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|What's the real reason why so many people are rooting against Iverson and co.?|
So there once was a time when a man or woman could walk the streets without worrying about a wild gang of NBA players whacking them over the head with a bottle and taking their wallet or purse? That must've been a glorious time, because you can hardly go anywhere these days without looking over your shoulder wondering whether Tim Duncan or Stephon Marbury is stalking you. I know it's dangerous to make too much of the sentiments expressed by talk-radio callers. But they speak for somebody. Monday evening I wore my Team USA jersey to the Rams-Chiefs game. As I walked to the stadium, people laughed at me and my jersey and several people made disparaging comments about our basketball team.
Because this team had to settle for the bronze medal Saturday, I half-expect Americans to spit on Iverson, Duncan, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at the airport. We haven't fielded a team this unpopular at home since Johnson and Nixon sent Team USA into Vietnam. This is ridiculous, and it hints at a much larger issue.
Someone call Johnnie Cochran and have him send over "The Card" -- the race one.
This team is being discussed unfairly in the media and being treated unfairly by American sports fans. There's a lot of convenient denial going on. No one wants to deal with the truth because they're having too much fun blasting a bunch of black millionaires for being lazy, unpatriotic and stupid. With the exception of adding the word "millionaires," this is a very familiar tune. It's just more denial. The truth -- and what needs to be discussed -- is that African-American basketball players no longer have a lock on the game. The rest of the world has caught up, at warp speed. The game has been exported and redefined in superior fashion.
|Europeans like Dirk Nowitzki are playing a new brand of basketball -- very successfully.|
Eastern Europeans introduced finesse, speed and creative passing to hockey. No longer could you just dump the puck into the zone and maul the guy in the corner. You had to play the game. The Canadians weren't stupid and lazy. They were just slow to adjust to a new, superior brand of hockey. "Back then, we thought our way was the only way to play hockey; and we found out it wasn't," American Ken Morrow, one of the heroes on the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team, told me Wednesday. "The NBA is kind of going through that right now. Hockey went through it in the 1970s and '80s. The NBA should look at what we went through and learn from it." Morrow, the current director of pro scouting for the New York Islanders, played 10 years in the NHL. He vividly remembers the 1972 Summit Series. "You talk to people in Canada, and they'll tell you the Summit Series was like a national emergency," Morrow said. "It really shook the heart and soul of the Canadians." The similarities between hockey and basketball and the impact that international play is having on the games is indisputable. The high rounds of the NHL draft now favor European players. The NHL in the 1970s celebrated the Philadelphia Flyers' Broad Street Bullies approach, which included beating people up. The game was played at a slow, boring, defensive pace. Does that sound anything like today's NBA? "The skill portion of the game (hockey) is viewed as being superior by the Europeans," Morrow said. "But when it comes to character and heart and competing, it's still the Canadians and the American players. Just look at the top scorers in the NHL the last few years -- seven or eight out of 10 are European." Doesn't that sound like Dirk Nowitzki vs. Ben Wallace? The international style of basketball play is superior to the American game, particularly the NBA game. The wide lane, shorter 3-pointer and prevalence of zone defenses limit the effectiveness of the NBA's two-man game. You can't have three guys stand on one side of the court and talk to Spike Lee while your two best players go two-on-two on the other side. It's boring, and it doesn't work in international play. It's also foolish and arrogant to believe that we can throw a team together that can take on the world in two or three weeks. We can't do it. Even if we had Shaq and Kidd and K.G., our team would need time to prepare. We obviously need role players.
|Would Michael Phelps have been this excited about the Olympics if he was making millions as a professional swimmer?|
Once every four years, Phelps and Carly Patterson and Justin Gatlin get an opportunity to strike it rich. They go all out. Don't romanticize it. They're chasing money -- endorsement opportunities -- just like the NBA players. Phelps, Patterson and Gatlin might be more cooperative and gracious with the media during the Olympics because they only have to deal with us once every four years. We don't know how they'd react if they were forced to talk to us every day almost year round.
The criticism of USA Basketball is borderline racist, is definitely unsophisticated and exposes a lot of super patriots as hypocrites. Allen Iverson is wearing our jersey -- our red, white and blue -- and playing the game the way we taught him to play it.We owe Iverson support when he's representing us abroad. Save the hatred for when he's back home skipping Sixers practices and boring us to death playing a two-man game with Glenn Robinson. Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.