Kobe Bryant and Kevin Love

Note: The guys from The Basketball Jones (including Trey Kerby) are traveling today and did not have an opportunity to review this before I posted it. The opinions I express in this post are mine alone do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Basketball Jones or anyone else at theScore.

Last Friday, a colleague of mine told me I should read a Daily Beast column by Buzz Bissinger about why the NBA was declining in popularity. Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize winner and extremely entertaining on Twitter so I expected to be amused by the piece, at the very least.

As jaded as I am, almost nothing shocks me these days — but I can’t recall ever being as appalled by a piece of sportswriting as I was here. Bissinger’s premise is that the NBA is supposedly losing popularity because too many white American sports fans can’t bring themselves to root for this generation of African-American NBA players.

I encourage you to read the entire piece yourself so that you can form an opinion on whether I’m overreacting, but I’m going to single out particular excerpts that really stand out as revealing Bissinger’s ignorance of the league, his sweeping generalizations with very little to back them up, and his blatantly racist attitudes towards black athletes.

Bissinger admits at the beginning of the column that the only reason he’s writing about the NBA is that he’s been assigned this topic by his editor. He follows that up by writing, “The problem is, I don’t really know what to say about the NBA other than I almost never watch it anymore.” Maybe he should have pointed this out to his editor so he could have avoided typing out this disaster in the first place.

After stating that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are the only three NBA players he would pay to watch, Bissinger writes:

“The game is in trouble and I don’t think there is much dispute about that.”

If the game is in trouble, it’s because of the potential of a lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after this season. But that’s not what Bissinger is referring to.

“Attendance was down last year and is slightly down so far this season. Although basketball is supposed to be a team game, it has become more one-on-one in the NBA than a boxing match. The style has changed and it is a definite turnoff.”

There are two types of claims here — one supposedly factual and one subjective. The attendance claim seems to be mistaken because I contacted the NBA league office and they confirmed David Stern’s recent claim that attendance is actually up “just shy of 1 percent” this season. That’s not a massive increase, but it’s certainly not a decline.

Where you will see a significant increase in the NBA’s popularity if you bother to do the research — which Bissinger didn’t, and I did — is in the TV ratings for this season. Multiple sources have confirmed that ratings have been way up throughout the season, but here are the latest numbers provided by the NBA as of this past weekend:

  • Viewership for the NBA’s network partners is up double-digits across the board.
  • TNT viewership of NBA games is up 30 percent, ESPN viewership is up 20 percent, and ABC viewership is up 34 percent compared to this point last season.
  • NBA games have reached over 86.5 million unique viewers this season, nearly 20 percent ahead of last year’s regular season pace to date.

You get the picture. The NBA is not only not losing popularity, you can make the case that it’s never been more popular with American sports fans. As for his claim about the NBA’s supposedly selfish style of play, isn’t that what every generation of aging NBA fans (and former fans) says about the game? So far this season, 57.7 percent of all field goals have been assisted. Going back 10 years to the 2000-01 season, 61 percent of all field goals were assisted. In 1990-91, that figure was 59.8 percent. It appears that there is slightly more one-on-one play than there used to be. More one-on-one than a boxing match? Not hardly.

Numbers be damned, Bissinger eventually gets to his reason for believing that Americans — specifically white Americans — are losing interest in the sport:

“Are whites losing interest in a game in which the number of white American players not only continues to dwindle, but no longer features a superstar?


I merely rolled my eyes when I read this, because I’ve heard this argument for years and I’ve always believed it’s not based in reality. Bissinger claims he makes “a habit of asking every white sports fan I know whether they watch the NBA” but how many 25-year-old sports fans do you think 56-year-old Bissinger talks to? I don’t personally know too many NASCAR fans but that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that it’s an extremely popular sport.

A 2008 study by comScore Media Metrix and Experian Simmons of American sports fan demographics among NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL fans revealed the following about how users of NBA.com compared to users of the other three league websites:

  • NBA.com had the highest percentage of visitors under the age of 35, at 47.6 percent.
  • MLB and NFL fans are slightly more likely than NBA fans to be white.
  • NBA fans skew slightly more African-American than the average adult or the other major sports fans.

Note the use of the word “slightly” in those last two points. As indicated by this chart, over 70 percent of NBA fans in 2008 were identified as being white. Am I supposed to believe there has been a mass exodus of white fans over the past couple of years, particularly considering the overall increase in the league’s popularity this season? I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

Why exactly does Bissinger believe that white American sports fans don’t want to root for African-American NBA players? Here’s his theory, and it’s a doozy:

“I think it’s why you hear more than you should how players in the NBA don’t ever look as if they are trying and yes, one of those who has said that is me. Lack of effort is what whites still assume of black athletes in basketball—they don’t have sufficient desire, their body language during timeouts connotes boredom, they are always looking in the stands for the next concubine, they just don’t have that blue-collar work ethic that makes great white athletes great. Add in the absence of a single white American superstar (Steve Nash is Canadian), and it alienates whites even more.”

That tired stereotype that black athletes get by on natural ability while white athletes succeed based on effort is bad enough. But how about that “they are always looking in the stands for the next concubine” part? Doesn’t Bissinger know that Shawn Kemp hasn’t been in the league since 2003?

In all seriousness, that is some racist garbage. “Whites” in general don’t have that viewpoint about black athletes, but apparently Bissinger does. Once you start making claims about how one race inherently behaves a certain way compared to another one, you are making a racist statement by the very definition of the word, no matter how many black friends you may have.

“I don’t think talking about any of this makes me a racist. I believe it makes me a realist.”

OK, keep telling yourself that, Buzz. It seems as though you and some of your white friends have decided that the reason you don’t like the NBA anymore — even though it’s more popular than ever and arguably has more exciting players and future stars than it’s had at any point in history — is because the game isn’t played the right (white) way anymore. Let’s face it, guys like you liked it better when NBA games looked like this.

At the end of his piece, Bissinger undercuts his whole argument by admitting the absurdity of many of the claims he just made:

“So maybe the best thing for whites to do, including myself, is accept the fact there will be no white hope, drop the work-ethic fallacy, and revel in a game that is embedded more than ever with beauty and grace and strength and acrobatics.”

Bissinger cops to “the work-ethic fallacy”, but why did he bring it up in the first place? Just because certain people have ignorant opinions on the NBA and its African-American players in particular, that doesn’t mean you should devote a whole column to them. Over the years, I’ve talked to a number of people in various sports bars who hold racist, misinformed opinions about the NBA. I respond by doing what Buzz should have done — I ignore them and actually watch the sport to form my own opinions so I don’t make a fool of myself when I write about it.

In a 2008 appearance on the Bob Costas Live TV show, Bissinger shouted, “I think that blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they’re dedicated to journalistic dishonesty… It is the complete dumbing down of our society.” If he wants to see journalistic integrity after writing that steaming heap of a column, he certainly shouldn’t look in a mirror.

Comments (87)

  1. Bissinger is just theorizing! He’s not saying he believes any of that! I really don’t see where you get off calling him a racist.

    People like to root for people who look like them. This is such a basic concept it’s indisputable. And considering that only 13% of the American population is black but 80% of the NBA is … yea that might a factor as to why the NBA isn’t the most popular team sport in the US.

  2. Extremely racist and stupid…

  3. Brilliant. Thank you, from Basketball fans.

  4. The guy obviously has no idea about the game. Real fans do not think about race at all. He is basing his theory on some stupid book he wrote a while back and asking people about the age old stereotype that white have to work more, because blacks are “naturally” more athletic…. come on! He wants a white American, not counting Gasol, Ginoblii, Nowitzki as “white stars” in order to make his point. Frankly the guy has no clue about basketball and is an idiot.

  5. Very well written. Thank you. It is sad to see that ignorance still plays such a heavy role in a persons life. It is sad that race must always be at the forefront of such ignorance. We are all people. Our differences are what make us great. Without them we would all be a bunch of Watson’s, however, no where near as smart and that is certainly true in Bissinger’s case after such a blunderous leap backwards.

  6. I thought of Shawn Kemp immediately too.

    WOOOOOOOOOOW This Buzz dude is tripping.

  7. ^ Hi Buzz! Glad you stopped by!

  8. Usually when an article is written in response to another with great reservations, it ends up being overly emotional, with good arguments lost in screams. Scott, great job with keeping your argument calm and entirely reasonable.

    That Bissinger wrote that he believes directly in Blacks coasting in the league, (“they don’t have sufficient desire, their body language during timeouts connotes boredom”), and holds the very realistic nature of racism up as just cause for the NBA being a league in decline… well, I wouldn’t have held it against you if your response was nothing more than an angry diatribe.

    Thanks for the article

  9. Great informative article! Thank you! Somebody should tell that guy to enter the new century!

  10. the hardest worker in the nba 20 yrs ago? mj. hardest worker now? kobe.

    tell me how this guy isn’t racist?

  11. Between Bissinger’s remarks and David Alridge’s “Black Thanksgiving” comments last week there is a lot of BS that is blurring the line between mainstream journalism and blogging. Like Gil Lebreton for his bone-headed opining during the Vancouver Olympics, Bissinger seems to be relying a bit too much on his past reputation and accomplishments to give much thought to the fundamentals of journalism or the reasoning required to participate in public discourse. Laziness and arrogance.

  12. Strictly speaking, you can’t really extrapolate how much one-on-one play there is from the percentage of assisted field goals.

    The counter-argument would be that all that one-on-one play just isn’t resulting in made field goals, which in turn could get used as a “why it’s not popular” argument. It’s the Allen Iverson complaint. He was just driving the lane, chucking up a shot, and not making it as often as one would like.

    I’m not saying that’s the way it is, just that the numbers you’re using don’t necessarily support the argument you’re making.

  13. A lot of assumptions by this dude, claiming that is what white people believe. He’s just hiding behind that bullshit just come out and say that is what you personally believe. Really don’t like the identifying with your own race argument either, Skip Bayless has brought that up several times on 1st & 10 and it makes me uncomfortable every time.

  14. Just wow. Totally baffling.

  15. @ Jamal: ‘People like to root for people who look like them’ is a pretty sweeping generalization too. It definitely has some demonstrable truth, but its far from an absolute. For all of the goofy posturing that ‘Black people only voted for Barack Obama because of his race’, that point is quickly shot down when reminded of the presidential campaigns of Carol Moseley-Braun, Al Sharpton, and Alan Keyes. Their skin didn’t help them out too much.

    Here’s the most base irrationality as I see it: You have countless former college stars that alleged partisans of college basketball fall in love with every few years. That admiration rarely seems to follow when they make the move to the pros, where those players usually become stronger (better training) and more well-rounded. Oh, and more richly compensated for their work.

    For almost ten years, the San Antonio Spurs have a playing style that’s the absolute antithesis of the ‘street ball’ that those same White fans claim to abhor, yet their championship appearances have provided some of the lowest ratings in the 20+ years that the NBA Finals have been televised live. All with players who have made most of their headlines for being named in trade rumors. So there’s a lake full of water thrown on the ‘thug players playing thug ball’ fire.

    I believe the biggest problems lie in blatantly ignorant perception existing as reality for many people. And though I thought Bissinger had some relevant points, perhaps he’s fallen victim to several of these perceptions.

  16. Wow, this article is ridiculous. I could go into the details, but it would take too long. Too put it simply: that is straight bullshit.

  17. Using the same studies you linked, you can see a definite generational gap. The NBA.com site (I’m not sure how using that proves your point, but I’ll use it anyway) show that the NBA has the youngest concentration of viewers, while other sports rake in the older crowd. The NBA has a problem with drawing in those older players, maybe because they don’t identify with the players as well as they do with other leagues.

    It’s unfair that a lot of the criticism lobbied at NBA players mention that they are “thugs”, only work hard in the final minutes, etc. Bissinger does bring up a point that isn’t easily dismissed.

  18. It’s an interesting aticle, although reguarding the fact that the “main crew” is not here, I’m not sure it’s in the usual tone of the site.

    Still, cool, tho

  19. The lone good point Bissinger made was about white fans assuming the black players are skating by whereas white players are working hard. That is likely a true thought for some Americans, and also why most Americans prefer the college game to the pro game. Still, it is entirely about race, race is an underlying factor for some I’m sure, but to chalk it all up that way? Child Please.

  20. I don’t really think you represented Bizzinger’s article very well and took a few things he wrote out of context.

    I think it’s more that older white people generally talk to other older white people. And that’s the prevailing opinion among people they know. The NBA may be growing in certain ways in certain demographics, but for whatever reason among people my age and race (38 yrs old and white), basketball is the 1 of the 4 major sports they don’t really follow closely any more. You get older you have less free time and something has to go.

    I also think back in the 80′s the NBA made itself a players league rather than a team league, with the way they marketed Bird, Magic, and Jordan. And that has hurt a little with people my age. I want to watch my team win more than another team’s great players do great things. And in the NBA you know when the year starts that maybe 6 or 7 teams at most have a legit chance to win a title. So if your team isn’t one of those select few and you don’t care about the Kobe or LeBron marketing empires, then there’s nothing really there for you.

  21. He should be made aware that very few Americans are black or white, we’re a nation of mixed gene pools and interracial breeding. Not that any of that has a place in sports popularity! I watched the Mark Twain awards for Bill Cosby last night and they joked about him being the first Black tennis playing spy who wore shorts on TV…..maybe he should also check out the Globetrotters contributions to spread goodwill and bring basketball to the entire world! Then again. maybe he was a high school star that didn’t make the cut at the college level?

  22. The dude seems pretty racist but at the same time it is hard to ignore the fact that…
    really why aren’t there any white american stars??? it’s a growing trend for sure
    the all star game only had Kevin Love!

  23. weird article. by Buzz’s requirements for white fandom (team play, gritty work ethic, white stars) shouldn’t hockey be the most popular sport in America?

  24. I think Kenny Smith did a geneology test on Charles Barkley and Snoop Dog to find out which of them was more African American. Charles turned out I believe to be whiter and blacker than Snoop Dog because Snoop Dog had more Native American blood. Was an interesting segment.

  25. Just to clear up my comment, when I said “this article” I meant Bissinger’s article.

  26. White fan here, I have no problem cheering for black athletes, great column!

  27. Although Bissinger had a ‘I’m part of the problem too’ tone in his set-up and conclusion, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t suggesting he believed in all of those racist stereotypes he rattled off. To highlight that part and say he’s racist is taking it out of context.

    Otherwise, I agree with your rebuttal.

  28. Gross stuff. Good piece.

  29. Great response piece. Buzz confuses a generational gap as racism. I’ve heard about the “black stereotype” and have only heard of it from people of my parents’ generation. I grew up idolizing Shaun Kemp because he was an awesome basketball player (and I looooove cocaine). I don’t think Buzz is racist, I think he’s tired and old and should take your advice and not comment on things he isn’t knowledgeable about.

  30. Easy solution:

    Everyone should be painted magenta before each game with a digital transmitter that adds a yellow blur to television screens. This way it’ll look like they’re all on fire when they run fast. During any physical contact there’ll be pulse of red. That’ll look awesome at home! Magenta people running on fire with red damage indicators! I bet a million dollars that ratings go through the roof for male+female viewers aged 8-16 and then the racist white guys wont bitch about the color of people playing the game cause you can’t tell who’s who. Actually you can. The black guys will be running circles around the white guys while flying through the air and the white guys will be stomping the black guys into the floor with their tank-like wandering picks.

    Basket Ball in the 90′s was still the best. I like it now more though than the beginning of the Willenium. This has been a great season so far!

  31. Honestly, I think Bissinger was kind of lazy on this piece and just took from what he knew about basketball when he followed it and applied it to today’s NBA. He basically described the Iverson NBA and the post-Jordan era, where there was lots of one-on-one play.

    He starts off various parts of one sentence with “I have no hardcore evidence” … I mean, journalistically, that is bullshit. How do you write about something without evidence??? You can either state your opinion or don’t write about it, but don’t make up stuff. He also says the game was in trouble and there was little reason to dispute that. He doesn’t follow the statement with evidence, but with another statement in that the attendance was low. Usually you need proof or facts. My teacher back in the day would have put an F on it and sent it back!!! He would not have read the rest.

    I don’t think Bissinger is a poor journalistic. I think he didn’t give a crap and didn’t want to write an article, his editor made him do it and that is what happened here.

  32. What Bissinger’s article lacks is data. His argument seems to be based on a general feeling from himself and his associates, and perpetuating a rather unfounded notion that has been around the NBA for decades.

    But if you look back 20 years ago (as a white kid, I feel I can attest to this, without data!), around the playground, people weren’t stepping up and pretending to be John Stockton or Brent Barry or Dan Majerle or Christian Laettner or Detlef Schrempf or Chris Mullin. No, everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shaq (Ok, maybe not Shaq), and David Robinson. Of course people have always had their favorite white players, but it seems increasingly prevalent that they should be noted as “white players”.

    Just imagine if, while Ryan Howard steps up to the plate, the announcer remarks at how he just might be the best black player in baseball. It doesn’t fit. People identify with those of other races than ever before, unless you happen to be a member of the media, who use it as an incendiary method of stirring up interest in a subject that doesn’t quite hold anyone’s interest. And it seems as though the NBA doesn’t exactly captivate Buzz Bissinger; that’s alright, but I certainly hope that it’s not for a lack of white players.

  33. What Bissinger’s article lacks is data. His argument seems to be based on a general feeling from himself and his associates, and perpetuating a rather unfounded notion that has been around the NBA for decades.

    But if you look back 20 years ago (as a white kid, I feel I can attest to this, without data!), around the playground, people weren’t stepping up and pretending to be John Stockton or Brent Barry or Dan Majerle or Christian Laettner or Detlef Schrempf or Chris Mullin. No, everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shaq (Ok, maybe not Shaq), and David Robinson. Of course people have always had their favorite white players, but it seems increasingly prevalent that they should be noted as “white players”.

    Just imagine if, while Ryan Howard steps up to the plate, the announcer remarks at how he just might be the best black player in baseball. It doesn’t fit. People identify with those of other races than ever before, unless you happen to be a member of the media, who use it as an incendiary method of stirring up interest in a subject that doesn’t quite hold anyone’s interest. And it seems as though the NBA doesn’t exactly captivate Buzz Bissinger; that’s alright, but I certainly hope that it’s for a lack of white players.

  34. I think there still is too much 1 on 1 play, i think he still got this article wrong but i´m also pretty damn sure he´s not close to being racist.

    Word of advice : Read his book “Friday NIght Lights”, specifinally Chapter 5 where the guy very passionate accuses the town he´s covering of racism and exploiting the black players for their athletic talents and otherwise wouldn´t care less about them.

  35. A few people have pointed out the generation gap and I think that plays a large part here. The NBA is a sport that appeals to young people, as studies have shown. And while racism will never disappear completely, I think that successive generations are less likely to judge players by the color of their skin. Let’s face it: Hip-hop never would have blown up the way it did if young white Americans in the past couple of decades had a problem with cheering for African-Americans.

  36. The way I see it, to quote a SLAM article a few years old, black players (mainly teenagers) actually work harder than white players because some, if not most, of them seem to think that professional sports is the only way they can escape poverty/welfare and/or provide food and money for their family. Most white players are usually wealthier and have other opportunities like going to college and get a decent job, whereas this option seem inaccessible for a lot of black people, therefore explaining why they work their ass off to get to the NBA/NFL/MLB etc.

    That was, at least, the general idea of the article. I’m not saying it’s 100% right, but they made some good points and kinda ripped apart the silly argument that “white players work harder.”

  37. I read Bissinger’s piece on the Huff Post and was appalled by the stupidity present in the comments sections. Bissinger ties a league’s success with white fans – its as if he values a white fan at 125% of any other fan. The NBA is the most diverse league in terms of fans – how many indian guys or black people watch baseball? or Hockey? or Nascar?

    Its been a few days since the article came out and I haven’t seen anyone in the media come out and criticize it and thats disappointing.

  38. Bunch of bs.
    I’m Arabian and I root for Dirk Nowitzki as well as Kevin Martin, Kobe and Blake Griffin.
    As long as they work hard and play hard, I’ll cheer for them.

    Nice article, man

  39. Scott, I think you mean the NBA is a league that appeals to young people. Many fathers and grandfathers I know love basketball, but prefer NCAA over the NBA for the “purity of the game” factor. The same goes for NCAA football vs. NFL.

  40. Nate has a point. I overheard that recently as well, Many seem to turn to the “purer” form, though I doubt NCAA ball is any purer.

  41. The urbanization of the nba and hip hop put blacks in a negative light. I don’t know about you, but it seems everyone, black and white had class in the 90s. Well, not everyone. Dennis was a freak, and so were others. But in compares to todays nba, everyone is a diva, have to have the hottest outfits and ear rings, not to mention over paid salaries.

    I don’t think its black and white as it should, but I do find alot of white people rooting for blake griffin and do claim him as white, not bi racial.

    I have not read the buzz article. Don’t know if I want to. Started the first few lines, then it sounded old school racial tension. I’m like nahhh, I won’t read this lol.

  42. I’m not sure I even understand what ignorant argument Bissinger is trying to make, and I don’t think he can decide either. On one hand, it sounds to me like he is saying that many white Americans need a white AMERICAN star to root for (and Kevin Love doesn’t count for some reason), so Steve Nash and others like Ginobli, Nowitzki etc. don’t qualify. So here he is making an incoherent and unsubstantiated argument about nationalism. Seriously, is he trying to say that white people in the South continued watching the NBA after Larry Bird retired because John Stockton was around? Yeah, who didn’t have a John Stockton poster growing up?

    But then he starts exploring why some white Americans might have issues with black players, instead of why they might have issues with Canadians and Europeans, and so he basically forgets the other argument about nationalism and says that the problem is with the way the game is being played by black Americans (at least as perceived by the real racists, not him of course). And here he doesn’t even know what to claw at…effort, too much one-on-one, concubines etc. Yeah, because the Lakers-Celtics finals last year really showcased those problems.

    IF there’s real demographics issue here whereby older white Americans have turned off the game, it’s worth exploring, assuming this hasn’t already been answered (i.e. older white racists were scared of hip hop and tattoos). Otherwise, the lesson here is that if you have nothing to say and are being told to write about something you admit to not knowing much about, just shut the hell up

  43. @Lost Apostle

    How many Indian people watch hockey? Well considering nationally televised games are broadcast in Punjabi here, I’m going to say there’s a few…

    You’re no better than Bissinger in assuming that people of all races must act exactly the same and like the exact same things.

  44. Scott, you should ignore these articles, like you ignore the idiots at the bar, man. Basketball is the most popular sport in the World (even ahead of soccer). We, as fans, don’t have to fucking explain ourselves to anyone.

  45. I only used that as a measure b/c I am personally Indian-American. I should have specified more I guess. I have no idea if Indians from India watch hockey or not. I don’t know a single Indian-American who watches hockey or baseball or Nascar. Maybe I am guilty of what Bissinger did but I would argue its one thing to generalize within your own “group” if you will rather than generalize something you don’t understand.

    The love for college basketball from certain fans is just baffling to me personally. Why would someone watch a game with lesser talent, worse coaches, awful officiating, and generally lacking environments?

  46. It’s an interesting article. Dude is clearly trying to get a reaction while carefully stepping on the boundaries of being offensive.

    I was offended — even though I’m Mexican. Essentially, he said that more white people should be included in the NBA, because white fans want to see white people.

    I’m not sure, though, that this is racist. It is flirting with the boundaries of racism, taunting those who want to see him cross the line. But he didn’t convey racism.

    I’m OK with provocative writing; but using quite possibly one of the touchiest subjects that America has to offer — that of race — to try and get people riled up? That’s just saying you seriously don’t have material to get attention. It’s low, but it worked, since we’re here, talking about it.

  47. I’m really glad basketball doesn’t look like that anymore. The calf muscles on the guy taking the shot make me want to throw up.

  48. Scott man, this is good work. I started seriously following the NBA game in 2003, and I have to say that for a few years there in the middle of the last decade things did seem a little too one-on-one for my tastes. But these last few years, all the best teams have played TEAM offensive and defensive basketball, and it has been beautiful to watch. Now when I hear people tell me the college game has better team play I have to laugh. The pro game is beautiful right now, and long may it live.

  49. I don’t think the dude was being racist, he’s just sticking to the same observations that he made in Friday Night Lights about “what white fans want”. This book was written in the 80s, and Bissinger admitted that he doesn’t know anything about the modern game.

    His last paragraph is representative of his own views, the rest of the article is written from the perspective of this imaginary white fan archetype.

    And to the guy in the comments who said people like Blake Griffin because he looks white – that’s ridiculous! People like Blake Griffin because he’s an athletic freak of nature who’s humble in person but loves to dunk on people in game :D

  50. NBA ratings are up, NBA attendances are up, NBA revenues are up, two of the biggest young stars in the league are white(ish), there are more well coached and hard working teams in the league than there have been for years.

    So, erm, yeah. He’s basically wrong about everything.

  51. Any ladies up in here?

  52. Buzz was a hero to most. But he never meant shit to me you see
    straight up racist that sucker was – simple and plain.

    motherfuck him and John Wayne

  53. This is an interesting view by Buzz that I don’t entirely agree with. I think the game is still extremely popular and the game is globalizing.

  54. Heck, if there are more good white players, then that wouldn’t be a problem now, would it?

    Dirk, Nash, Manu, Gasol, Kidd aren’t black either but they’re mighty good players… No Love for KLove too?

    FYI, I’m Asian btw…

  55. i think buzz was honest about the game in a way that most writers, the writer of this piece included, are afraid to be. just because something is hard to talk about doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it. quite the opposite in fact. buzz was absolutely right that the nba, despite experiencing a renaissance of talent, is underperforming financially. and that the easiest explanation is that it’s not meeting the needs of its core audience: white, affluent sports fans. the reasons for that are messy and have as much to do with sports fandom and the need it fills for us as anything, and that’s absolutely tied into who we identify with and it would be naive to think that didn’t include race.

    it would be awesome if sites like the basketball jones could at least recognize real journalists even if there aren’t any here.

  56. @hemlock09
    The reason many franchises are in financial trouble is because of the massive recession and because GMs are bidding against themselves giving massive contracts to undeserving players, not because the “core audience” can’t identify with the players. I won’t deny there are old white racists, the type of people Buzz hangs out with, who turned to other sports post-Bird, but the fact that basketball is more popular than ever indicates that this group is small. You and Buzz are part of a dying breed of people whose racism is strong enough to get in the way of enjoying a fine sport.

  57. @ Jamal: ‘People like to root for people who look like them’

    I don’t know about that. People keep telling me I look like Matt Barnes, and I hate that motherf*cker!

  58. Maybe Buzz was bullied on the basketball court when he was a kid. That is why he wrote this article about basketball and does not want to watch the NBA.

  59. Man I miss FJM.

  60. I think what’s more related is the U.S. ability to compete and dominate on the international level. The perception of the U.S. as an invincible force on the U.S. stage pushed NBA ratings through the roof in the 1990s. The lowest ratings in the NBA happened to come during the worst period of competition in U.S. history on the international stage, since the renaissance of the league in the 1980s behind the star power of Magic and Bird.

    Perception of the MLB and NFL is that American-trained players are the best in the world, especially with the NFL since there is little interest in the sport in other parts of the world even with the recent growth of leagues in Europe. With the NBA, there is a higher international interest and greater competition for the U.S. and the difference in ratings seem to show that interest in American sports are there for those we are best at. I’m sure Olympic ratings would show that American viewership is highest in sports that the Americans supposedly have the competitive advantage. It seems to hold for the leagues which are the most popular.

    NFL has no competition and is highest-rated in viewership. It took steroids to get the MLB out of the cellar with home-run chases. The NBA’s dominance on the international stage brought in a golden age of viewership and the dipping ratings seemed to coincide more with less dominant international play. Haven’t looked all of this up, but it’s just an interesting non-researched theory I thought of as I pondered the prevalence of “white” American athletes in sports. This seemed to be a greater correlation, although I will not try to point to this as causation.

  61. Kevin: There was definitely an FJM element to this post, except their posts were funny and I’m not a sitcom writer. I miss that site, as well.

  62. Kevin Love and half of Blake Griffin representing for white people

  63. He’s probably wrong, but I didn’t think Bissinger himself was racist at all. Talking about race =/= racism

  64. Mr. Bissinger should probably realize that NBA teams are gonna go with who makes them the most money. The ones that make this money are the best athletes, the ones who have the build, skill, and athleticism. Is it sad that more white players don’t fit the description? That’s up to each individual. As for me, I believe this system works great. It makes for some excellent basketball. Who loses with that??

  65. While I agree with you on most points in the article I do see some truth in what he’s saying. I’m a basketball junkie and an avid NBA fan, and I have to say that I do think the racial disparity affects some viewers. I’m not suggesting that it’s a large amount or that it’s in anyway detrimental to the league, but there are definitely quite a few white people out there who are losing interest in this game because they have some sort of condescending attitude towards the black athlete. Obviously this is wrong and racist, but it’s a real problem that we have in sports. Having said all this, I would like to say that this in no way signals a fall in popularity in the league and he is clearly wrong in that regard. I just believe that he is right in arguing that there are white people losing interest. Though towards the end when he talks about the “lazy effort, looking for the next concubine” etc. I wonder whose feelings those are? The select group of people he mentions or his own thoughts that he attempts to cover up with the article?

    Anyway, overall it’s a bad article and the guy is a moron. Just thought I’d point out that one minor detail. Keep up the good work Scott.

  66. I really don’t see how any of what he says makes him a racist. He was wrong about some of facts (popularity, etc.) and admits he doesn’t have “hardcore data,” but he never states that he believes everything that he hears other people saying is actually true. In fact, the last sentence is pretty much an acknowledgement that all of these perceived problems are fallacious. Why the outrage?

  67. This is all so subjective. I see some people above saying they see racial disperity and some saying they don’t. Either way, the artice is trash and way off-base. A few years ago I watched the NBA as much as I do now, even though I knew and cared far less about the struggles of African Americans in this country. It didn’t matter to me either way because I respected the atheletes for what they were doing. As for the comment about people talking about lack of effort. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with the fact that we all work hard for our cash and it pisses us off to see a superstar, regardless of color, not giving their all. I mean, Pau Gasol is probably the reason the wall around my TV has so many scratches and dents. I guess that means I feel some sort of racial superiority to Spaniards. Or people with neck beards.

  68. First of all Buzz needs to know his damn role and shut his damn mouth. Talking about a fine sport watched all over the universe. Including the millions…. and millions watching in europe, asia, america, the moon, planet venus.. planet mercury and the list goes on and on… First of all, What in the blue hell is a Buzz anyway?…. IT DOESNT MATTER WHAT A BUZZ IS!.. All things that matters is that the millions and millions of people watching basketball does not discriminate, the game of basketball brings all the people together.. black, or white, green or blue.. when you get on the court, you leave everything in the court. Now there cud only be two reason why people dont like the NBA and its the same thing 1. They have no interest in the sport which is fine. We all cant enjoy every sport. and 2. You’re just a jabroni, clan member, absolutely suck racist like this so called Buzz. Now Buzz can take his little article, written on a paper or a computer.. then he needs to shine it up real nice.. and stick it straight up his candy ass!.. IF YOU SMEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLALALAALLAALLAO what the NBA is COOKIN!!!!

  69. The actual writer of the original piece is not racist imo.

    But the content is, and it just shows where we still are as a society, smh.

    I love the game, and personally the ethinicity of the players matters less to me than what they do on the court.

    Finally, the NBA and basketball as a whole, with it’s fanbases all over the world do not need more white Americans to watch, I think they’ll be just fine…….that is as long as there is no lockout next season.

  70. @Scott Carefoot: Thanks for writing this article. I find it important that sports media also show backbone and can take clear stance on cultural and political topics. Sports has a way to important role in society (especially in the US) and I am actually happy the Basketball resists to be “Bread and Circuses”.

    Regarding Bissinger: Bitches be crazy (by either desperately trying to market themselves stupidly, or by simply being stupid).

    Regarding popularity: I’d really be interested in the International League Pass numbers. I regularly meet random people who are subscribers. This should be added to the US TV ratings (through the roof this week-end).

    Regarding attractiveness: Although not a Stern-fan, the NBA does a massive job of providing and maintaining one of the most exciting sports experiences in the world. Because the standard of play has evened out on a high level throughout the league, I think the diverse and complex criteria for success in the NBA makes it hard for occasional viewers and reactionists to get back into the game.

  71. Why are his statements even being taken seriously? Buzz is obviously misinformed about the popularity of the NBA and the mindset of the majority of the players in the league. The way he comments on their lack of work ethic and focus on the court (obviously due to the distractions that accompany their promiscuous nature ) leaves a bad aroma around the nose of the average ball fan. Smells a bit like envy!!

  72. If Mr. Bissinger’s theory was correct, then the Michael Jordan era would have been detrimental to basketball. I don’t think anyone can question the commitment, work ethic and sheer will to win that Jordan had, and even Kobe has now.

    I think most people aren’t stupid. They can tell when somebody puts in hard work and then reaps the rewards. True fans, acknowledge and respect that, rather then basing individual ideas and opinions as what the general public is.

  73. All I can say about Buzz is wow, just…just wow.

  74. Personally I’ve watched the NBA for more that a decade and I don’t really care if the guys are white, black or latino as myself (I’m from Chile), as long as they’re competitive and fun to watch.

    There’s an argument about morality of an issue proposed by John Rawls, which says that the person that wants to judge that issue has to (hypothetically) stand behind a “veil of ignorance”, that removes you from all the evidence you have in your life, helping you to think as the whole society would, not just from your perspective.

    This is to achieve justice and fairness. Mr. Bissinger was none of the above, and tried to justify lower attendance with only one factor: the decreasing quantity of white men playing the sport. Using unproven evidence and his common sense (he said it himself) he tried to find an explanation that can’t be attributed to only one thing.

    For the most part, he forgot globalization (I have NBA International League Pass and as all of the people overseas that contracted the service, I don’t count in Mr. Bissinger’s analysis), and technology (HD-TV most times is better than paying for an upper bowl seat) just to write a simplistic column trying to explain something he doesn’t even want to be a part of anymore.

  75. To Mr. Carefoot,
    Thank you for your commentary. I have no idea if Mr. Bissinger is a racist, or has racist ideas, but I do know that he represents a part of the population that doesnt care about basketball (either ever, or not anymore). In a funny way I agree with Mr. Bissinger, I agree that people LIKE HIM want to watch white players succeed. But most people dont care so much. They care that their TEAM wins, or a player from their COLLEGE wins, or a player who grew up in their CITY wins, or a player who has a good ATTITUDE wins. People like Mr. Bissinger place their race above all these other factors. I cant respect that, and I dont think it took any courage from him to write about it. I think it took 2 cups of coffee and a deadline.

  76. @alex, yes, the nba is doing poorly because of the recession. but that doesn’t explain why its doing more poorly relative to the nfl, baseball, and hockey. the nfl is making so much money that the players, not the owners are opting out of their agreement. baseball and hockey are enjoying year over year growth. the nba has been losing ground in relation the nfl and mlb and that has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with marketing. credit to david stern for covering up tattoos, enforcing a dress code, and overzealously regulating even the slightest aggressive behavior in the wake of the palace of auburn hills fiasco. at the end of the day that’s all putting lipstick on a pig. the biggest issue is that sports fandom is largely about being able to associate with sports stars and there’s a rift between the nba’s stars and it’s season ticket holders.

  77. @hemlock
    “the nba has been losing ground in relation the nfl and mlb”

    The NBA has not been losing ground to the MLB. EVERYONE loses ground to the NFL.

  78. Aside from Buzz’s informal survey of “every white sports fan I know,” what is the evidence that white Americans are no longer interested/losing interest in the NBA? I’m gonna have to call shenanigans. Buzz’s article was rather ill conceived.

  79. Buzz is right. The game has turned off a generation of white fans.

  80. In all seriousness, that is some racist garbage. “Whites” in general don’t have that viewpoint about black athletes, but apparently Bissinger does. Once you start making claims about how one race inherently behaves a certain way compared to another one, you are making a racist statement by the very definition of the word, no matter how many black friends you may have.

    Utter rubbish. Bissinger does not state that the views that he describes are “inherent.” He is obviously stating that it is his opinion that most white people behave in this way or have these perceptions. You disagree. Bully for you. By your myopic definition of racism, your view is racist because you are making a claim that white people inherently do not behave in this manner.

    By your own numbers, the NBA is unique among the four major sports in that it is the most popular among african-american and latino viewers and it is the least popular among white viewers. Bissinger thinks that a big part of the reason for this is racism. You don’t. Why do you this this is the case? That answer is much harder to give than simply calling Bissinger a racist by putting your words in his mouth.

  81. Upon reading this column I couldn’t help but view your remarks as incendiary. It seems Buzz attempted to approach the topic with candor that is rarley displayed in sports jornalism. When examing a topic as sensitive as race, we must set aside allegiances, predispositions, and examine content behind a veil of ignorance. Buzz’s points certainly merit consideration, the league is dominated by an African American hegemony because of a myriad of factors but most of all the evolution of the game requiring athletic prowess. Team play is utterly non existent outside of the occaisional half-court set and the true fast break (not this coast to coast crap)

    Buzz’s argument although semantically clumsy contains a lot of underlying issues which will soon reach the fore-front. The NBA’s popularity is probably decreasing among older white viewers however enjoys steady growth in most other demographics especially youth. We seem now to be obseesed with spectacle more so than ever which I don’t know if you know but this was quite the opposite of Buzz’s generation. He grew up with cornerstone teachers of the game like Wooden who would probably laugh at what the NBA has become. I’m not anti-change of the new look NBA but be mindful that race does play a factor in viewership and brandishing titles like racist, biggot, et al doesn’t dismiss Buzz’s archaic opinion but exposes your ignorance to his generation in favor of your own which race is an inconsequential factor for most.

  82. I notice the last three commenters are defending Buzz. Did you come from The Big Lead or somewhere else?

    If Buzz had made the argument that the NBA isn’t appealing to older white Americans, I wouldn’t have written this response. He claimed that the NBA was turning off white Americans in general, and that’s measurably untrue. The three of you are segmenting his argument to suit your agendas.

    He was provably wrong to state that the NBA was getting less popular and that white Americans are forsaking the league. Just because you and the white friends of your older generation share his opinion, that doesn’t counteract the hard numbers I revealed.

  83. If Buzz had made the argument that the NBA isn’t appealing to older white Americans, I wouldn’t have written this response. He claimed that the NBA was turning off white Americans in general, and that’s measurably untrue. The three of you are segmenting his argument to suit your agendas.

    Look, if you want to try to get some hits by calling a famous writer a racist, you probably don’t want to then get self-righteous and attack the “agenda” of those who think you’re dead wrong. It’s a bit unseemly.

    Are you seriously trying to say that Bissinger wasn’t talking primarily about older white Americans? Of course he was. It takes an amazingly willful misreading of his column to conclude otherwise.

    When I ask them if it has anything to do with the racial composition, they do their best to look indignant. But my guess is they felt very differently about the game when Larry Bird and John Stockton were playing.

    You think he’s talking about 18-24 year olds who enjoy Larry Bird YouTube clips?

    I don’t think talking about any of this makes me a racist. I believe it makes me a realist. White fans want white superstars, or in the case of the NBA, at least one white American superstar. Unless the ghosts of Bird and John Havlicek and Jerry West return to the floor, that isn’t going to happen. And since it isn’t going to happen, the NBA will continue to struggle with an identity crisis that no one wants to publicly acknowledge.

    Again, do you think Buzz is referring to all of those teenage Havlicek & West fans?

    He claimed that the NBA was turning off white Americans in general, and that’s measurably untrue.

    Respectfully, you’re wrong. Your numbers are interesting, but they prove nothing regarding whether white Americans interest in the NBA is increasing or decreasing. Your stats show that two years ago the NBA was the least popular of the four major sports with white fans but they do not show whether these numbers and trending in any direction.

    I think you’re getting frustrated that your attempt to score cheap points at Bissinger’s expense isn’t working out too well. I’ll end with the same question I asked you in my last comment.

    By your own numbers, the NBA is unique among the four major sports in that it is the most popular among african-american and latino viewers and it is the least popular among white viewers. Bissinger thinks that a big part of the reason for this is racism. You don’t. Why do you this this is the case? That answer is much harder to give than simply calling Bissinger a racist by putting your words in his mouth.

    FWIW, I don’t think this shift in the NBA’s audience demographic is a negative. I think long term it is a great strength for the league. But I do agree that it is driven, in part, by racism. To say so out loud is not racist anymore than saying that the earth is round is heretical.

  84. I’m white and watch the NBA (mostly playoffs).

    Of course I’m a fan of the Mavs, so I’m probably only able to cheer for my team because of Dirk.

    anyway, Last year’s NBA finals were almost un-wachable because the first three quarters the refs didn’t seem to ever blow their whistles and then the last quarter they didn’t seem to ever not be blowing their whistles. Game 7 almost drove me away from the NBA completely.

  85. I was hoping for a longer flame war, but I am happy that there was a discussion at all. It’s kind of suspicious that JS knows how to work the formatting of this mofo ;) but I wanted to ask something to get it right. I believe your preamble* to your question is derived from the linked chart° rather than from Scott’s text?

    Now, I applaud you both for trying to reificate with proper numbers -which is IMO the only way to debate this difficult topic successfully- but I haven’t found the data for this chart and it’s Excel at its worst (mixing totals with relations!?).

    * “By your own numbers, the NBA is unique among the four major sports in that it is the most popular among african-american and latino viewers and it is the least popular among white viewers. [...]”

    ° http://www.marketingcharts.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/experian-simmons-sports-ethnic-breakdown-fans-2008.jpg

    I don’t believe anybody’s still continuing here. Next to formatting, I also haven’t seen notifications, but I will show by in a few days.

  86. To call Bissinger a racist is innane, and an obvious misreading of the article. He doesn’t claim any racist feelings himself, he merely points out what he perceives to be the viewpoints of others. Meanwhile, the viewpoint he expresses isn’t explicit racism. The people he refers to, those who once watched the NBA but now do not, do not realize they are participating in a culture of racism, they simply can identify with people of their own race. This is a proven fact; people feel more comfortable around others of their own race/gender/religion//sexual ID. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s the way things are. Furthermore, just because YOU (scott carefoot) do not find difficulty identifying with Black players doesn’t mean others do not. The NBA finals ratings this season were up. Last season was lakers-celtics, that should be the apex of popularity in the sport with two historic franchises and huge fan bases. This years, though, was more popular. While that definitely has to do with LeBron, I have a distinct feeling it had to do with watching Dirk Nowitzki. Every White basketball fan I know was drawn to Dirk during this playoffs, in a way they absolutely were not drawn to Dwyane Wade during his title run. Don’t you think there was a little race-pride involved in that? Not to mention there are countless people who share Bissinger’s views, as disparate as Larry Bird, Skip Bayless, and Walter Greason. There are also obvious racial stereotypes in the NBA, considering Black athletes are considered “natural athletes” and “raw talents” whereas Whites are ‘fundamentally sound” “defensive liabilities” and, almost universally, “lacking in lateral quickness.” So, Scott Carefoot, you have done a disservice to readers and YOU are the one participating in the continuation of racism due to your color-blind views that avoid the discussion of White privilege rather than taking it head on.

  87. Average 30 year old white male here and I completely agree with buzz’s article. Grew up a huge NBA fan and my favorite players were black. I have completely lost interest with the thugs the NBA are selling now. I don’t care how talented lebron is, he’s an immature cocky arrogant wannabe thug. Not the only white person that feels this way.

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