Friday, November 26, 2010

How Race and Basketball Interact

As the great David Halberstam often observed, the racial politics of professional basketball have always been rather delicate. The sport, after all, sells the talents, style and power of mostly young black men to a largely white audience — and these uncomfortable racial dynamics have a tendency to bubble to the surface in strange ways. This summer, after LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami in a showy power grab, the move unleashed a tsunami of bile. According LeBron, the backlash was at least in part caused by the “race factor,” and it spawned a heated debate about the role of racism in the NBA.  For people looking for some perspective on the issue, ”The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History,” from the people behind the FreeDarko basketball blog, is a great place to start. The book is a collectivist account of the NBA’s racial, labor and cultural reverberations — with occasional jaunts into graphic novel format. “TUGTPBH” co-author Bethlehem Shoals is a primary contributor to FreeDarko, a site with a reputation for thought-provoking takes on the basketball world. Salon spoke to Shoals over the phone, about the LeBron controversy and the changing nature of race in the NBA.

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