Who’s Playing Along with the NBA? On LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kawhi Leonard & The Rules on Color
I woke up this morning to a slew of Facebook posts by black people saying how ridiculous it was to have ever spoken of LeBron James as being anywhere near the greatness of Michael Jordan— after last night’s 4-1 San Antonio Spurs blow-out win over LeBron James’ Miami Heat team in the NBA Finals. These posts were given thousands of thumbs-ups — by other black people. White folks wouldn’t go to much trouble to disagree with that. But, white folks were spending their basketball-trash-talking minutes this morning fawning all over the greatness of the most international team (and, arguably the most explicitly anti-black team) in the NBA and, of course, the greatness of their beloved Great White Father, “Pop.” That latter title of the Spurs’ coach always sets to mind for me Adolf Hitler’s name for Nazi Germany as the “Fatherland.” But, I’ve digressed. What I’m going to do in this article is point out: 1) why so many black people show love to Jordan but throw glare on James, and; 2) why so many black people REALLY delighted in seeing the Spurs demolish the Heat.
WHY SO MANY BLACK PEOPLE SHOW LOVE TO MICHAEL JORDAN BUT THROW GLARE ON LEBRON JAMES
No, the facts do not bear out that MJ and LBJ are widely separated by performance.
From the outstanding article on Black Men on Sports (BOSS), BOSS Sports | Vigalantee: LeBron, Show Black Pride Openly And You’ve Got MJ Beat:
“Michael Jordan’s team did not clear .500 in the regular season until his fourth season in the league, 1987-1988, when Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant came aboard and Doug Collins was coach….”
The Cav’s went to the playoffs [James’] 3rd season in the league and that was coming straight out of H.S. while Jordan came into the league after 2 years of college ball. James left Cleveland for Miami and has reached the Finals in all three years, winning twice. Through 10 years, Jordan holds a 3-2 edge in championships and Finals MVPs. James has a 4-3 edge in Finals appearances and regular-season MVPs. The numbers for these two all-time greats are through Jordan’s age-31 year and James’ age-28 year. “
Like most beliefs that do not reconcile with the facts, this one about Jordan far out-performing James is based upon bias. In this case, it is a bias caused by white folks to further their system of domination.
A lot of black people dislike LeBron James, essentially, because a lot of white folks dislike him: kinda the way black people disliked Malcolm X in his day because, they were told was an adequate reason, The Minister advocated “violence” ( self-defense).
In LBJ’s case, somehow it’s related to “how The Decision was done.” That was a product created by the white folks who control marketing. LBJ had every right to profit from it though all the money he made from it went to charity. James also had/has every right to be vocal about his confidence. When white men do it, it’s called “leadership.” When black men do it, it’s called “cockiness” (not surprisingly). Think about the word, “cocky.” Minister Malcolm was not a well-behaved Negro and neither is King James of America. I understand that we don’t like those of us whom our dominators don’t like because those rebels make us nervous. But, we gotta deal with that nervousness in a more constructive way. The rebels are right and the dominators are wrong.
WHY SO MANY BLACK PEOPLE REALLY DELIGHTED IN SEEING THE SPURS DEMOLISH THE HEAT
Black people hate blackness, of course. We hate seeing it like a vain 50-yr-old hates looking into mirrors. We prefer to see ourselves as something different, something better, we believe, than we actually are. Most black people prefer to see ourselves as the mulattoes that have replaced us in mass media. This is often discussed as regards black women and hair weaves. But, witness it now in black men: A friend of mine told me this morning that she was watching game 5 last night in a lounge. My friend told me, “at a table next to mine were several young black men who talked about The Spurs having a black man from this country and that…how this one was mixed with this and that….they high-fived when the Spurs scored and one yelled for them to whoop them ‘black mutha fuckas asses'”
Hasn’t anyone noticed how the NBA has had, for the last 5-10 years, a much higher percentage of lighter-skinned black players than exists in the general population or that existed before that time? Professional sports have now become like any other job. Lighter skin can qualify you when ability alone cannot. This change in policy by the racists was quite deliberate and explained very well in a piece on Aljazeera, entitled, Far from Sterling: Rebranding racism in sports, written during the 2nd round of this year’s NBA play-offs:
“The National Basketball Association (NBA) has evolved into a global commodity. With fans all over the world, its top athletes are as recognisable as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Although a worldwide brand today, the NBA’s struggle has long been selling a “Black game” to a white audience stateside, and non-Blacks on the international front.
‘Less black and more professional’
Today 76 percent of NBA players are Black. Before the influx of international talent in the 1990s, the proportion of Black players was even higher. NBA owners, all of whom were white until 2002, set off to do the impossible: convert a predominantly Black NBA into a non-Black league.
First, league owners sought to transform the league’s image. Hip-hop culture was ubiquitous in the NBA, manifested by the music played at stadiums to the style of dress worn by its biggest stars. The corn-rowed Allen Iverson, who commonly wore baseball caps and medallions at press conference, replaced the suit-and-tie professionalism of Michael Jordan.
The shift was far more than merely aesthetic. Jordan personified the apolitical sensibility and trans-racial marketability NBA owners coveted. Jordan was said to ‘transcend race’, while Iverson’s slang resonated more with street kids than corporate sponsors. While Jordan faded away from race and politics, claiming: ‘Republicans buy sneakers, too’, Iverson represented the very culture and community NBA owners sought to clip.”
To “transcend race” means to not talk about racism (the domination of black people). That can include not talking much AT ALL and looking down when not looking at some task on the court. It’s not his fault and I’m not demeaning the Spur small-forward, Kawhi Leonard’s, talent. But, of course, his behavior and speech fit the latter specs. The same can be said of The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Reggie Jackson. Let me reiterate that I am NOT blaming Mr. Leonard or Mr. Jackson. They are being severely victimized and it shows. Victims are not to blame for their victimization. Period.
To be “more professional and less black” as referenced in the Aljazeera piece, means to as much as possible, literally and phenotypically be less black. The international list of black NBA players fits this bill more than it does not. But, it also includes many born right here in these 50 united states in North America. An Arab in Dubai watching an NBA game might think that Danny Green, Tim Duncan, Stephen Curry, or Blake Griffin are Arabs. And, a lot of black people would like to escape their black self-perception by seeing themselves in such players.
In other words, a lot of the dislike that black people have for the Miami Heat, as currently constituted, and much of the fondness we have for the Spurs is not because of the way the latter play team ball but is just plain colorism born of being dominated by non-black folk.
Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that Grandma’s house isn’t the place for our little ones to be when we cannot watch them if Grandma is going to have that TV on. Or, is going to buy white dolls given with hugs and kisses. Or, is going to fawn all over people with lighter-eyes, straighter hair, and/or lighter skin. Or, is going to have a picture of white Jesus or Fard Muhammad on her wall. ETCETERA.”’