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Monday, August 16, 2004

USA Basketball Needs More White Guys

That basically seems to be what Mike Wilbon is saying:

The U.S. team didn't need more rebounding, strength or girth Sunday night against Puerto Rico; it needed shooters. But this U.S. team doesn't have any. This U.S. team has Tim Duncan and 11 guys who do the same thing: go to the rack. USA Basketball wants to sell sodas and jerseys and whatever else is being marketed. Brent and Jon Barry didn't turn down an invitation to play on this team, not that I know of. Fred Hoiberg would have paid his own way to Greece and slept on a dormitory bed with no pillows to play on this team. Casey Jacobsen didn't say he wouldn't come, nor did Brian Cardinal.

The racial stuff is barely below the surface in a lot of Olympic hoops critiques I'm seeing, so we may as well acknowledge it openly (in case you don't know, all 12 Team USA members are black, and all four guys Wilbon suggested in the paragraph above are white). Beyond the national embarrassment of losing, there seems a real danger here of reinforcing the stereotype of black players being guys who can jump high and make flashy dunks while the white players are the "thinking" types who can shoot and have better fundamentals. My grandfather, for instance, when I asked him once if he watches basketball, dismissed the sport these days as "10 blacks jumping in the air." The Team USA debacle is only furthering this opinion in some quarters, I fear.

Of course, there are black players who can shoot from the outside, pass, etc. as well. Jason Kidd tuned down an invite and, as Bill Simmons wrote in a prescient column, Michael Redd would've been an excellent choice as a perimeter shooter. I'm just noting the racial element as something to keep an eye on.