12/24/2006: "NBA..Image Problem, Color Problem, Media Problem or all of the above?"
NBA..Image Problem, Color Problem, Media Problem or all of the above?
Written by Cornelius Turner
Email Cornelius Turner
On December 17, 2006, the Washington Wizards played the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, CA. The game was an over-time thriller and duel between one of the top 2 scorers in the league. Gilbert Arenas scored 60 points, which set a franchise record and set a NBA record for points scored in an over-time. Kobe Bryant, otherwise known as “Darth Kobe”, scored 45 points and added 10 assist and 8 rebounds to boot.
There has been little mention about how great this game was. It is truly said that this is the case. I am not suggesting that this should get 0 attention, but, it did make me ask a question. That question is, why was the league so successful in the 80’s and 90’s and so hated now even though we have as much talent as we have had in a very long time?
By my count, there are 30 teams in the NBA. Each team is comprised of 15 players on each roster. So if you are doing the math at home, that is 450 players in the NBA. Out of those 450 players that are currently in the league, here is a (off the top of my head) list of players who have been in trouble recently. Zach Randolph, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Jackson, Jamal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels, Eric Musselman, Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal (Brawl), Gilbert Arenas, Alan Henderson, Michael Olowokandi, Dale Davis (charges were dropped), Ruben Patterson, Glenn Robinson, and Cliff Robinson, Awee Storey. (http://sports-law.blogspot.com/2005/07/nba-players-that-get-in-trouble-with_20.html )
So by my count, that’s 16 players. Now, when dividing 16 by 450, that’s 0.03% of the players that are getting into trouble. Mind you, that is 16 players in recent years, not in one year that have been in trouble. Now admittedly, I may have missed one or two players. But then, take into consideration that the Bengals have 8 players alone on one team that have been arrested. Where is the cry for what’s wrong with the image problem of the NFL? How come in the 70’s and 80’s guys were using more drugs (and harder I might add) than they are now but no complaints? A certain Bruin who now televises NBA games was a known pot head…Some how, no complaints. Larry Bird had a child out of wedlock just like some NBA players. Rick Barry, it is widely known, had very little to do with his son’s upbringing just like some of today’s NBA players. No thug label!
So I ask, is the NBA really a group of a bunch of thugs? Give me a break! The truth is, the NBA is a group full of mostly responsible, Black, men who for the most part handle their business and do the right thing. Which leads me to my next point….
In order to fix a problem, you must first acknowledge that a problem exists. The issue is that the NBA has become a majority Black league. A lot of these young men represent a culture that middle-upper class, White America fears. Black men with tattoos, bravado, and corn rows is not who White America wants to be living next to. The stereotype of that person is that he is a trouble maker and a thug according to White America and some of Black America as well. That is why even though by my calculation (again, I am admitting that it is not 100% accurate by not far off), less than 1% of the NBA players get into trouble yet, they are perceived as thugs.
The problem with Commissioner Stern is that he feeds into the negative perception of the NBA players that he presides over. Imagine Stern standing up for his players and actually offering support for them? How about coming out with statistical evidence that NBA players get in trouble less than NFL players? Or that in baseball and hockey, fights occur all the time and defended by people saying that, “its just a part of the game”.
I, for one, am tired of the double standard that is thrown out at the NBA because their faces are seen and those faces are not the faces that fans can relate to. As Stern is starting to see, he can dress individuals in any type of clothing he wants…the problem isn’t in the clothes, its in the color that’s in the clothes.
As I pointed out at the beginning of my rant, Gilbert Arenas and Kobe Bryant put on a show. The 2 teams combined for 280+ points. Gil went for 60 and set a new NBA record. Kobe was his usual nasty, filthy and brilliant self with “only” 45 points 10 assist and 8 rebounds. Yet, no coverage. ESPN, who I am losing more and more respect for, showed the highlights of that game and the broke away for a commercial and in the lead up said they would be showing coverage of the brawl and having their analyst break down what happened. Yet, no breaking down of the brilliance of a 60 point game. No breaking down of Kobe getting yet another 40+ point barrage.
Its not like fights just started happening. Kareem punched a player (that players name escapes me), Jordan fought plenty of times, Charles got into altercations, and so did Larry Bird. And Im talking about throwing punches. Funny how none of those players ever faced 10 + game suspensions and how the focus wasn’t on what was wrong with the league at that time.
The reason why it wasn’t is because the media and thus the fans, because the media is the window that the fans look through unfortunately, were focusing on Magic getting triple double. They were focusing on who Jordan was going to posterize next. They were focused on the rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics. Funny how when you focus on the positive how the fans see the greatness that is the NBA.
Obviously, I love the NBA and feel that the NBA gets a bad rap because people are more upset with the “who” than the “what”. Meaning, they aren’t upset with the product. They are upset with who is providing the product. The facts are, the numbers state that most NBA players are great people. Looking at the game, it tells me that not in a long time have we had the plethora of stars such as Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Yao Ming, Dirk, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and on and on and on. I say, embrace the positive in the NBA and stop buying what the media is selling. The NBA isn’t any more worse in regards to who plays in it that before. Its just that the public is seeing less and less of itself in the NBA product.