Tag Archives: basketball

Separate but Equal


Two Sports Documentaries Make a Compelling Case for Success by Way of Cultural Separation

In spite of its title, this is not a piece that advocates a return to legally enforced segregation. I repeat, I have no romantic notions about segregation and I am in no way arguing for its reimplementation or anything close to it. I’d like to suggest, however, that its by-products may not have been all bad.

Over the years, I’ve heard stories about how wonderful it was for black men and women, from doctors to cab drivers, from drunks to the highly pious, to grow up side by side in segregated, black neighborhoods. In these culturally homogenous environments, black people supported and looked out for one another in a way that paved the way for success story after success story. Similarly, advocates for historically black higher education, established in the segregated South, argue that HBCUs are still confidence-building, culturally rich, protective havens for its students. Even my friends who grew up in various African countries speak of never having the insecurity that they feel their African-American counterparts developed from being raised in culturally fractured environments — an insecurity that they feel could be somewhat debilitating.

When I dove into a sports documentary double feature at MIST Harlem last weekend, I wasn’t prepared to see similar models advanced for athletic achievement. What struck me most about Venus and Serena, a film about the Williams sisters’ navigation through the tennis world from childhood to present, and Doin’ It In the Park, a documentary about the best New York City pickup basketball, was that they both focused on the importance of exclusive subcultures or (co-cultures) in grooming black world-class athletes.

Doin’ It in the Park makes clear that until a basketball player has mastered street or pickup basketball on the most competitive courts in New York City, that player has not mastered basketball at all. Some of America’s most prized athletes earned their stripes on New York City’s blacktop courts, and some even used pickup to garner the attention they needed to secure professional positions — God Shammgod, Kenny “Chibbs” Anderson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, Corey “The Homicide” Williams, and Brandon “The Takeover” Jennings, to name a few. Many of the moves that fans love watching in professional basketball come directly from street ball, including the “crossover” made popular by pickup king Richard “Pee-Wee” Kirkland.

Not only is street ball a legitimate sport that influences the way world-class basketball players are perceived by their peers and how (and sometimes if) they compete at a professional level; it’s a tight and elitist club and its rules are created, codified, and adjudicated, for the most part, by black men. The pecking order is rigidly enforced, and prowess in trash-talking and having the correct on-court attire are essential to survival. If a player calls “next” to enter a game, for example, but he’s not skilled or well known, he just may never get it. If a participant isn’t emotionally able to withstand heckling and arguing in the games, he quickly will be intimidated away. One of the funniest moments in the film breaks down the appropriate clothing for the court and shows people who were embarrassed, turned away, and “ticketed” because their gear was not up to par. Doin’ It in the Park suggests that a ball player’s ability to survive both the competition and the culture is what makes its legends the best in the world.

Similarly, Venus and Serena shows that Richard Williams and Oracene Price were determined that their daughters would learn to become world-class tennis players in a culturally distinct and separate environment. First, while their counterparts were playing on the best indoor/outdoor surfaces in Florida and elsewhere, the Williams sisters were learning to hit on glass-littered public courts in Compton, California. No mind. According to Richard Williams, “The ghetto makes you real strong, real tough, real brave,” all traits he knew his children would need going forward. The kids were homeschooled and, in a heavily critiqued move, opted out of the national junior tennis tournaments at a certain point, purportedly because Mr. Williams heard other parents talking about them in racially derogatory ways. As children, the sisters famously wore braids when they competed, a move calculated to show the public that they were proud to be black.

Like the best street ballers, Venus and Serena have never lacked original on-court style or trash-talking skills. They’re both known for their distinctive outfits — Serena’s black knee-high patent leather boots paired with a denim-tennis-skirt number at the 2004 U.S. Open, for example — choice of hairstyles, and nail colors. And then, of course, Serena’s ongoing battles with the umpires are legendary. She’s even made up an alter ego, Taquanda, acknowledging the cultural specificity of the way she communicates in those moments. And let’s not forget the infamous crip walk that Serena executed after winning the Olympic Gold in 2012.

The tennis world and media have always called Richard Williams crazy for cultivating this “unorthodox” environment for his kids. He was dealing with an unorthodox situation, however: taking two black kids from Compton and training them to reach the top of what, in the film, Gay Talese calls “an elitist white person’s folly.” And Williams’s experiment, for which he’d written a seventy-eight-page plan before beginning, worked. The Williams sisters are the best tennis players in the world, and, as Chris Rock says in amazement in Venus and Serena, they’re “black, black … black like I’m used to.” By isolating themselves and creating an alternative universe wherein their skills could develop, culture and confidence intact, the sisters emerged prepared to compete with exceptional physical and emotional strength (perhaps the kind my African friends speak of).

Obviously every athlete is different, and a training method that might work for one might not work for another. That’s beside the point. The takeaway from both documentaries is that, at the very least, nontraditional ways of mastering tennis and basketball should not be pooh-poohed, and, at most, should be respected and studied seriously as foolproof formulas for success in certain cases. Athletes like Venus, Serena and Pee Wee Kirkland (who went on to have an illustrious college career and become a Bulls draft pick) are filmworthy heroes because they’ve not only made tennis and basketball interesting to watch, they’ve raised the bar for all of their competitors. They’ve shown that it’s possible (and maybe even necessary sometimes) to go one’s own way, honor one’s own cultural spin, and win on the world’s stage.

Further Reading

I Was a Graffiti Artist for a Day

 — 1985 saw the last time I pushed paint from an aerosol can onto a wall.

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Is Dwight Howard Settling For Just Average?


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Thus far in his career, Howard has yet to prove himself as a superstar contender in the National Basketball Association.  ESPN analysts around the league will agree Dwight has too much potential and too much athletic ability to settle for just an average basketball player, however Dwight seems to be doing just that and is becoming a mediocre center for the Houston Rockets.

Dwight is not challenging himself early on in the season, he is not demanding the ball down on the block and he is not getting along with his teammates.  Perhaps we have been expecting too much from Dwight Howard.

Not signing with the Los Angeles Lakers was a big mistake for Dwight Howard, probably the biggest mistake of his career in my opinion simply because the Lakers would have been built around Dwight once Kobe Bryant retired from the league in a few years.  The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most winning franchises in all of sports and I think Dwight Howard will look back on his decision once his contract with Houston runs out and realize what an awful career choice he made signing with the Rockets.

On his career Dwight is averaging eighteen points and thirteen rebounds, which are awesome statistics for anyone else but because this is Dwight Howard we are talking about here I have to be a bit more critical on his performance.  This season Dwight Howard needs to average twenty eight points and fifteen rebounds a game if the Houston Rockets hope to stand any chance of chasing an NBA title.

 

 

Dwight Howard: I’m not stupid


English: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attending the AAR...

English: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attending the AARP’s 2011 Life@50+ National Event and Expo in September 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The following excerpt is from ESPN! Click HERE and read the full story!

 

Dwight Howard says he’s not a stupid player, despite Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s criticism, and he doesn’t know why the legend cares anyway.

“Dwight is an extraordinary athlete and has incredible athletic ability, but basketball is a game where the most important muscle that you use on the court is the one between your ears,” Abdul-Jabbar said on ESPN‘s “First Take” Thursday. “Dwight’s basketball IQ is not up to speed for him to be a dominant player.”

Howard, who signed with the Rockets this offseason after a disappointing stint with the Lakers, fired back.

“You can’t win three Defensive Player of the Year trophies and be stupid. That can’t be done,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “And I don’t think any coach that has ever coached me has said I have a low IQ for basketball.

“Have I done some dumb stuff on the floor? Yes, every player has. Have I done some stupid things in life? Yes, it’s life. We make mistakes and learn from them. It is what it is. I think I am very intelligent when it comes to the game of basketball. I have been playing since I was 3 years old. Each year, I get a little smarter.

“People will have something to say. Is what it is. I’m in (Houston) now. This city has my back and we are going to ride together.”

Howard is a seven-time All-Star who has averaged 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his nine-year career, all but one of the years with Orlando. He’s made one appearance in the Finals, losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

 

 

 

LeBron James: No plans yet for 2014 !!! (QUICK READ)


English: Basketball player LeBron James during...

English: Basketball player LeBron James during the game Washington Wizards versus Miami Heat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

While the summer of 2014 is on the minds of many basketball fans, LeBron James said he hasn’t even given it a thought. The Miami Heat superstar, who could headline next year’s bumper crop of free agents, said at this point he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.

“I have absolutely no idea,” James recently told ESPN.com. “I would love to spend the rest of my career in Miami with this great team and great organization as we continue to compete for championships. That’s ideal. But we don’t know what may happen from now to the end of the season. That’s the nature of the business. It’s the nature of not knowing what tomorrow brings.

“I mean, as a kid, I never thought the Bulls would break up. Never. If you’d of told me as a kid that [Michael] Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen wouldn’t play together for the rest of their lives, I’d have looked at you crazy. And Phil Jackson wouldn’t be the coach? I’d have looked at you crazy. But sometimes the nature of the business doesn’t allow things to happen like you would want them to. But we’ll see.”

 

ESPN!

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NBA: J.R. Smith violated drug policy !!! (REPORT)


 

 

Source ESPN!

 

View of Knicks game at Madison Square Garden

View of Knicks game at Madison Square Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

NEW YORK – Knicks guard J.R. Smith has been suspended without pay for five games for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug program, the league announced Friday. 

 

Smith is recovering from offseason knee surgery and might not be ready for the beginning of the regular season.

The NBA says Smith’s suspension will begin with the first game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.

The Knicks re-signed Smith in July to a three-year contract worth approximately $18 million, with a player option for the third year.

Shortly after he re-signed, Smith underwent patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee. He could miss all of training camp and the first two weeks of the regular season, according to a timetable provided by the team.

The 27-year-old averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season and won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. He played an integral role in the Knicks’ regular-season success but struggled mightily in the playoffs, making just 33 percent of his field goal attempts.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, a player loses 1/110th of his salary for each game he is suspended, so the five-game ban will cost Smith approximately $252,000.

The NBA declined to comment specifically on Smith’s violation. According to a summary of the program provided by the league, a third positive test for marijuana results in a suspension that is “five games longer than the player’s immediately-preceding marijuana suspension.” That is the sole scenario in which a five-game ban is administered.

 

 

 

2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2

Shabazz Muhammad breaks rule !!!! (QUICK READ)


The following post is from ESPN!

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad has been sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, the team confirmed Wednesday.

USA Today reported Muhammad was dismissed for violating a rule by bringing a female guest into his hotel room. Muhammad also will be fined, according to the report.

“We have been made aware of the circumstances surrounding Shabazz Muhammad’s dismissal from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. “The team fully supports the NBA’s rules and policies in all matters pertaining to this situation, and we will abide by the league’s action.”

The four-day program, held in Florham Park, N.J., helps rookies get anointed into the league through a series of seminars, instructions and guest speakers. Nearly 50 rookies or players are participating in the program, which ends Friday.

The report stated that just hours before Muhammad was sent home, players were given rules for the program, which included no guests unless approved by administrators.

Muhammad, the 14th pick in the draft out of UCLA, will have to return next year to complete the program.

2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2

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Jeanie Buss: Important to keep Kobe !!! (QUICK READ)


The following excerpt is from ESPN!

Los Angeles Lakers executive Jeanie Buss wants Kobe Bryant to know one thing: He should be a Laker for life.

“I want Kobe to take the time that he needs to get healthy,” Buss said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPNLA 710. “I don’t want to see him come back any sooner than when he’s ready, and I know he’ll know when that is. There’s no reason for him to do anything that compromises his health.”

Later, when asked by ESPNLosAngeles.com to expand on that comment, Buss said, “Kobe is part of the Laker family and he always will be. There’s not many players who play 18-19 years with the same franchise, and it’s important to us that he has a chance to play his entire career with the Lakers.”

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NBA Player Luis Scolar Will Join The Phoenix Suns!!!


The following content is from ESPN!

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have traded forward Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers for forward Gerald Green, center Miles Plumlee and a lottery-protected first-round draft pick.

Scola, a 6-foot-9 forward from Argentina, played his first five NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets before coming to Phoenix a year ago when the Suns submitted the winning bid under the league’s amnesty rule. He appeared in all 82 games for the Suns, averaging 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds. It was the fifth time in his career that he’s played in all games.

The 6-foot-8 Green has played for six teams since coming to the NBA in 2005. The 6-11 Plumlee was selected in the first round by the Pacers last year, the 26th selection overall, but appeared in only 14 games.

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Toronto Raptors Agree To Sign D.J. Augustin!


D.J. Augustin has agreed to a one year contract with the Toronto Raptors in order to back up their current point guard in Kyle Lowry.

The 25-year-old defensive specialist was drafted out of Texas 9th overall by Charlotte in 2008. In 358 career games with Indiana and Charlotte, Augustin has averaged 9.6 points and 4.0 assists in 24.5 minutes.

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Superstar Los Angeles Lakers Shooting Guard Kobe Bryant Will Be Ready For Preseason


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No surprise here but superstar shooting guard of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant is “way” ahead of schedule as he recovers from his achilles injury. Kobe is expected to be ready to play by the preseason.

“Well, we’re in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in preseason,” Buss said during the Lakers-Milwaukee Bucks game at the Las Vegas Summer League. “He’s real sharp in taking care of himself and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right. He’s a machine. He’s inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far.”