June 11, 2004
Larry Bird

I recommend King Kaufman's take on Larry Bird's remarks about the NBA "needing" a few more white star players. I thought he covered the topic thoroughly and insightfully. One thing I'd like to note:

What the NBA can do, though, is work harder to chip away at another part of Bird's comment: "The majority of the fans are white America." That will always be true too. Seventy-five percent of Americans are white, according to the 2000 census, though in the big cities where the NBA has teams that figure is lower.

Crowds in NBA arenas won't and shouldn't ever look like NBA rosters, overwhelmingly black. But right now they're overwhelmingly white. If they looked a little more like the population outside the arena, then the lack of white American superstars would mean even less than it does now.

As it happens, I've noticed that the crowds at the Houston Comets games are not at all overwhelmingly white, but quite racially mixed. This is just my own observation, so take it with the anecdotal grain of salt that it's worth, but I'd be willing to bet that a real survey would bear that out. In contrast, the WNBA has always had marketable American-born white star players, from Rebecca Lobo and Nancy Lieberman to Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird (and Ruth Riley and Katie Smith). Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 11, 2004 to Other sports | TrackBack

I wonder how the respective costs of the tickets to see the Rockets and the Comets affects the makeup (racial and otherwise) of their audiences. Also, I wonder about concession prices and other expenses for the two types of games.

On top of that, I wonder how many Rockets tickets are gimmes (company season tickets given away as rewards, frex) vs. how many Comets tickets are gimmes.

No, I don't know the answers, but my perception has always been that it's cheaper to go to the Comets than the Rockets, and that's one reason why as a longtime resident I had attended the former, but never the latter.

Posted by: Ginger on June 11, 2004 1:56 PM

In New York, as far as tickets go, the Liberty are cheaper than the Knicks, but the concessions are the same (overpriced to say the least). As far as crowds go at the Garden, you're much more likely to see corporate tickets at Knicks games because the average person can no longer afford season tickets (starting at over $1000 a year for the cheap tickets).

The problem the NBA seems to be facing is not related to color in my eyes, but more of a lack of players with basketball fundamentals. The days of looking for the best shot appear to have long since passed, shooting percentages seem to be down based on the number of low scoring games, and there seems to be more of an emphasis on "Showtime" basketball since the days of Magic and Bird. This in turn leads to the US national team finishing sixth at the last world championships.

I happen to enjoy basketball, but the NBA can at times be frustrating to watch. "Showtime" basketball has a solid place in the sport, but it can't be the entire game.

Sorry, Larry, but you lost a lot of credibility in my eyes with your comments.

Posted by: William Hughes on June 11, 2004 2:16 PM

Well, it's a tough one. I understand what Bird is trying to say, I think -- in terms of marketing the game, there's enough people who think in terms of race that a lack of white stars could reduce white interest in the NBA -- but you just can't say things like that and expect to not be called to the mat.

Although I would add that if some black hockey player said that hockey needs more blacks to generate more black interest in the NHL, the responses would be a bit more charitable to the person who said that, and that's a double standard, and that's wrong. That's what bugs me about some of the responses to Bird's comments -- I think many of the folks criticizing it would shut their pieholes (or worse -- agree wholeheartedly!) concerning the hypothetical black hockey player example above.

Still, if they want me to be interested, they need more 5'8" players in the NBA. If I can relate to it, I'll have to be more interested in it, yes? :-)

Posted by: Tim on June 11, 2004 2:47 PM

Tickets are definitely cheaper for the Comets, but as with the Liberty in New York, concession prices are the same (and at the Toyota Center, that means higher). I do agree that many more Rockets tickets, especially in the expensive seats, are corporate tix.

The WNBA from its inception has marketed itself as a family-friendly league, and for the most part they've delivered. I'm sure that affects what kind of people fill their seats, but how that affects it is way too complicated for me to contemplate.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 11, 2004 3:05 PM

Houston is also split equally between white, black, and hispanic, so it's not surprising that the attendance isn't all white.

Posted by: Rice Grad on June 11, 2004 7:17 PM

I don't get it...Bird thinks it's a problem that the team doesn't look like the crowd? Does that mean at gymnastic events, we should have more tall, overweight people doing the events, or perhaps more tiny, pre-pubescent (and holding) women in the stands watching?

I don't see any reason to expect the people playing the sport to look like the audience. Or vice versa. And I certainly don't understand the idea of artificially bringing more people of a certain race into a sport. It just seems silly.

Posted by: Amy on June 12, 2004 8:57 AM

Wow its a comment...get over it. I do beleive there is not a lot of white superstars in the NBA there are still mostly white coaches and trainers etc. I think in the future this will change though

Posted by: Jon on February 20, 2005 9:08 PM

63% Are African american so thats just about a little more than half even thought it may not seem like it when your watching the game the numbers seem more like 85%

Posted by: Eric on March 30, 2006 7:42 AM