The National Basketball Association has just begun a new season, and according to league officials 75 percent of the 450 players on the 30 team rosters are black. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows basketball. Black players have dominated the NBA for decades.
While living in New York during the 1970s, I attended some Knicks games, and for a time only one Knicks player was white – Phil Jackson, who would later became an extremely successful coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Poor Phil was widely regarded as the worst player on the Knicks roster, and there was suspicion in the air that he was on the team only because the Knicks management feared they might not draw enough white fans if the roster were entirely black.
I think that reasoning was faulty. The Knicks were a good team that had no trouble at all drawing white fans. When the fans in the stands were jeering Jackson, most, if not all, of the jeers came from white mouths. The white fans would have happily accepted another black player in his place if the black had been better. They just wanted their team to win.
Blacks tend to be taller than whites, and they seem to be better coordinated, and anyway, as we learned from a popular movie some years ago, “white men can’t jump.” So why shouldn’t blacks dominate a sport in which height and coordination and the ability to slam-dunk are paramount?
Now, however, there are civil rights leaders in Minneapolis complaining that the local team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, isn’t black enough. Of the 15 members of the team’s roster this season, only five – just 33 percent — are black.
One civil rights leader speculated that the team is mostly white because the owners made a calculated decision to appeal to white fans. “Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state,” said a Twin Cities civil rights advocate named Ron Edwards.
Actually, there are 18 other states that have whiter populations than Minnesota, where at last count 5.1 percent of the population was black, compared with the national average of 13 percent.
David Kahn, the team’s president for basketball operations, calls the insinuations “patently false.” He points out that the Timberwolves had hoped to place two other black players, both free agents, on the roster this year, but the attempts were foiled.
One player got an equally good contract offer from another team he preferred, and the other settled for a less lucrative offer from a team that he felt had a better chance to win a championship.
Believe it or not, the difference between having five blacks and seven blacks on a 15-man team is huge, if you consider the laws of probability.
If the 450 NBA players – 75 percent of them black — who are playing this season were all placed in a lottery, and picked blindly and at random, rather than according to their abilities, the odds against one team picking five or fewer blacks would be about 370-to-1.
That would seem to be persuasive evidence that the Minnesota civil rights leaders are on to something.
However, given the same random lottery, the odds against one team picking seven or fewer blacks would be less than two to one, which means a team consisting of seven blacks and eight whites – which the Timberwolves say they wanted — would be a perfectly reasonable expectation in a league of 30 teams. There would be no reason to suspect sinister motives.
Whatever you may think of the concept of “diversity,” it seems to be favored by a great number of Americans. But when advocates of “diversity” get so carried away that they seem to be pushing for a “diversity” that seems more like a monopoly, then it is time for a reappraisal.
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