Buzz Bissinger begins his article, â€œWhite Men Canâ€™t Root,â€ with the sentence, â€œI donâ€™t really know what to say about the NBA other than I almost never watch it anymore.â€
The foreshadowing in this sentence became clearly evident after the point of his piece surfaced.
Bissinger makes accusations without referring to causes or statistics, lumping all of the effects with a single generic cause. He claims that the NBA is in trouble because of the lack of white superstar players, which apparently all white fans of the NBA secretly pine for.
A clearer statement of his thesis is that white fans of the NBA are losing interest because of a lack of an identifiable white superstar. He freely admits he has no evidence to back his theory up, and that the people he has asked about his theory have rejected it. This does not stop Buzz from â€œguessingâ€ that people felt differently about the game back when John Stockton and Larry Bird were playing.
A cursory glance at the All-NBA roster selections shows that from 1980-1998, outside of Stockton and Bird, the white selections to the All-NBA teams have been a total of Tom Chambers, Mark Price, Chris Mullin and Kevin McHale. When speaking of white superstar players in the NBA today, Bissinger manages to conveniently dismiss Steve Nash on the basis of his Canadian nationality.
The balance of white and black superstars also has been virtually the same over the last 20 years. Bissinger makes no mention of the departure of the greatest player the game has ever known (Michael Jordan), the lockout of 1998, and rising ticket prices in a difficult economic climate as a possible reason for the overall decline of interest and attendance in the game.
Clearly, it is the lack of an identifiable white superstar, right?
While the league undoubtedly declined in the early 2000s – the 2003 NBA Finals earned the worst ratings for a finals series since 1981 – since then the ratings have rebounded. Interest in the league as a whole has been rejuvenated in recent years.
Buzz rattles off numerous opinions and theories, but manages to show an aversion to actual research. He seemed oblivious to the fact that this yearâ€™s all-star game had its highest ratings since 2003, and that overall television ratings are up a substantial amount.
According to Sports Media Watch, TNT averaged a 1.5 U.S. rating and 2.325 million viewers for 32 NBA games through January 27, up 25 percent in ratings and 31 percent in viewership from the same point last year (29 games: 1.2, 1.774M).
Interesting statistics for a league in â€œtroubleâ€.
The true storylines for the NBA have been the emergence of young superstars such as Blake Griffin. Not to mention the superstar alliances in Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. All of this has brought a renewed interest to the league.
This all seems to be lost on Buzz Bissinger, who manages to come across as stubbornly latching on to the stereotypes he witnessed 20 years ago while writing Friday Night Lights.
Finally, to completely disprove the thesis of his article, one need only take a look at Miami and New York, where an increase in fan interest came not from white superstars, but superstars, regardless of race.