it was funny to pick on Kobe.

Without the celebrity involved, its just another bad rap.

Quick Hits 6/23

NBA

Kudos to Jerry Colangelo and his crew on their picks for this year's USA basketball squad.

Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince have been named to the team.

The only one of those guys who I don't agree with is Jason Kidd, whose best days are far behind him. He could have been replaced with another big man. Besides that, they have a lot of unselfish players and perhaps Kobe will play unselfishly in this setting. Most of them are at least average at defense and most of the wing players, except for Kidd, can shoot with consistency.

I'd be really surprised if they don't come home with the gold this year, unless of course, the weather in Beijing takes them down.

MLB

Not much to say here, but I've watched a lot of the Tampa Bay Rays this year and I have to say I like what I see. They have one of the best, young rosters and are definitely for real.

As it's the only game in town, I'll have more baseball thoughts (finally) throughout the summer.

WNBA

This might be the first and last WNBA post on the blog. Honestly, I'm a big fan of the women's game. My senior project was about the Drexel Women's basketball team.

However, the hype about Candace Parker's dunk and the reaction is part of the reason why the game will never get the same respect. They are in perpetual comparison to the men's game, which regularly features dunks. If they want their game to get a similar level of respect, they need to present themselves as a separate product. And when someone does dunk, act like its happened before, because its happened before.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NBA Finals Recap

1. Anything is Possible. Kevin Garnett is a lunatic. Just wanted to put that out there.

2. Just a reminder; No more Kobe/MJ comparisons. Stop it. The Lakers lost by 39 in a close out game. Really? Imagine MJ and Pippen losing to Utah by 39 in a crucial Game 6 or 7. You can't can you? I couldn't either.

3. Doc Rivers made me look like a fool. Worst coach in the NBA? Lakers in 5 because of Phil Jackson's advantage over Doc Rivers. Oops.

Building on that point, in my mind going into this thing I had Lakers in 5. I got caught up running errands and such and couldn't do the breakdown before Game 1. When I sat down to do the breakdown I realized that the teams were closer in talent than I realized and that if Ray Allen wasn't done then Boston would probably have an advantage.

4. Well Ray Allen wasn't done after all, giving Boston that advantage.

5. What's next? Well before I get into that, I want to say something about the draft. Imagine if the Celtics got the #1 pick in last year's draft. They probably take Kevin Durant and don't trade for Ray Allen, which set everything off. That said, the Bulls have the #1 pick this year. There have been rumors of the Heat dangling Dwayne Wade for that pick. I say they should definitely take D. Wade and use him to lead all the young talent they have instead of drafting someone who may or may not be good (Although Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley look like locks.)

Alright, that had nothing to do with the Celtics and Lakers. You have to wonder if both of these teams will be back next year. For the Celtics, their chief contenders seem to be the Pistons and Cavs. However, the Pistons are probably going to get broken up and the Cavs' role players are getting older and are trash anyway. Plus they're coached by the worst coach in the league Mike Brown. (Yea, that's who I meant to pick).

For LA, you have to wonder about their chances though. Does Phil Jackson want to coach them again? Is Phil Jackson a good coach for this team? Will Andrew Bynum make that much of a difference? The Lakers toughness inside was exposed by Boston, which is surprising since it wasn't exposed by the Spurs. They also can't play defense, besides Kobe Bryant. And one thing I did get right in my preview is that Pau Gasol isn't the superstar people have made him to be.

The Spurs probably have one more run in them. The Hornets will continue to get better. Utah will also be a tough team to defeat. Even the Rockets, if Yao and T-Mac can hold it together will give them a run for it.

Also, has Kobe been exposed as well? This is his second straight Finals appearance where he came up short. Besides Phil over Doc, one of the main reasons why I expected the Lakers to win was because I figured Kobe would average 35 + points in this series. Instead, he averaged a little over 25. Not going to cut it.

If the Lakers and Celtics make it back, I hope it will live up to the hype this time. Honestly, this series wasn't that exciting for me. I'm sure Lakers and Celtics fans ate it up, but for everyone else it was decent at best.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I prefer the term African American Express

Willie Randolph was fired last night by NY Mets GM Omar Minaya. I always thought Willie was a good manager, although he's been a source of ridicule for his teams colossal collapse at the end of last season.

However, I don't really think he was on the hot seat until he played the race card. After he wondered if race was the reason he was being criticized, he had to apologize for invoking color and the "Willie Randolph Watch" was on.

Race is something people in American don't want to talk about. In sports especially, if you use the race card, you're likely to get roasted. I don't understand. Race is a reality, and considering the plight of African Americans I can't blame someone for being at least a little paranoid that their race matters to other people.

A lot of times, they might have legitimate cases. With Willie, I'm not sure, but he wasn't ridiculous for asking the question. I guess for his sake he should have kept his mouth shut. He'd probably still be guiding the good ship Metropolitan. Hopefully he'll be able to bounce back on his feet and get another position.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

While We're At It

Can we stop with all the Kobe and MJ crap? Seriously, check out Kobe's numbers from his five Finals apperances:

Kobe Bryant

2000 Finals (He only played 9 minutes in Game 2, which affected his stats) LA def Indy 4-2
13.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG

2001 Finals – LA def Philly 4-1
20.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.8 APG

2002 Finals – LA def NJ 4-0
26.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.3 APG

2004 Finals – Det def LA 4-1
22.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.4 APG

2008 Finals – Boston 3-1 over LA
26.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.25 APG


Now peep Jordan's numbers from his six Finals apperances. Its not even close.

Michael Jordan

1991 Finals – Chi def LA 4-1
31.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.2 APG

1992 Finals – Chi def Por 4-2
35.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG

1993 Finals – Chi def Phx 4-2
41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG

1996 Finals – Chi def Sea 4-2
27.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.2 APG

1997 Finals – Chi def Utah 4-2
32.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.0 APG

1998 Finals – Chi def Utah 4-2
33.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG

31, 6 and 11 in '91? 41, 8 and 6 in '93? 32, 7 and 6 in '97? And well all remember how he went out in '98. Nuff said.

Up is Down ....

So the Lakers aren't winning in five, and if the series ends in six games it will end with KG crying holding up the trophy. LA is down 3-1 heading into Game 5, the last game at Staples Center and possibly the last game for LA. How the hell did this happen?

In case you live under a rock, the Lakers blew a 40 point lead (OK, they were up by as much as 24) before losing to the Celtics 97-91. After four games, I have to say that Doc Rivers has outcoached Phil Jackson. Not only has he made a mockery of my finals prediction, I ranked him last on my list of NBA coaches.

Here's what went wrong with the Lakers:

First, I think we all were expecting Kobe to have an amazing series. However, he's been far from dominant. Look at this list of the Top 50 Finals performances. Look at some of the stuff Jordan did, who Kobe is always compared to. Its not even close.

Second, Ray Allen seems far from being done. I guess it was his family problems, and not his age, that was holding him back early in the playoffs. (This had to rattle him too)

And of course, Doc Rivers > Phil Jackson to this point. What usually makes Doc bad has made him good in this series. Doc coaches basketball like one of those old-school baseball managers, he goes with his gut. He's not a big X's and O's guys, and doesn't go by the book, which drives some of the purists nuts. He also seems to ignore stats, which makes the guys like me mad.

It wasn't X's and O's or stats that led him to go with KG, Posey, Pierce, Ray Allen and Eddie House in the third quarter, a line-up that gave the Lakers fits. It was his gut. It was his guy that brought House off the bench the past couple of games after watching Sam Cassell stink it up in relief of Rajon Rondo.

And here we are, since LA will probably not take two games in Boston, the worst coach in the NBA will have earned a ring at the expense at one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the game. Down is up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NBA Fixing Games???? No Way.

Well Tim Donaghy tried to drop a bomb yesterday, accusing the NBA of fixing the Lakers/Kings series in the 2002 Western Conference Finals and another series in '05.

Here's the thing about those allegations. First, its Tim Donaghy talking. He's not exactly the most credible source. He's trying to do what he can to reduce his sentence.

Second, I think every NBA fan already has a level of suspicion about the NBA pulling strings regarding calls and things of that nature.

Can't we all imagine David Stern calling the officials before a game and telling them to do what they can to make sure the series goes to Game 7? Since Stern has been in the league, there has been conspiracies floating about him from fixing the draft so the Knicks can get Ewing to suspending Jordan for gambling for a few years (which led to his baseball stint.)

If this is true, I don't think true basketball fans are going to care much. We already aren't surprised. The key game around the allegations, Game 6 of that Lakers/Kings series, is already considered one of the most egregiously officiated games of all-time. It only makes since that the league wanted the series to go seven.

The thing about fixing games in a sport like basketball is the game is so unpredictable. For instance, lets say the league wanted Boston to sweep LA for some strange reason, which would of course call for the Celtics to win Game 3. The problem is Kobe wasn't losing that game last night, period. The refs could have cheated all they wanted; Mr. Bryant was unstoppable.

Besides, if somebody on the Kings would've just grabbed a rebound, Game 6 wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Finals Breakdown

As promised, here's the finals break down. And in case you're wondering, the Game 1 Lakers loss has not swayed me from my Lakers in 5 prediction. Here's why:

Point Guard

Derick Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo


Rondo is a lot better than what people give him credit for. Meanwhile, Fisher is still a solid veteran, but he can get torched from time to time. Rondo has the physical capabilities to do so, but the way he gets jerked around its no telling where his head is at.

Advantage: Push

Shooting Guard

Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen


Kobe is the MVP. Ray Allen has looked done for most of the playoffs. I expect Kobe to drop 50 at least once in the Finals, Allen will be lucky to top 30.

Advantage: Lakers

Small Forward

Vladamir Radmonovic vs. Paul Pierce


Pierce has proven me right in saying he's the true Celtics MVP. Meanwhile, Luke Walton should probably start here. Either way, its the Lakers weakest position

Advantage: Boston

Power Forward

Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Garnett


Of course this is going to KG. The end of the fourth quarter was the first time I've ever seen KG demand the ball and be aggressive at the end of a big game. However, the 20, 10 and 5 he gives u is his ceiling. Despite how good he is, Garnett just isn't a 40 point, 20 rebound type guy. With Odom, his head has always prevented his talent from being completely utilized. He looked pissed that he was on the bench to end game one. This can either motivate him or make him more annoyed and hurt his game.

Advantage: Boston

Center

Pau Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins


Personally, Gasol hasn't been as good as people have been hyping him up to be. That said its better the Lakers have him instead of whoever they would be starting at center. On the other side, Kendrick Perkins is really playing like Andrew Bynum was, minus the hype. That said, I'll give this one to Gasol because of his experience.

Advantage: Lakers

Bench

Boston has all the talent in the world on their bench, but they are too deep for their coach to handle. Leon Powe should play every game, but he doesn't get any burn in a lot of games. Sam Cassell is done, but his "veteran" presence and surly demeanor when he doesn't play has earned him playing time.

Meanwhile, the Lakers bench is underrated. They all play well together and with the starters and everyone is used to their role. Phil Jackson usually doesn't surprise people with his rotations like Doc Rivers.

Advantage: Lakers

Coaching

Speaking of which, this is the Lakers' biggest advantage. Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches of all time and Doc Rivers is one of the worst coaches in the league.

Advantage: Lakers

Intangibles


The Lakers main intangible is the ability Kobe Bryant has to take over a game. He's the most dangerous player in the league and can go off for 50 at any moment. If he gets hot down the stretch in any close game, its over. While this didn't happen in Game 1, Kobe has been basically Mariano Rivera in the playoffs so far.

Boston's biggest intangible is their home court advantage, which is the best in the league. Also, the league wants this to go at least 6 if not 7 games. This could lead to some suspect officiating in any of the three LA games. Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist or something.

Advantage: Push

Verdict


If Boston had a halfway decent coach, I'd definitely consider them. But I can't take a team coached by Doc Rivers against Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant in any circumstances. Sorry Boston fans.

Lakers in 5.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Quick Hits 6/3

NHL

Yes, I'm leading off with the NHL. This might be the first time the NHL has been mentioned here all year. Last night I noticed Game 5 of the Stanley Cup was in the second overtime, so I decided to turn to it. Not only was it exciting, it was on a chanel I've heard of and not Versus.

The mroe the NHL comes on NBC, the better it will be. They need to get off of versus ASAP. I've always thought hockey was a cool sport; the year-long lockout just really pissed me off because I was really starting to learn about the game and get into it. I'm definitely going to try to catch at least some of Game 6 on Wednesday and maybe I'll start watching regularly again next season.

NFL

Three of the NFL's bad boys made the news yesterday. First, former Cincinnati LB Odell Thurman is facing an indefinite suspension because of another violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

I feel sorry for him because he's battled some demons, including alcoholism and family problems. When dealing with people who are addicted to something, this type of punishment may not be effective. It definitely curtails recreational drug use, but if you're an alcoholic or drug addict, rules won't stop you from using.

In Denver, Travis Henry was cut by the Broncos because of "lack of commitment." First, this dude has wayyyyyyyyyyy too many kids to be unemployed.

Second, its interesting that the Broncos made him restructure his contract to where he was only making $1.1 million/yr. And yet, the owners want a new deal. Don't they have it good enough as is?

Finally, Pac Man has been partially reinstated by the commissioner. He has to stay out of trouble to be fully reinstated by the start of the season. Hopefully he knows that staying out of trouble means not going anywhere near a strip club. I really hope this dude gets it together, but I have to say I'm skeptical as of now.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Academic Break Pt. 4: MLB & Conclusion

The sport with one of the most publicized losses in African-American athletes is Major League Baseball. Before blacks were allowed to play in the major leagues they played in the Negro Leagues. Owned and operated by blacks, the Negro Leagues is still the most successful sports business venture for blacks in terms of ownership and control.

Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the Negro Leagues began to fall apart. Less than 100 years after the collapse of the Negro Leagues the black baseball player is becoming extinct.

A lot of people say the decline is due to things like baseball being perceived as a “white” sport, lack of resources and places to play for inner-city kids, etc. However, the economic problems are more of a result of MLB and NCAA policy than inner-city poverty.

This article by Chris Isidore hit two of the reasons why black players are on the decline right on the head. First, foreign players aren’t subject to the draft. This has caused teams to open up camps in Latin American where they develop players whom they can sign at ages of 15 or 16.

Second, baseball isn’t a revenue sport in college. A lot of baseball players have to pay to go to school, especially those players who go to football schools where more of the scholarships go to football players. For some schools, like Drexel, it’s not even worth it for the school to field a team.

However, I think all of these problems go back to what Rhoden discussed in his book, which is the lack of blacks in ownership and decision making positions. Without people in the room that care, the policies that are keeping blacks out of the game will continue to go on. Imagine how many black athletes would be in baseball if each team had an academy in their hometown.

Yes, Jimmie Lee Solomon is the Executive VP of the MLB, but he’s probably the only black person in the room during a lot of meetings. To make MLB more accessible for blacks, it will take a large public outrage to influence owners to make a change.

Right now, they are probably more than content with having a white, Hispanic, and Asian league. The Latin players are cheap to develop, the Japanese players are usually the best of the best from Japan and the white players are easy to sell to the fans. They don’t have to worry about fans being uncomfortable with tattoos, long hair or reports of one of their players making it rain.

Its ironic that the players who were eager to leave the Negro Leagues to the brighter lights of Major League Baseball might have indirectly killed the black baseball player. It’s definitely good that Jackie Robinson broke the American sports color barrier for several reasons. However, it’s definitely come at a cost.

Conclusion

It’s funny that Whitlock wrote an article that talked about some of the things I talked about in the NBA piece, namely the effects of the appearance of the players and their perception. (I swear I wrote mines before I read his or even knew it existed)

That said, what is the future of the black American athlete in the U.S.? Is the “globalization” of American sports a bad thing? Considering everything else in the country, is it a natural step inline with our countries economic policies?

For starters, these trends will probably continue until blacks either gain more power in these leagues or leverage their power as athletes to get some changes made.

Second, I think the black athlete needs to become more professional and more cognizant of their situation here. Their appearance and behavior is under a lot of scrutiny, perhaps more so than their white counterparts.

I’m definitely not saying tattoos are bad or that it’s not ok to go to the club. Hell, I was in the club last night. It’s the little things that go along way.

Maybe think twice about getting that neck tattoo of your name in Mandarin Chinese. LeBron James needs to know better than to take a picture like this. If you make $6 million a year, perhaps you should call a cab or hire a driver instead of driving home drunk. If you make $6 million a year, you might want to consider hiring a bodyguard or two instead of packing heat. With the nature of celebrity worship and hate in our country, for some it might be time to leave a lot of the nightlife alone, or go to more upscale places.

A lot of young blacks in general struggle with this. They don’t understand why they are judged by appearance and think that someone who classifies them as a thug because their pants are hanging off their butt is a racist. I say that professionalism knows no race. That’s why the NBA’s dress code was one of David Stern’s best moves.

I also think that its na├»ve to ignore the reality of perception. People make judgments on perception all the time. You can sit and say it’s wrong and shouldn’t happen or you can acknowledge its presence and adjust accordingly.

I think that if black athletes changed the perception of them by looking more professional and staying out of trouble, it will go a long way. It sucks that a black athlete and a white athlete doing the same thing gets covered differently, but it is what it is. Blacks don’t own the leagues and we don’t own the media that covers the leagues.

In general, I don’t think the globalization of sports is a bad thing. It’s good that these leagues that give out “World Champion” titles are truly becoming home to the world’s best players. The problem I have is when a team takes a foreign player over a black player when they have equal or lesser talent. That’s when you have to wonder about the motives of the decision makers.

This piece was fun for me to work on, although it’s hard to talk about race in this country. When a player or coach says that something is racist, they are often scrutinized for “playing the race card.” Willie Randolph is on the hot seat for suggesting some of the criticism he receives is racial. However, race is everywhere in sports. For the economic and bureaucratic structure of sports to how players are scouted and even how the media covers the sport. Announcers even describe white and black players differently.

The more uncomfortable it becomes to talk about race, the harder it becomes to fix some of the race related problems in sports. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the point.

Special thanks to Professor E with her help on this project.

Academic Break pt. 3: The NBA

A league that is slowly becoming less black is the NBA. This is also a league with an interesting situation. Most of the best basketball players in the U.S. are young black males. Many of them are firmly entrenched into the hip-hop culture that Jason Whitlock hates and many in the mainstream are afraid of.

The Pacers/Pistons/Fans brawl a few years ago seemed to legitimize the fears of those on the outside of the league. It also helped people paint a picture of the NBA as a league full of thugs. (Funny how a fight between white players and fans was barely talked about by the media.)

On top of that, the players are perhaps the most visible in the NBA, on and off the court. On the court, we can see almost all of their tattoos, of the court their wardrobes and jewelry are under scrutiny. When an NBA player gets in trouble, or says something silly (i.e. Josh Howard), it becomes big news. And now the NBA has an image problem.

They have gone through great lengths to change their image from the dress code, to the NBA Cares program, to tougher penalties for things like fighting, but the whispers are still out there. People still say they don’t watch the NBA because it’s not good anymore, the players are lazy and selfish, it’s a league of thugs, etc. Meanwhile, the NBA is finishing up the best season since Jordan was in Chicago.

A lot of the league’s image problem is the players’ fault, but in a lot of ways they are the product of the system around basketball. Camps, AAU leagues, sneaker companies and traveling teams have more influence in basketball than in any other sport. If they’re good, players are coddled throughout their grade school years and into college. At the camps, they are under intense pressure to standout among hundreds of kids, so in a way they’re bred to be selfish.

Even though David Stern is doing his best to change the image of his black players, he’s not stupid. Larry Bird said it best; more white people would watch the game if they could root for white players. It’s not a racist thing, it’s an identification thing. The NBA is immensely popular in the hip-hop circle and among young blacks because they can relate to the game’s stars. More than any other sport, the NBA’s true fans are priced out.

The non-PR response to the criticism has been to replace American-born black athletes with foreigners. Only a few teams (Boston, Charlotte, Indiana, LA Clippers, Miami) don’t have foreign players. The Toronto Raptors have six foreign players and another, Anthony Parker, who was the Euroleague MVP before coming to the NBA.

These foreign players aren’t necessarily better than black or white Americans. We get the cream of the crop from other countries, whose abilities range from poor to MVP caliber. For NBA teams, they are three benefits to having European players.

First, they are usually inexpensive. It costs an NBA nothing to draft a foreign player in the 2nd round and let him develop in overseas, compared to drafting an American and having to pay them to sit on the bench and develop.

Second, it adds some diversity to the league. The NBA became mostly black because basketball is the most popular sport among African-American youths, especially in the inner cities. Basketball is cheap; all you really need is a ball. If your friend has a ball then you’re set. While other kids spend time and money playing other sports throughout the year, inner city kids just play ball. A player that plays basketball everyday will probably be better than a kid that just plays during basketball season, if they are comparable athletes.

By bringing in European players, you can give the fans white players to watch. Rooting for Dirk Nowitzki is not the same as rooting for John Smith, but it might make fans more comfortable than rooting for a cornrowed, tattooed LaAnthony Jenkins.

Third, teams don’t have to deal with the baggage that comes with inner-city kids. The off the court struggles of some athletes receive a lot of play in the media, giving all of them a bad image and in a lot of ways making them less desirable.

Without the power to make executive decisions, all the players can do is continue to play. In the coming years, watch the NBA become more and more international as black Americans are replaced by Europeans, South Americans, Africans and Asians, kind of like baseball.

Once again, to get a better perspective, read $40 Million Slaves.