The host of HBO Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel had some choice words for NBA commissioner David Stern. The comments, which can be found here not only offer scathing criticism, or well, let's be honest, accusation of racism and even slavery, but address an issue that hasn't been discussed much since the lockout began.

Said Gumbel:

"The NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell bent lately on demeaning the players than on solving his game's labor issues."

and further:

"His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. ... His moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place."

This is the first acknowledgment I have seen of what we all see and know to be true:  the NBA is made up primarily of African American players. According to the Institute of Ethics and Diversity in Sport, in the 2009-10 season, 77% of the NBA was made up of African American players. During the same year, whites made up 98% of majority ownership in the NBA.

Based on the numbers, and based on what we've heard from Stern and the players, does Gumbel have any leg to stand on with his assertion of "slaves and plantation owners?"

While Gumbel may have a point, once again we are left with a reality that he is ignoring: the millionaires and billionaires are fighting and we middle-classers are left paying the price.  Correct me if I'm wrong but don't things work like this:

  • Someone has to own NBA franchises
  • A governing, rule making body must exist to deal with administrative issues, money, marketing, etc.
  • Players need to play for NBA franchises so there are games to watch
  • Without popularity, attendance, fandom, franchises don't make money

Gumbel and his assertions have some merit in my view. The numbers don't lie, a minority is partially controlling a majority-and the majority makes the sport a money maker. But would things be different if Stern was an Afro-American or Hispanic? What if white NBA players made up 77% of the population and ownership was 98% African American? I doubt anything would be different.

The simple fact being dealt with here is money, greenbacks, cash, bank, paper, currency. Everyone wants it, regardless of race.

What say you all? Do you agree with Gumbel's assertions?

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“… Not your average shooter. He’s an artist. His jumper is picture perfect. If you wanted to teach someone how to shoot the ball, you would say to them, ‘Do it the way Walter does.’...

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Now that we're over three months into the NBA lockout, we've discussed the motivation of both sides at length, and criticized each appropriately. I've been hesitant to state a preference for either position from the beginning and continue to believe that there is plenty of blame for both the players and the owners.

But one thing I find difficult to ignore is that the players have tin ears when it comes to stating their case to the public. Their Twitter campaigns of "stand united" and "let us play" have bombed, and the reason is simple: for the most part, NBA players are unable to speak the language of the fans, and are too detached from our experiences to make an effective case.  

The players aren't "fighting the power"; they are the power. That is, when you compare them to us fans. 

More.....

In December of 2010, a fruit vendor in Tunisia sparked a regional uprising when he would no longer accept being victimized by his government. Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire late that month, in protest of yet another instance of corrupt Tunisian government representatives attempting to steal from him. Bouazizi died weeks later, and became a galvanizing symbol for the fight against oppression. The governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya fell in subsequent uprisings in the "Arab Spring."

I don't intend to bring politics into this conversation, but current events are not the same as politics, and current events are relevant to this discussion. In the last few weeks in the US, Occupy Wall Street has brought uprising to America: the 99% vs. the 1%, protesting against the growing income and wealth disparity between the top 1% of wealthy Americans and the rest of us.

When NBA players attempt to reach fans with slogans such as "let us play" and "we stand united", it might seem as if they will win support from the general public given the current environment of uprising. But, here's what they miss: the players are the 1%!

They aren't stealing from us. They make their money legitimately and with our consent. We watch the games and buy the merchandise. Yet still, players are overpaid by any objective measure.

The mean average NBA player salary for the 2010-2011 season was $5.15M. The median household income in the US, as of 2009, was $50K, as per the US Census. So the average NBA player's annual income is 100 times the average US household income.

We as fans don't normally resent this too much. Our entertainers entertain us in ways that aren't quantifiable. They should be paid more than the rest of us, we reason. No problem there. But when we see ourselves in the current situation, where players are fighting to hold on to the great riches they have, while the rest of the country struggles with unemployment and a struggling stock market that compromises the value of our retirement accounts, it's hard to find support for them.

An NBA player holding strong in the lockout to maintain his and future players' income where it is instead of, say, an average salary of only $4M per year does not equate to the struggle of a laid off worker or that of a person who has had his home foreclosed. That NBA players don't seem to understand this is a bit insulting.

Is it fair that owners are pushing players hard to accept cuts in a mostly successful business? Probably not.

Is it fair that a player's skill of performing at a sport earns so much more money than what is made by teachers, firefighters, doctors and policemen? Absolutely not.

In the fight against unfairness, NBA players can take their place far in the back of the line.  


(I originally posted this over on my NBA Tumblr, so excuse that it may not seem like it was written specifically for BSOTS).

I was born and raised here in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993, the year that the Phoenix Suns were last in the NBA Finals. I was raised to be a Chicago Cubs, a Chicago Bears, and a Phoenix Suns fan (my parents are from Chicago). I don’t have specific, vivid memories of those teams I grew up with. What I do remember, though, is the feeling I would get from going to the games and the experience of being at America West Arena. It was fun and bright and loud… the only word I can think of to describe it all is: exciting.

 

I remember that there was a sort of Lite-Bright style Jumbo-tron in the Arena and it had clever little pictures that would pop up when certain players scored. There was a revolving Penny for Penny Hardaway… an Italian dinner scene and a big moon that said "That’s Amare" for, guess who, Amar’e Stoudemire. I also remember that my brother and I absolutely loved Joe Johnson and we were mortified when he left.

As I grew older, I began to understand and appreciate watching the actual game of basketball. Since I never played the sport, I picked up on the rules simply from seeing enough games in person and on TV. Once I started to understand the game, my love for the Suns increased exponentially with every game.
I remember where I was when I heard that Steve Nash was coming to the Suns.
I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard my absolute favorite player Goran Dragic was being traded.
In the last two seasons, I’ve probably only missed watching 10-15 games.
I’ve had to pull all-nighters for homework because of Suns games.
I’ve missed out on countless social events and outings with friends for games…
All the memories are priceless and I wouldn’t change a thing.


I had the unbelievable opportunity to attend every home playoff game against the Lakers in 2006, which meant I got to see this in person:

The energy in the arena… can’t be put into words.

The greatest thing about either being at or watching a basketball game is the energy and sense of community amongst the fans. We cheer together, cry together, spend money on our teams together.. And how often does the crowd switch the momentum of a game? Well, quite often, I believe.
Two seasons ago, the Suns were down 18 at home in the elimination game of the WCF against the Lakers when Sasha Vujacic elbowed Goran Dragic in the face. The crowd, having something to get excited about again, roared in outrage and was immediately fired up.. The Suns nearly won that game.

I can’t tell you how many times I, a teenage girl, go to a Suns game or watch one at a restaurant, and end up engaging in conversation with random strangers, who are often male and at least 10 years older than me. It’s a community. And today, I feel that community with every single fan of any of the 30 teams in the NBA. Because now, we’re just waiting for basketball again. Not just our teams, but the NBA. The most entertaining (in my opinion) league in all of sports.

Suns, Blazers, Bulls, Pacers… these fans all love their teams the same way.

And for as much as we Suns fans don’t have in common with, say, Lakers fans, we have that much in common as well. For we are all fans of the NBA.

It’s insulting that David Stern and Billy Hunter, and everyone else involved in the negotiations, aren’t considering the fans enough. We are what make this league run. I believe we are on Day 108 of the Lockout, and even though NBA news has been scarce and not exactly enjoyable, there has yet to be a day that has gone by where I didn’t get some kind of chuckle or something informative from an NBA Blog or Twitter account.

The die-hards, the common fans.. the NBA wouldn’t survive without us. And that’s why I’m so angry. Even when nothing is happening, we’re still committing our days to the league, while they’re holding unproductive meetings maybe once or twice a week.

I will never walk away from the Suns, nor will I walk away from the NBA. But it will be very hard to forgive and forget all this once they start to play again. I’ll feel bitter for awhile. But then, I will see the guys out there on the court, and I’ll remember exactly why it is I fell in love with the NBA to begin with.

However, I am a die-hard, and it is so sad to think that, as a result of all this lockout insanity, the common fan won’t return to the NBA once it’s over. And while it will damage the league financially and in the public eye, what’s more sad is that those fans will forget the game they loved and watched and won’t get the same happiness from it anymore.
Because whether the Suns are winning or losing, every game day I come home from school, read the game preview over at Bright Side of the Sun, join the game thread, listen to my pre-game iPod playlist, watch the game, get sent upstairs for being too loud, and then hop on the post-game thread to either celebrate or vent.

The Suns are my life. The NBA is my life. There is nothing that makes me happier than that.

Without basketball, I’m not sure where to turn come the end of October.


It's not the missed rebound by Jason Richardson that I will remember for the next 20 years of my life, nor is it the thunderous dunk by Amar'e over Anthony Tolliver that will appear in my mind when I least expect it.

 

Instead, it is the personal moments I have had with the NBA.  The moments I have experienced with many but remembered alone.  

 

These are my memories.

 

 

Waiting for the NBA schedule to be released and then complaining about the perceived injustices of said schedule in relation to my team.

 

Risking my job by spending hours upon hours of work time looking on internet sites for the latest NBA news. It was worth it.

 

Going to bed at 10pm, waking at 2am, watching a game and then going to work on only 4 hours sleep. Doing it for as many of the 82 regular season games as I can and as many play-off games as possible.

 

Risking my relationship with my girlfriend by devoting more time to the game than to her.

 

Watching NBA Entertainment videos so many times that I would go to sleep at night with the commentary to 'Hakeem the Dream' running through my head.

 

Receiving a handful of NBA trading cards from my Coach and feeling like it was Christmas. My Christmas present contained Darrell Walker.

 

Buying a miniature Houston Rockets hoop with equally miniature ball and playing ball in my bedroom every night.

 

Attending the T-Wolves/Boston game at the O2 Arena and buying those tickets before the KG and Ray trade was made. I was prepared to watch that and pay £70 for the privilege.

 

Coaching some young kids and letting them rename themselves as current NBA players.

 

Sticking NBA stickers all over my German language book at school and having to look at Matt Maloney each and every day.

 

These are memories that have been created thanks to the National Basketball Association.

These are memories I treasure.

These are memories made by sacrifice.

These are memories I want to build upon with a 2011 season.

These are the memories of a fan.

 

And how sad, that as fans, we are all but a distant memory during these lockout talks.

 


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