By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
THRILLA IN MANILA
I read McGraw's piece after watching Dallas and San Antonio play the sixth game of the Western Conference finals. I noticed the presence of white players particularly on the Mavericks' bench. I think it's good for the game. The NBA would benefit from the presence of talented players coming from diverse countries; seeing a player coming from the viewer's part of the world would surely be a thrill.
African Americans do not own the game. Can we not just enjoy the game as played by the best players of the world? Professional football [Editor's note: soccer, for us Yanks] leagues in Europe import players from Asia, South America, the Middle East, Africa, and the U.S., and yet there's no big deal made about it. Let's not be parochial about the presence of foreigners in the NBA. Basketball belongs to the world.
NEXT TARGET: LACROSSE!
The "American game" known as basketball is a Canadian game. It was invented by Canadian James Naismith in 1891. You in the U.S. have also co-opted Canada's No. 1 game, hockey. So, enough already with the whining about foreign players "invading" the "American game" of basketball, when you guys ripped it off of Canadians in the first place.
NOWITZKI OR NEVER
I think the race issue is overblown. Higher-scoring games are more exciting than 76-74 games regardless of the race of the players. So what if guys like Dirk Nowitzki aren't the best defenders? It isn't defense that sells.
The influx of foreign players should be viewed as positive for fans of the league because it raises the level of competition. A mediocre American player (white or black) can no longer count on a place on an NBA roster. The NBA features the best basketball players in the world. What's so bad about that?
THE FOREIGN MARKET
As a sports fan who has spent a number of years in Asia, I have enjoyed the inclusion of foreign athletes in American professional leagues. Now I am in China and I can see every game the Houston Rockets are playing because of Yao Ming.
What sports leagues are doing is selling the game. Ichiro, Matsui, and Yao jerseys are flying off the racks all over the world. In Asia they like seeing that their athletes can compete at the highest level.
The NBA and MLB have realized there is a large resource of talent overseas and tons more money. If some white, black, brown, or yellow guy from a country where the league wants a market share is as good as some kid from the States, I increasingly see the foreign kid getting the job. The leagues are interested in the market. The market rules.
BLOOD, SWEAT, AND CONSPIRACY
McGraw's article was entertaining, compelling, and insightful. Color does not equal skill, however. Anyone that has an expert level of skill or is working toward it knows the study and practice time involved. The players in the NBA put in years of blood, sweat, and tears to be hired by an NBA team. To even mention race as a factor in a league that hires on merit is demeaning to the NBA and all of its players. Conspiracy guy, get a life.
Dan McGraw's article was thought-provoking, but was also a shallow analysis of race and the NBA. I do not think the popularity of white European players is some sort of conspiracy to win over white fans and boost NBA revenues. Sure, one reason the new Euro players are popular is because they are white. Is this a conspiracy or a function of racism? No: It just indicates that the white audiences like to root for white playersI know I do. I love Allen Iverson and Chris Webber, but I relate with Steve Nash more.
The real conspiracy is the grab on the wallets of young black men. LeBron James just got a $90 million shoe deal, and his new sneaker will be purchased by thousands and thousands of young black men. The Air Nowitzki just won't cut it.
McGraw's article disgusts me. Why must your paper turn everything into race? Do white kids not idolize black basketball players? Do the players coming from Europe deserve to be here for their skills? Yes, they do. As someone who's been to Europe numerous times and has a large family there, I know that the majority of teens there idolize the NBA's African American players more so than they do the European players, because of the different style that African American players bring to the game. That means that these fans appreciate the players' skill, not the color of their skin. Why are you insinuating that we can't do that here in the U.S.?
In a day and age when everything in our city has turned racial, can you at least let basketball be about nothing but fun? Stop the divisiveness. The children playing ball in school and in the parks don't need you to make the sport about anything other than a competition of skill.
As a first-time Voice reader, I hope Dan McGraw's article does not signify the "in-depth" writing of which this publication's initial reputation drew me. How could McGraw not once compare the increase of European players in the NBA to that of the lily-white National Hockey League in the '90s? So many European players have been drafted and signed by the NHL recently that a past all-star game used a North American-versus-the world format. The NHL also enforced rule changes to open up the gamesound familiar?
Instead of writing an article tying in the increasing European influence to the continual globalization of the marketplace, McGraw went for the cheap racial angle. If I wanted that, I'd read the Post.
San Francisco, California
Congratulations to Chisun Lee, Tom Robbins, and Joy Press. Lee will receive the Crystal Gavel Award from the New York Press Club and New York State Bar Association for her story "The NYPD Wants to Watch You" [December 18-24]. The award recognizes outstanding reporting on compelling issues of law and justice. Robbins has won the first-place Alternative News-weekly Award for investigative reporting for his piece "The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee" [April 10-16, 2002], and Press has won the second-place award for arts criticism.