November 3, 2013

Nurture over nature even in the NBA

From the NYT:
In the N.B.A., ZIP Code Matters 
By SETH STEPHENS- DAVIDOWITZ 
Published: November 2, 2013

AS the N.B.A. season gets under way, there is no doubt that the league’s best player is 6-foot-8 LeBron James, of the Miami Heat. Mr. James was born poor to a 16-year-old single mother in Akron, Ohio. The conventional wisdom is that his background is typical for an N.B.A. player. A majority of Americans, Google consumer survey data show, think that the N.B.A. is composed mostly of men like Mr. James. But it isn’t. 
I recently calculated the probability of reaching the N.B.A., by race, in every county in the United States. I got data on births from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; data on basketball players from basketball-reference.com; and per capita income from the census. The results? Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men.

I don't know if county-level information is detailed enough: e.g., a large fraction of blacks are born in a small number of big counties with many different income levels, like Cook, Kings, Queens, Dade, and Los Angeles. But, it's a start.
Is this driven by sons of N.B.A. players like the Warriors’ brilliant Stephen Curry? Nope. Take them out and the result is similar. 
But this tells us only where N.B.A. players began life. Can we learn more about their individual backgrounds? In the 1980s, when the majority of current N.B.A. players were born, about 25 percent of African-Americans were born to mothers under age 20; 60 percent were born to unwed mothers. I did an exhaustive search for information on the parents of the 100 top-scoring black players born in the 1980s, relying on news stories, social networks and public records. Putting all the information together, my best guess is that black N.B.A. players are about 30 percent less likely than the average black male to be born to an unmarried mother and a teenage mother. 

This sounds plausible, but the methodology seems difficult to pull off. If you are a sportswriter, do you put something embarrassing in the newspaper about a giant black man's mother?
Need more evidence? The economists Roland G. Fryer and Steven D. Levitt famously studied four decades of birth certificates in California. They found that African-American kids from different classes are named differently. Black kids born to lower-income parents are given unique names more often. Based on searches on ancestry.com, I counted black N.B.A. players born in California in the 1970s and 1980s who had unique first names. There were a few, like Torraye Braggs and Etdrick Bohannon. But black N.B.A. players were about half as likely to have a unique name as the average black male.

High achieveing blacks don't have goofy names quite as often as blacks in the police blotter.
From 1960 to 1990, nearly half of blacks were born to unmarried parents. I would estimate that during this period roughly twice as many black N.B.A. players were born to married parents as unmarried parents. In other words, for every LeBron James, there was a Michael Jordan, born to a middle-class, two-parent family in Brooklyn, and a Chris Paul, the second son of middle-class parents in Lewisville, N.C., who joined Mr. Paul on an episode of “Family Feud” in 2011. 
These results push back against the stereotype of a basketball player driven by an intense desire to escape poverty. In “The Last Shot,” Darcy Frey quotes a college coach questioning whether a suburban player was “hungry enough” to compete against black kids from the ghetto. But the data suggest that on average any motivational edge in hungriness is far outweighed by the advantages of kids from higher socioeconomic classes.

 The notion that blacks are better at basketball than whites because they are hungrier is one of those flimsy rationalizations that people make up to avoid admitting that biological differences in getting a hand up high and in quickness are what really matters. Surely, if being poor mattered, there would be more Mexican NBA stars.
What are these advantages? The first is in developing what economists call noncognitive skills like persistence, self-regulation and trust. We have grown accustomed to hearing about the importance of these qualities for success in school, but players in team sports rely on many of the same skills. 
To see how poor noncognitive skills can derail a career in sports, consider the tragic tale of Doug Wrenn. Mr. Wrenn was born five years before Mr. James, also to a single mother in a poor neighborhood. He, too, was rated among the top basketball players in high school. But Mr. Wrenn, unlike Mr. James, was notoriously uncoachable and consistently in legal trouble. He was kicked off two college teams, went undrafted, bounced around lower leagues, moved in with his mother and was eventually imprisoned for assault.

I'd be fascinated by a study of the heights of inmates. What proportion of guys in the joint are of NBA height?
The second relevant advantage of a relatively prosperous upbringing is height. 
The economist Robert W. Fogel has demonstrated the impact of improved early life nutrition on adult height over successive generations. Poor children in contemporary America still have substandard nutrition, holding back their development. They have higher infant mortality rates and lower average birth weights, and recent research has found that poverty in modern America inhibits height. In basketball, the importance of every inch is enormous. I estimate that each additional inch almost doubles your chances of making the N.B.A. 
The N.B.A.’s changing demographics may also reflect the advantages of growing prosperity. Even casual fans will have noticed the difference the past 30 years have made: In 1980, fewer than 2 percent of N.B.A. players were foreign-born; now more than 20 percent are. 
... Foreign countries are producing taller men. 
From 1900 to 1980, the average American adult male’s height rose to 5-feet-10 from 5-feet-6. But American height has leveled off since 1980. The number of American-born 7-foot N.B.A. players, which increased from 1 in 1946, the N.B.A.’s first year, to 16 in 1980, has leveled off as well (there were 20 last year). ...
Meanwhile, other countries have caught up to the United States in health and height. A widely available proxy for early life conditions is infant mortality. In the United States, roughly 20 fewer infants per 1,000 births died in 2012 than in 1960. In other countries, declines have been much larger. In Turkey, over the same period, the rate dropped by a staggering 159 per 1,000 births. Even some Western European countries, like Spain, Greece and Portugal, had declines more than twice as large as those in America. All of these countries, recent research finds, have grown taller.

When I was young, basketball was biggest outside the U.S. in Mediterranean countries (assuming Yugoslavia should be counted as a Mediterranean land). Back around 1980, the top pro basketball leagues were, roughly, America, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey. But, with the exception of the Balkan countries, those Mediterranean basketball-crazed countries didn't produce many outstanding Olympic players, in part because they just weren't that tall. Now, a single Spanish family, the Gasols, has produced two NBA star 7 footers. Nontwin 7 footer brothers are vanishingly rare. (Not surprisingly, the Gasol Brothers' parents are affluent professionals.)
Take every country with bigger health improvements than the United States. Suppose they grew an inch on average in the past 30 years. This would most likely increase the proportion of 7-footers in these countries fivefold, and indeed these fast-improving countries have about five times as many N.B.A. 7-footers now as they did 30 years ago. 
Or look at it from the other direction. Suppose Omer Asik, a 27-year-old Turkish player on the Houston Rockets, was born 25 or 30 years earlier, when Turkey’s children were much worse off. Perhaps he would have peaked as a 6-foot-10 forward in Ankara, not as a 7-foot center in Houston. 

Here's my 2009 post on this general subject.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

From 1900 to 1980, the average American adult male’s height rose to 5-feet-10 from 5-feet-6. But American height has leveled off since 1980.

When they write this, are they factoring in the explosion of Mexican and Central Americans that we have had since 1980? Surely the average height in America has been affected by the Mestizo immivasion.

JayMan said...

Increasing heights of Southern Europeans notwithstanding, I don't see how this demonstrates "nurture over nature".

With the NBA players, I have been beginning to suspect that those who achieve to an exceptional level in arts and sports have a higher average IQ than their co-ethnics. This is in accordance with, I suspect, the connection between IQ and low genetic load. Of course, I don't think the advantage in average IQ is all that great, perhaps 5 points.

Anonymous said...

Looking at Omer Asik via google image search, one does wonder whether he is a descendent of the Janissaries. He does not look typically Turkish to me.

Anonymous said...

Yup, Steve, you've got it right, as usual.

The obvious point is that height is *the* crucial factor in success in basketball in exactly the same way that smallness is *the* crucial factor for success in horse jockeying.
West African blacks and their descendants do have a propensity to produce a good number of very tall and robust men - as do certain other ethnicities. Hence, successful basketball palyers are massively disproportionately black.
A simple and obvious point, one would have thought, but for soome reason the chattering classes need endless verbiage and falsehoods to fanny-dance around rather than confront.
They lie, lie and lie again in exactly the same way about issues totally unrelated to basketball.

Anonymous said...

Looking at Omer Asik via google image search, one does wonder whether he is a descendent of the Janissaries. He does not look typically Turkish to me.

He looks whiter than Peja Stojakovic or Vlade Divac.

jody said...

"This sounds plausible, but the methodology seems difficult to pull off. "

so the argument is that NBA players are only half as likely to come from single mother homes. it's believable. it's plausible. better genes matter, two parent homes matter. but that doesn't exactly dispel the stereotype. the single mother rate for africans in the US is almost all the way up to 75%, so we're saying that only 35% of NBA players coming from single mother homes 'proves the stereotype wrong'. i would say that proves the stereotype overwhelmingly right. that's 1 in 3 guys. how much more stereotype confirmation would you need than that? it's practically a joke about basketball players that they don't have the same name as their mom. 'Here's Alshawn Washington, and hey, there's his mother, Lathea Jackson in the stands.'

"The notion that blacks are better at basketball than whites because they are hungrier is one of those flimsy rationalizations that people make up to avoid admitting that biological differences in getting a hand up high and in quickness are what really matters."

africans in the US are certainly better than anybody else at basketball, person for person, but it's also totally true they are far more interested in it as well. it's definitely not the case that this isn't a factor. basketball is their number 1 sport for participation rate as well as spectator interest. they absolutely love hoops. more than american football, more than track & field, more than boxing. they make up HALF of the NBA television rating in the US!

'blacks' are definitely not great at basketball in general, though. it's really only africans in the US who are great at basketball. as it is with many sports. there are a few african players not from the US who are great, but they aren't great overall, or even good.

you mention poor mexicans not being able to play hoops - well, they box. it's overwhelmingly the case that boxing IS a poor sport, and the poor groups of the world are wildly overrepresented among boxers. eastern europeans, mexicans, and africans in the US make up most of the belt holders. so, it's totally true that being poor CAN influence sports participation. just not in every sport. if you're short, fat, and slow, like most mexicans, you won't play hoops at the highest level or do much track running or field jumping. but when do you ever run or jump in the boxing ring?

"I estimate that each additional inch almost doubles your chances of making the N.B.A."

each inch over 72 or what does he mean here.

jody said...

"The N.B.A.’s changing demographics may also reflect the advantages of growing prosperity. Even casual fans will have noticed the difference the past 30 years have made: In 1980, fewer than 2 percent of N.B.A. players were foreign-born; now more than 20 percent are."

in 1980 far less people cared about hoops. there were only 20 NBA teams and the highest paid guy made 1 million dollars. the NBA finals were not even on television. imagine that. try to visualize that - the NBA was NOWHERE on the national sports scene, let alone the international sports scene. it was getting a national network television rating of 0.0.

if you didn't live in a city with a team, lots of people barely even knew NBA basketball existed and definitely had no idea what was going on from game to game. i know, because i lived through this time period in one of those cities - pittsburgh - and was a sports fan. nationwide the NHL was bigger in spectator interest than the NBA during this time period (not just this time period but for most of pro sports history, since the NHL was the far older league and was on television).

basketball was a popular sport at the time around the world, but nothing like today. and NBA basketball was not popular around the world back then at all. greatly increased global participation rate accounts for more of the change than improving economic conditions. though i'd agree, improved economic conditions do help.

"The number of American-born 7-foot N.B.A. players, which increased from 1 in 1946, the N.B.A.’s first year, to 16 in 1980, has leveled off as well (there were 20 last year)"

think this peaked a few years ago and may actually be in decline now. and the tallest american players are shorter now than they used to be. there's definitely more 7 foot players than ever, but that's including every player, not just the americans.

"Back around 1980, the top pro basketball leagues were, roughly, America, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey. But, with the exception of the Balkan countries, those Mediterranean basketball-crazed countries didn't produce many outstanding Olympic players, in part because they just weren't that tall."

PBA (philippines basketball association) is the most popular sports league in the philippines, a nation of 98 million, and has produced 0 NBA players. it was started in 1975 so that's 38 years of nothing. height definitely matters. of course, filipinos are terrible athletes as well so that doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

The obvious point is that height is *the* crucial factor in success in basketball

Interestingly the height of NBA players seems to have shrunk in recent years, though it's hard to tell because of the prevalence of outright lies about height. The current emphasis seems to be on fractionally shorter, faster lineups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_league_average_height,_weight,_age_and_playing_experience

http://basslinespin.blogspot.com/2012/04/2012-average-height-and-weight-of-nba.html

jody said...

personally steve i'd be more interested in you exploring how penn state can even win a single game, let alone beat ranked teams.

here is a team with 0 scholarships and they are not only not getting blown off the field, but beating teams with 85 full ride scholarships per team.

full ride scholarships per NCAA team:
D1 FBS: 85
D1 FCS: 63
D2: 36
D3: 0
penn state: 0

how many D2 teams would not get completely blown off the field by penn state's schedule? heck, how many D1 FCS teams would not?

yes, of course, there are some D1 FBS level players playing at penn state for no money, simply due to the fact that it's penn state, a major program with prestige.

but how many? and don't all of the teams they have beaten have A LOT more of these same players?

what does it say about the overall quality of the vaunted "D1 full ride" in football.

well, it says what i've known for a while. that a lot of those guys are way overrated, and benefit from the massive money football generates, instead of from their own athletic greatness. some backup tight end who will barely even play on some team that penn state beat, is getting a full ride, while guys who are way better than them at some other sport are only getting partial scholarships to put in 4 quality years for their track, swimming, wrestling, soccer, or tennis team.

there are 124 D1 FBS teams, and if they can give 85 full rides, that's over 10000 guys on a football full ride at any one time. WTF. you're going way down the talent ladder when you drop from the number 100 guy to the number 1000 guy, let alone to the number 10000 guy.

football: if you want your sons to get a sports scholarship, there's no greater bang for the buck. be some backup safety at purdue for full ride money, or be the best 400 runner in your state for a half ride to baylor.

have to put up with the risk of concussions, however, so it evens out somewhat. by the way, high school participation rate data for 2013 came out last month, and football participation was down again, but only 1%. however, it has been steadily declining at a 0.5% to 1% rate for a couple years.

Chicago said...

People want a romantic story. Fighting one's way out of poverty, overcoming the odds, is something they prefer to hear about. Someone being from a middle class suburban background is just too boring, too mundane. If the facts won't do then fantasy has to be substituted. That's why Joe Biden lied about his background some years back when he claimed to be from a coal mining family. Reality usually just doesn't do the trick. Everyone nowadays has to come with a colorful story attached.

Anonymous said...

"if you're short, fat, and slow, like most mexicans, you won't play hoops at the highest level or do much track running or field jumping. but when do you ever run or jump in the boxing ring?"

They may not run and jump, but don't ever discount the athleticism of boxers. Constantly moving, keeping your stomach tense, your hands up, throwing hundreds of punches, all while trying to figure out how to get past your opponent's defense without getting pulverized yourself - there are few things in sports more exhausting. Having played basketball extensively and also dabbled a bit in amateur boxing, there is no doubt in my mind which takes more out of you physically. And that's just from three rounds, not twelve like in the pros.

Anonymous said...

It's nature AND nurture, of course. One thing that won't change though is that West African descent will be the best predictor of basketball talent.

The Z Blog said...

I think any study of the NBA would have to account for the Africanization of the game since the 1980's. Look at video from the Bird - Magic era and you see a game that is unlike today's game. Over the years, the NBA explicitly tried to appeal to blacks. Part of that was altering how the game was played. Today, running and jumping are far more important than thirty years ago.

A decade ago it was fashionable to say players from the 50's could not compete with guys like Shaq or Jordan. No one ever considered that a Shaq, with his lack of skill, could not play in the 1950's. Even Jordan would have struggled under those rules.

Michael77 said...

Lebron attended a swanky prep school on scholarship. His mother may have been poor but he had all the benefits of an affluent education.

Anonymous said...

With the NBA players, I have been beginning to suspect that those who achieve to an exceptional level in arts and sports have a higher average IQ than their co-ethnics.

Regarding the arts, absolutely. For sports, no direct evidence exists to support this assertion. We have all heard of various reports of future NBAers cheating on high school tests and/or sending in "ringers" to take their college entrance exams, etc. Also, the one and done in college helps benefit blacks immensely since very few ever return to school and get their degrees. But of course its all relative.

Jody, I'm sure you're not implying that such cities as Pittsburgh now contain a respectable sized rabid NBA fan base, because they do not. More people in the burgh like NBA over the Penguins? I don't think so.

Several such US cities still exist. The NBA does not pull nationally as high as NCAA basketball. The NBA finals do not come anywhere close to the ratings of the NCAA tourney. That's a fact. The tourney is only 2nd to the Super Bowl in total viewership annually. Wonder why the NCAA would pull higher than the NBA on average, wonder why?


So, Steven Levitt "abortion cut the crime rate" helped contribute to this theory that fewer black NBAers from single parents are currently in the league. Even though by most respectable current stats that blacks are overall 70-80% born out of wedlock, with a majority not having a father in their lives. By 2030, if these same trends hold, the total number will hover around 90%.

That's 90%, a full 9 out of 10 blacks, not having a father in their lives and born to a single parent. These numbers have not dropped in any significant way in over 20yrs, what would possibly make these people assume that the total number of out of wedlock births are happening now? Because it almost sounds as if that is exactly what they are implying (e.g. the total number of African-American births are slowly inching upward in a two parent direction).

90% by 2030. 90%.

It is also very deceptive of the writers to start their assertion at 1960, the final decade where the majority of blacks originated from a two parent family. If they had started their research at 1970, or 1980, the total numbers would show a much different scale.

But again, 90% by 2030 will be born to single mothers. 90% nationally. In some cities they have already passed the 80% mark.

Jonathan Silber said...

Among the millions of Africans that Bill Gates crusades to save from starvation may be the next Einstein, or better yet a back-court wonder who can post up Lebron while holding him under twenty.

Bill Walton wannabe said...

I believe that how the rules are interpreted by officials has changed basketball over the last 40 years. There is too much contact allowed in both men's and women's at all levels, from U12 AAU Girls up through the NBA. This interpretation of the rules favors strong muscular players over those who may be actually more skilled but less physically dominant.

An experiment is being tried in the NCAA this year with a stricter interpretation of the rules regarding contact between players. Under the new rules the following are to be called as fouls when committed against the player with the ball:

- Keeping the hand or forearm on an opponent
- Putting two hands on the opponent
- Continually jabbing an opponent by extending an arm or placing a hand or forearm on the opponent
- Using an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler

I played in the early 1970s and all of the above were ALWAYS called as fouls back then. Roughness has crept so far into the sport that even teenage girls play rougher than we did back then. The rules and how they are interpreted by the officals have had an impact on the sport and who plays it.

countenance said...

Makes sense. If all these black NBA players were from the ghetto which made them hungry and drove them to succeed, then why are the ghettos ghettos in the first place?

Rappers...among them you'll find that a lot of them are the same way...more middle class heritage and not many weirdo ghetto names.

Anonymous said...

With the NBA players, I have been beginning to suspect that those who achieve to an exceptional level in arts and sports have a higher average IQ than their co-ethnics. This is in accordance with, I suspect, the connection between IQ and low genetic load. Of course, I don't think the advantage in average IQ is all that great, perhaps 5 points.

If nothing else is going for this, tall NBA guys are going to have larger brains (if smaller for stature) and absolute brain size has a small, positive connection with IQ. And while not that many NBA folks are going to be high, there aren't going to be many at the very low end either.

rob said...

A big chunk of the black men in college today are there for sports. How long has that been going on? Colleges like athletes and that combined with affirmative action may mean that most behaviorally middle-class black men-married, kids in the burbs' are drawn from the more athletic black men.

Anonymous said...

PBA (philippines basketball association) is the most popular sports league in the philippines, a nation of 98 million, and has produced 0 NBA players. it was started in 1975 so that's 38 years of nothing. height definitely matters. of course, filipinos are terrible athletes as well so that doesn't help.

Few of the players in the Philippines league are taller than 6'3". Steve would be a center in the Philippines league. They have height restrictions on imported players:

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2007/05/the_incredible_shrinking_basketball_players.html

"Basketball is a tall man's game. But in the Philippines, where men are short and hoops is an obsession, something's got to give. Several native "big men" are barely taller than 6 feet 3 inches, the standard height for NBA guards. Dunks are so rare in the PBA that the league has toyed with the idea of making slams worth three points. The league adds a dash of high-wire athleticism by allowing each team to hire one foreign-born star. But permitting American 7-footers to play would wreak havoc among the Lilliputian locals. As a result, the PBA bans imports taller than 6 feet 6 inches."

Anonymous said...

This is pretty funny:

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2007/05/the_incredible_shrinking_basketball_players.html

"The easiest way to shrink a basketball player has proven the most effective. Before the league allows a player to suit up, he must pass an official measurement. To appear shorter, players simply hunch over and bend their knees. Other temporary shrinking techniques include tucking your head into your chest and wearing billowing shorts that conceal bowed knees. Since as early as 1990, the PBA tried to counteract this technique by hiring men to push on players' knees and attempt to straighten their joints. Despite the straighteners' best efforts, the hunching player would hold the position and claim it was his natural posture.

Players and coaches get overcome with giddiness when discussing these finer points of height manipulation. Nic Belasco, a 10-year PBA veteran, gleefully re-enacted the bent-knees, tucked-chin stance for me after practice one afternoon. Tim Cone, head coach of the Alaska Aces, demonstrated how an import could lose an inch or two by leaning against a wall.

Alaska's current import, Rosell Ellis, has displayed a miraculous ability to shrink and grow over his five PBA seasons. In 2001, the league capped height at 6 feet 4 inches, and Ellis measured a shade over 6 feet 2 and a half. This season, with a 6-foot-6-inches height limit, he came in at almost 6 feet 5 inches. It's safe to say that Ellis, 32, didn't have a growth spurt. He told me that before his measurement in 2001, a coach advised him to make himself as short as possible so he could play in tournaments with even lower height limits. Ellis recalled the PBA's knee-pushing henchmen doing their darnedest to straighten him out, but he locked his joints and pushed his head down toward the base of his neck. Behold, the amazing, adjustable-height basketball player!"

Power Child said...

It's depressing to admit this, but I don't think a lot of black people find it embarrassing to have had an unmarried 16-year-old as a mother. Instead, it's a point of pride and a way to signal that by virtue of your circumstances and the lifestyle choices of your family, you are "one of the tribe."

lampshelf said...

Although your conclusion is plausible, I have to agree with JayMan, I can't see how much is due to nuture and nature.

There could be a confounding genetic difference between single mother children and non-single mother children.

I remember seeing a positive correlation between IQ and height, althought not very strong. If studies would show that couples producing a single mother child have shorter height and lower IQ than the mean, this would be an effect to take into consideration.

Anonymous said...

High achieving blacks don't have goofy names quite as often as blacks in the police blotter.

An aside: What’s in a name?

If Trayvon Martin’s name had been Mike Martin - would he be alive today?

With that distinctive name, did his parents put him on a path to being an angry black man? Clearly he was a young man with a chip on his shoulder, and he ran across another man with chip on his shoulder, and lost his life.

Would the chances of that happening have be less if he had been called “Mikey” when he was a young boy?

Do these unique black names foster a standoffishness, a I am special, I am unique, don’t mess with me, attitude in young black boys?

For many unfair, unjust reasons black men have a difficult time culturally getting along with others, black or white. They lack the necessary capacity to be good team members. Do these unique names help this problem or do they exacerbate the problem?

p.s. Many of these names are almost feminine sounding in nature. “”LaBron” has sweetness to it. Are these mothers trying to take the edge of “the angry black man” with these names?

Anonymous said...

http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/576270/Giger--Thank-goodness-PSU-is-getting-scholarships-back.html?nav=746


"The Lions will have 75 scholarships next year, 80 in 2015 and the full allotment of 85 in 2016."

PSU has 61 players on scholarship this year.

NOTA said...

Anon 12:00:

We are talking about correlation, not causation. Being named Treyvon or Avram probably has little impact on your life, but they correlate with things that do matter, both genetic and environmental. Thus, having a name like Avram probably means you are more likely to end up in medical school, and a name like Trayvon probably means you are more likely to drop out of high school. Even though if Trayvon and Avram swapped names at age 14, their life trajectories would probably have been about the same as with their original names.

Silver said...

in 1980 far less people cared about hoops. there were only 20 NBA teams and the highest paid guy made 1 million dollars. the NBA finals were not even on television.

I thought the 1980 finals weren't telecast live, not that they weren't televised at all.

Fortunately, you can the entire thing on youtube. It was entertaining series, particularly the decider. There's lots of other good stuff there too. I hate what the NBA has become. If it weren't for these youtubes I doubt I'd ever watch another NBA game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jcmGRYDryU

Silver said...

NOTA,
"Even though if Trayvon and Avram swapped names at age 14, their life trajectories would probably have been about the same as with their original names."

Trayvon sounds black but it doesn't sound all that weird or threatening. But for someone stuck with a truly outlandish ghetto name I think that fact would very much exacerbate the kinds of challenges he or should would face in dealing with non-black society. I bet even a goody-goody liberal's heart sinks on being introduced to "Shaquanda," and that can't help subtly (or not-so-subtly) influence the nature of the ensuing interaction. Shaquanda picks up on that vibe and reacts to it, thereby confirming the original suspicion...and around and around we go.

Steve Sailer said...

Trayvon is hardly the most outlandish name, which is reflective of his reasonably middle class background. In general, some version of the "Tray" sound strikes blacks as pretty classy.

One root might be as a nickname for the Roman numeral III. My black boss back in the mid-1980s was Trey Anderson -- "Trey" was a family nickname because he was officially something like Charles Anderson III. And he was a classy guy.

Reasonably common names that begin with D are currently a good name to both emphasize black pride and not set white people to rolling their eyes. For example, NASCAR driver Darrell Wallace is half black. Having a first name that begins with a D subtly hints at affirming black culture while having a normal name fits in well with NASCAR culture.

Anonymous said...

The advantages for West African athletes are not just the wingspan and the maximum height of the jump. They tend to have longer digits (which contribute to their greater relative wingspan and standing reach), which allows easier palming, and thus greater control, of the basketball. Also, they jump not just higher, but more quickly, which is arguably more important, because by the time the white player is still going, the West African player already has secured the ball, or dunked it. Part of the reason for this is their longer Achilles tendon, which allows faster return of stored energy (when landing/crouching) than muscular contraction. Moreover, they naturally have lower body fat, and thus, lower weight per similar, which obviously also helps with faster/higher jumping, greater alacrity and sprinting ability. All of this is sort of learned through experience if you play against them constantly, and backed up by physiology studies. Also, there now exist a dozen or so years of measurements of potential NBA draft picks, so the jumping/sprinting/anthropometric measurements are out there for everyone to look at.
Basically, West African blacks have almost every possible genetic advantage you could have as a basketball player. Which is why there is such disproportionate representation of them at the highest level of the game, the NBA. Of course, if for some genetic reasons athletes of European descent were as dominant in the NBA, there would be all kinds of accusations of racial discrimination and conspiracy going on, just like there are with the supposed lack of black coaches in the NBA and the NFL. As though coaching only requires great ability to play basketball (or football).

While is this presented as a black/white issue, there are very, very few blacks in the NBA that are of non-West African descent (Luol Deng is one). However, many, many "Western European" players in the NBA share the uniting characteristic is having one or both parents of West African descent. The exceptions are the former Eastern Bloc countries such as former Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Russia and the like.

helene edwards said...

@Pittsburgh guy:

Maybe you're not old enough to remember the ABA Condors, who had the best story in the league, a 6'5" forward named Brisker who terrorized other players with his love of fighting. He used to beat up Dr. J at lot. According to Terry Pluto's book Loose Balls, one day a teammate of J's, I think Wendell Ladner, decided to put a stop to it. For the opening tip he lined up next to Brisker and when the ref tossed the ball up, he knocked Brisker cold. Brisker later jumped to the NBA Sonics, where he quickly proved he couldn't play in a real league.

Department11 said...

Rappers...among them you'll find that a lot of them ... more middle class ...


Like Hammer. His dad was the loading dock foreman at the original Pier I Imports at SF Fisherman's Wharf. How do I know? My friend Aziz used to work for him. (For those here who remember, same guy who had the great Warren Beatty "do you know who I am?" story.)

Anonymous said...

To the nurturists: what do these current European NBA players, who represent France, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, and Spain, have in common?

Tony Parker
Jeffery Taylor
Thabo Sefolosha
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Dennis Schroder
Serge Ibaka
Nicolas Batum
Ben Gordon
Mickael Gelabale
Rodrigue Beaubois
Luol Deng
Boris Diaw
Elias Harris
Rudy Gobert
Ian Mahinmi
Johan Petro
Joakim Noah
Kevin Seraphin
Ronny Turiaf

Anonymous said...

Here's what 10,000 hours of German work ethic looks like:
http://www.indycornrows.com/2013/6/24/4458542/pacers-23rd-pick-tournament-quarterfinals-dennis-schroeder-vs-trade

Notice the hands on the basketball. Germany's Dennis Schroeder, who stand perhaps 6-feet tall without shoes, weighs 168 pounds and has a wingspan of nearly 6-8.

Anonymous said...

@ NOTA:
"Even though if Trayvon and Avram swapped names at age 14, their life trajectories would probably have been about the same as with their original names."

Check out journalist Jonathan Abrams.
Or Whoopi Goldberg....




Anonymous said...

High achieving blacks don't have goofy names quite as often as blacks in the police blotter.

Does "goofy" include authentic Arabic names?

Anonymous said...

helene edwards said...
@Pittsburgh guy:

Maybe you're not old enough to remember the ABA Condors, who had the best story in the league, a 6'5" forward named Brisker who terrorized other players with his love of fighting. He used to beat up Dr. J at lot. According to Terry Pluto's book Loose Balls, one day a teammate of J's, I think Wendell Ladner, decided to put a stop to it. For the opening tip he lined up next to Brisker and when the ref tossed the ball up, he knocked Brisker cold. Brisker later jumped to the NBA Sonics, where he quickly proved he couldn't play in a real league.




I am old enough to know my own local history as to which team(s) where the biggest in fan numbers and attendance. Facts are facts.

Between 1901-1970, the burgh's NUMBER ONE SPORTS TEAM was the Pirates. Maybe you've heard of them?

For the most part it was a baseball town, period, in terms of most fans, numbers attendance, etc. Lots of other semi pro, second tier sports etc would ably vie for 2nd position. But the Pirates were the city's undisputed number one sports team. That's a fact.

In the 70's the Steelers (you may have heard of them) started to eclipse and eventually passed the bucs in terms of city identity which is where we are right now.

#1: Steelers
#2 Penguins
#3 Pirates

Really isn't any #4th team per se that truly strongly stands out.

But again, basketball was never in the top 3 in the burgh as far as most fans or total attendance. Facts are facts.

Some US cities dont like the NBA. I wonder why? And that would definitely include Pittsburgh in 2013 right NOW. It is NOT a basketball town, not even close. There are cities that don't like the game.

Anonymous said...


To the nurturists: what do these current European NBA players, who represent France, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, and Spain, have in common?


You forgot to include Dirk Nowitzki from Germany or the Gasau brothers. Or Yao Ming or Jeremy Lin. But then, that doesnt help your argument.

Let me help a little: When you read the annual lists of national merit scholars in high school for the last five years, which particular group is not well represented??

Just wanted to balance your argument there. Why is the classroom and the sports fields seemingly such polar opposites? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

"
"To the nurturists: what do these current European NBA players, who represent France, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, and Spain, have in common?"

You forgot to include Dirk Nowitzki from Germany or the Gasau brothers. Or Yao Ming or Jeremy Lin. But then, that doesnt help your argument. "

My point was that these countries, which are home to several hundred million people that are >95% white, somehow produced an NBA contingent that is somehow of majority West African descent.
At one point the French Men's NT was entirely black.

If you want to talk Asia, out of something like 3 BILLION people, there have been exactly 2 serviceable NBA players: Yao Ming, who was basically specifically bred for this purpose by the Chinese sports authorities;
and Jeremy Lin, one of very few Asians who happen to have a longer wingspan (if barely) than his height, is very smart, and yet was one cut away from not making it in the NBA.

Note that even the product of a Chinese science experiment Yao had a shorter wingspan than his height and couldn't jump, but when you are 7-6 and have been forced to put in 10-hour days practicing basketball since you could walk, you can get by.
Still, he broke down fairly early.

Other NBA Asian cameos, such Wang Zhi-Zhi and Jianlian Yi, are hardly worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

"Reasonably common names that begin with D are currently a good name to both emphasize black pride and not set white people to rolling their eyes. For example, NASCAR driver Darrell Wallace is half black. Having a first name that begins with a D subtly hints at affirming black culture while having a normal name fits in well with NASCAR culture."

Speaking of blacks with common names, consider the current hazing scandal involving half-black ( 1/8th? 5/32s?) Jonathan Martin.
The hazing of Martin, who could have become the first 4th-generation African-American Harvard alum, is being portrayed as being about his race (it's not like there are a lot of black players in the NFL or anything like that!). I bet it's about his sexual orientation and/or class. He's from an upper class family, his father is a professor, he went to Stanford where he majored in classics(!). How many football players major in classics? Especially so-called black football players?

ben tillman said...

If you want to talk Asia, out of something like 3 BILLION people, there have been exactly 2 serviceable NBA players: Yao Ming

Turkey and Israel are in Asia.

Anonymous said...

How many football players major in classics? Especially so-called black football players?


Wrong questions. How many NFLers who are starting players, if their career ended tomorrow via a horrendous physical injury, are well suited to a life OUTSIDE the sports world? In other words what's the percentage of NFLers who are starting players, could actually make it in the real civilian non-sports related world? How many actually have degrees worth a damn?

Crickets chirping = not too many. Percentage probably less than 2%, if that high.


More to the point: How many so-called black NFLers can stay out of prison, haven't impregnated half their neighborhood before they're 24yrs old, can abstain from drugs, and can actually read, write, and do math beyond a 9yr old level as well as speak in coherently competent sentences without mumbling like they just came in from the thug prison gang yard?

Crickets chirping = not too many.

Anonymous said...

"ben tillman said...
If you want to talk Asia, out of something like 3 BILLION people, there have been exactly 2 serviceable NBA players: Yao Ming

Turkey and Israel are in Asia."

Right, and Turks and Israelis are considered Asians in the American racial classification?

Truth said...

"Some US cities dont like the NBA. I wonder why? And that would definitely include Pittsburgh in 2013 right NOW. It is NOT a basketball town, not even close. There are cities that don't like the game."

You do realize your hometown doesn't have a team, right?

Anonymous said...

Truth said...
"Some US cities dont like the NBA. I wonder why? And that would definitely include Pittsburgh in 2013 right NOW. It is NOT a basketball town, not even close. There are cities that don't like the game."

You do realize your hometown doesn't have a team, right?



Truthie, I don't think you get it. Even if they did have a team, it still would not draw higher than the Steelers, Penguins, or Pirates.

Example: NY is a baseball town. The Yankees and Mets draw the most in attendance, have the highest TV ratings, and the most fans. The Giants and Jets are second. The Rangers/Islanders draw even with the Nets and Knicks.

Bottom line: Of the 30 NBA teams right now, only about 12 actually draw respectable tv ratings the others are constantly at a loss.

Thing to think about: if in their own markets more than half the NBA teams dont draw very well tv ratings wise, how do they draw in the rest of the country? Answer: Not very good.

Truthie, the NBA is still not America's number 1, 2, or even 3rd highest rated sport (tv ratings wise or number of fans)

Yes, among a certain demographic its the bees knees be all. Outside that particular demo, however, it is not all that. NCAA Football
draws much much higher than the NBA. NCAA basketball draws higher than the NBA. I mentioned that NCAA tournament is 2nd highest in US ratings wise every yr (2nd to the superbowl).

Again, why is this? Wonder why this is? The point is that even in cities where there is an NBA team for the most part it still is not the city's number one supported team either in TV ratings or number of fans.

And its a fair question to ask: Why is this?

Truth said...

"Truthie, I don't think you get it. Even if they did have a team, it still would not draw higher than the Steelers, Penguins, or Pirates."

If ifs and butts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas...

No franchise anywhere an any sport draws higher than the football team, so eliminates the Steelers, baseball plays 81 homegames compared to 41 in basketball, in a much larger, outdoor stadium, so that eliminates the Pirates.

NHL and NBA attendance are fairly equitable, in cold weather cities, the hockey team tends to outdraw that basketball team, in warm weather cities, the opposite...

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/showthread.php?t=871768

...yet in most cities, including the cold, frozen lake, Northeast, NBA ticket prices are slightly higher...

http://seatgeek.com/blog/nba/nba-versus-nhl-ticket-price-comparison-in-the-northeast

...the market does not lie, and neither do television ratings, in which the NBA routinely TRIPPLES the ratings of the NHL in the playoffs.

"Bottom line: Of the 30 NBA teams right now, only about 12 actually draw respectable tv ratings the others are constantly at a loss."

As of 2010 there were 15 cities that had both hockey and basketball, and hockey won local tv ratings in , Minneapolis, Detroit, DC, Philly, and Chicago. Strangely, only one of those cities does not have a large black population.

On the contrary, the NBA won in Miami, Denver, Tampa, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York; and four of those cities DO NOT have a large black population, Hmmmmmmmm....

http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/p/26137758/Local-TV-ratings-MLB-vs-NBA-vs-NHL.aspx

"Yes, among a certain demographic its the bees knees be all. Outside that particular demo, however, it is not all that. NCAA Football
draws much much higher than the NBA. NCAA basketball draws higher than the NBA. I mentioned that NCAA tournament is 2nd highest in US ratings wise every yr (2nd to the superbowl)."

Yes, football is the number one sport in America, and it's participants are 2/3 black compared to the NHL's 2%, so what are you saying? And NCAA basketball also outdraws the NHL and it's participants are 50% black, so again, what's your point?

Anonymous said...

If ifs and butts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas...

One must look at the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Early to bed, early to rise. A penny saved is a penny earned.


Oh, you didnt actually have any specific point here. Just decided to quote childish cliches that are long past the shelf life rather than use your own noggin to make a coherent cogent opening. Got it. Pray continue.


No franchise anywhere an any sport draws higher than the football team,


EXACTLY. See, Truthie, you do get it. Wasnt sure at first but you do. The larger overall general point is that NBA basketball has, isn't, and will never ever be US's number one ranked followed sport, even in those cities where an NBA franchise exists.

It is also a cultural thing. Baseball and football are the two oldest US-based sports so they have a stronger historical lineage to America's social fabric. For the longest time, the NBA was a niche market, much like the NHL but it is also the case that the NBA has taken on a thuggish, gangbang, hip-hop, gangsta quality that the other major sports (so far) have directly avoided. At least officially. Sportswriters such as Jason Whitlock have made this observation of the NBA's embrace of thuggish gangbang qualities. That point goes to a major reason as to why that sport is not among the top three sports in America.



NHL and NBA attendance are fairly equitable, in cold weather cities, the hockey team tends to outdraw that basketball team, in warm weather cities, the opposite...


NHL is US is a niche sport. Always has been, always will be. So both are at the 2nd tier level of sports. Thank you for basically making my point.


...the NBA routinely TRIPPLES the ratings of the NHL in the playoffs.


And the NCAA tourney DRAWFS the NBA playoffs. So does that Feb. thingy, what's it called? Super Ball? Super Square? Its called Super something. I'll think of the title in a second.







On the contrary, the NBA won in Miami, Denver, Tampa, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York; and four of those cities DO NOT have a large black population, Hmmmmmmmm....


Now that is a lie. That is a lie regarding certain cities. The NBA DOES NOT OUTDRAW the Yankees, the Mets, The Giants, The Jets in NY. In LA the Dodgers outdraw the Lakers in TV revenue and audience/attendance. Dallas metro area includes the Cowboys, and the Cowboys are number 1 in the Dallas Market. Little honesty here. NBA is not bigger than the Yankees; Cowboys; Dodgers; Even UCLA Bruins (both Football and Basketball)
Granted, the Knicks haven't won in 40 yrs but honestly. NY is a baseball town. The Yankees are North America's most profitable sports franchise. They own NY. They are number one in the city ratings wise; total number of fans; revenue; etc.




Yes, football is the number one sport in America,

Finish it, Truthie. MLB is number 2 sport in US. Number 3 is NCAA. Based on attendance and tv revenue, a case can be made that number 4 is either NASCAR and/or PGA golf (if the four majors are counted only. Globally golf pulls even with NBA playoffs)



and it's participants are 2/3 black compared to the NHL's 2%, so what are you saying?

Wasn't saying anything about that directly. But considering that NHL is technically a foreign sport and manages to pull even with NBA, not too bad. Hockey is not Americas native sport, its Canadas and the fact that it pulls near even, about even, or even depending on the ratings, not too bad for a foreign sport.


Anonymous said...


And NCAA basketball also outdraws the NHL and it's participants are 50% black,


FINISH IT. The NCAA ALSO outdraws the NBA.




so again, what's your point?


DOH!

My point is: THE NBA IS NOT ALL THAT, ratings wise. It does NOT outdraw MLB, NFL, NCAA, pulls even with NHL and even NASCAR/PGA(four majors)

From a ratings/reenue wise perspective its a minnow pretending to be a whale. Its a large minnow, granted. But compared with the other three sports....its not all that.

And of course globally, the NBA does not even come close to Soccer which completely drawfs ALL US sports, but especially the NBA.


The sports not all that. There are other US sports outdrawing and out earning it.



My original point was that in the burgh NBA has never ever been a major sport. You know how some cities that dont have a sports franchise in their city and yet are rabid fans of a certain team from a nearby state? Well, in this case that simply isn't so.

It has never been a basketball town and an original poster suggested that 80yrs ago it was on its way to becoming a basketball town. Simply not the case.