As another season of NBA Basketball is almost upon us, I took some time to read Harvey Araton’s Crashing the Borders: How Basketball Won the World and Lost Its Soul at Home. Araton, an experienced sports writer, manages to put together a convincing argument for the downfall of USA Basketball, but like most lovers of the game, Araton can’t help but end on an uplifting note. Whether the NBA will rise back to Jordan spectacle remains to be seen, however there is no denying that D. Wade and Lebron James are making the game fun to watch again.
A Black Man’s Game
Araton takes the issue of race head on and quickly points out that you can’t escape the racial implications in today’s NBA Game. It is not just about black male athletes making a lot of money, it is also about the game’s predominantly white audience. An audience that has ceased being blue collar and who identifies less and less with the inner city; an audience who doesn’t appreciate the athleticism of the game and who is there for the celebrity spectacle than anything else.
Drunk or not, too many basketball fans had reached the point where they objectified the players, could not relate to the them as human beings, or see beyond societal stereotypes and flimsily disguised racial codes. If the imagery of large black men beating on defenseless white fans was alarming, the too-widely accepted pastime of affluent whites feeling empowered to verbally abuse half-dressed, sweaty black men, should have evoked more discomfort and disturbing American historical chapters… The irony was that, the more the fans shelled out for their seats, the closer they got to the action—but the closer they got, the wider the gulf between them and players seemed to grow.
The Loss Of Fundamentals
Araton then goes on to gather several different opinions on the state of basketball, including coaches, teachers, and players. It becomes evident that the NBA suffers from multiple problems, many of them blatantly obvious, but some not so easily perceived. Like other fans of the game, Araton has his own opinions but he is more interested in what others think of the game, from international players who are trying to make it to the big stage, to college academics who disagree with the game’s commercialism, and to the players themselves who are beginning to feel pressured on more than just their playing abilities.