Black Twitter – and various other social media contingents – are up in arms about David Aldridge‘s opinion piece for CNN in which he calls NBA All-Star Weekend “Black Thanksgiving.” I’m never one to say people are too sensitive about race, but in this case I’m going to go ahead and say it. Stop being so sensitive, actually read the piece, and think about all you know about American basketball culture. The man likens the beauty and grace of basketball to the intricacies of jazz music, which is a beautiful thing in concept and in writing. After you read Aldridge’s piece, you must come back to this blog and agree with my contention that ASW is less like Black Thanksgiving and more like Black Christmas.
Check it: he biggest NBA stars are Black, which supports the (perhaps fallacious) belief that most fans of the sport and the league are African-American. The NBA League Pass commercial on my cable system has nary a White or Brown face in it, all Black players telling you to pay to watch them play, wherever they play. All the players on the Eastern Conference All Star Team – and the coach too – are Black, and most of the White guys on the West Coast team aren’t American. I’m just saying. It’s true that plenty of non-Black Americans love basketball. However, since advertisers started using hip-hop to sell Sprite and Michael Jordan sneakers, Black culture and basketball became irrevocably linked. No matter how many Black people there are saying “well, I’m Black and I don’t like the sport,” and no matter how many Asians say, “Basketball isn’t Black; I like it. And what about Yao Ming?”, you can’t deny that the fame of Black basketball stars has been used to promote various products – including the NBA itself – using the markers of Black culture: our music, our cities, our style, our swag…they’re all fair game in the NBA. To wit, a T-Mobile commercial featuring Barkley, Wade, Drake, YouTube, texting and some hip-hop remixing…if that’s not derivative of Black culture, then show me what is. Meanwhile the NFL has become synonymous with patriotism, apple pie and “American values” that denigrate nipple-slips and seemingly promote pro-life values.
Basketball is also egalitarian – no complicated equipment needed, just a ball and some sneakers and you can play. Remember the movie “Hoop Dreams“? You CAN be a Black kid from the ghetto and make it into fame and fortune if you’re talented and know how to manage your money. Pistons Rafer Alston – from my hometown AND my high school alma mater – was a big streetball star before he made it to the pros. Granted he’s not a superstar, but he’s still on somebody’s roster at 34, and millions of young men would want and so few get. So more than tennis or golf (with their high-priced lessons and country club fees) and football (with expensive equipment and high insurance rates), basketball can be played by the poor and the wealthy equally, so African-Americans have, historically, gravitated to the game. And even though we’ve got the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods (kinda), the biggest sports heroes for “Black America” will always be basketball players – Russell, Dr J., Magic, Jordan, Abdul Jabbar, Kobe, Shaq, Allen. (Yeah, I’m a Celtics fan!)
But back to my original point, which is that everyone needs to calm the fuck down about likening ASW to “Black Thanksgiving.” It’s actually more like Christmas, or a trip to Oprah, with a gift for everyone involved in basketball culture and the energy of the weekend. I lived in LA for 2 years, and went back to visit during All-Star Weekend another year, so I know from whence I speak. I’ve seen ballers and former ballers in the airport, getting whisked into restaurants and past velvet ropes at places all around the city. Not for nothing, but the sight of 5 or 6 well-dressed Black men in impeccably tailored suits is a sight to behold, and if you want to behold that vision in concentrated form, go to All-Star Weekend. Merry Christmas to me, and every other woman (and man) who likes a tall, dark drink of water!
Now, if you’re the kind of woman who follows the tall, dark and handsome around the country just to get a whiff, then All-Star Weekend is THE place for you to act out your wildest groupie dreams. Everyone in the League is at AWS, whether they’re playing or not, and former players are covering the festivities for the media. And Los Angeles is sunny and warm and better than any big football town for strutting your scantily clad goodies all around town. If you’re auditioning for the role of NBA Jumpoff or NBA Side-Piece, you can shoot your fish in a barrel this weekend. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus, in the name of skanky hos and wanna-be Basketball Wives everywhere!
All-Star Weekend is about star players, but also about the stars who follow the game. Common (my future ex-husband and wanna be baby daddy) played in the celebrity tourney last night, along with Trey Songz and Nick Cannon, while Michael Bivens of New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe fame covered the game for NBA.com. Master P (hip-hop and basketball impresario) has played in the past, and the celeb shoot-out is attended by former ballers and Black superstars from all walks of life. I’m sure that Jay and Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Spike Lee – possibly even POTUS if the Middle East doesn’t implode – could be sitting courtside before Monday comes. If you’re a star fucker, celebrity blogger, gossip columnist or wanna-be-glitterati, get thee near the Staples Center during All-Star Weekend and bask in the glow of stardom. Happy Holidays!
For the men, if you’re not a baller, but make good money and clock in at over 6′ 3″, you can get some good runoff at All-Star Weekend. I’m not saying that every woman in town is all about jocking some NBA player, but a bunch of them are. If you play your cards right, buy enough drinks, and embellish the truth about how bad knees dashed your pro-ball dreams, you, my tall brother, will pull in significant tail around the All-Star festivities. Seasons Greetings to the not-too-picky men that just want to touch a weave and get laid.
Then there are the non-sexual benefits to All-Star Weekend. If you’re a fan of the game, you can watch great basketball games and feats of athletic prowess for a few days straight. Actually, there are no other games this weekend, but even if there were, you can see the best in the league play on the court at the same time, and that is indeed a beautiful thing. Plus, the NBA has a great philanthropy arm – NBA Cares – that promotes community service all year but also concentrates their activity through the All-Star Day of Service every year. In 2011, ASW players and coaches will give financial support and elbow grease to three organizations in the Los Angeles community. Indeed this weekend, as well as throughout the year, the NBA will be doing it for the kids, supporting education, health and youth development in under-served communities where their fans live. Whether you believe in Kwanzaa or not, that work is Ujima through and through.
Christmas or Thanksgiving, you have to agree that the game of basketball is linked with Black culture, or what we’ve accepted or co-opted as Black popular culture in America. So pardon me as I switch on NBA TV and figure out where in Harlem I can find the largest concentration of my people watching tonight’s game so I can talk smack and pick up a brother or two.