Why The NBA (The Association If You Will) Is A Great Example For All Of Us
Warning! Rapid-fire factoids (ok is that even a word?) coming at you right now with reckless abandon – introductory paragraph be damned!
1. The NBA Finals broadcast in over 200 countries (the last numbers, for 2013, were 215 countries to be exact).
2. A few years back, Patrick Baumann (Secretary General of FIBA, The International Basketball Federation) stated that “…if you look around the world and get the statistics of what’s the most popular sport in the age group 14-18, it’s basketball across all genders.”
3. Over 400 million people across the globe follow the NBA on social-media networks.
4. At the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, there were 92 international players on NBA rosters, representing 39 countries and territories, on 27 different NBA teams and making up over 20% of the total players in the league.
Add ’em all up and what do you get? Basketball is taking over the world! The world!!
Alright maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, but the Association (and how the NBA helps stop racism) is a really fun topic for me, save for the Donald Sterlings of the world.
There is no other professional sport like it that brings together so many different people, of different races, origins, etc., and creates such a strong sense of team and camaraderie among them. Personally, I think a big part of it is inherent to the game itself.
For one, you’re not dealing with giant rosters like in other big American sports like the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Also, basketball puts five players on the court at a time, and the more those five players can function as a team, the more they succeed.
When it comes to team and harmony, basketball really sits in the sweet spot – bigger than individual sports like tennis and golf, but smaller than baseball and football (especially American football). It’s a perfect size match for promoting “team.”
For the second reason, and what really keeps me into the NBA every season, you need look no further than the 2014 NBA Champion. Even though I’ve traditionally hated the San Antonio Spurs (here in Phoenix we call them “The Evil Empire,” but again, no drama or anything), I truly enjoyed watching the NBA Finals in 2014.
The San Antonio Spurs are the most thorough representation of why I think NBA basketball has a leg up on other sports.
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The Spurs started the season with a record 10 international players on their roster, which includes Tim Duncan, from the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are an amalgam of different cultures and races coming together to form the ultimate in TEAM, and that includes “an old white guy” as head coach, which even represents the race and age demographic where racism tends to rear its ugly head most frequently.
Yeah, go ahead and make a racist comment to Gregg Popovich, good luck with that.
In fact, here’s Gregg’s response to the massive racist outpouring that resulted from the singing of the national anthem by an 11-year old Mexican-American boy named Sebastien de la Cruz, back in Game 3 of last year’s NBA Finals (Darius Rucker was scheduled, but like some Spurs players was stuck in a horrendous traffic jam and arrived too late):
“Well, I would like to say that I would be shocked or surprised by the comments. But given the fact that there’s still a significant element of bigotry and racism in our nation, I’m not surprised,” Popovich said.
“It still plagues us, obviously. And what I was surprised by was how proud these idiots were of their ignorance, by printing their names next to their comments…. (Sebastien is) a class act. Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots saddens you about your country, he makes you feel that the future could be very bright.”
In case you’re wondering what ugly looks like, check out those racist rants at your own discretion: https://publicshaming.tumblr.com/post/52763976629/racist-basketball-fans-pissed-a-mexican-american-boy
Once again showing why the NBA rocks, the Spurs had Sebastien back to sing the anthem again in Game 4. That’s what I’m talking about!
Watch the Spurs in pretty much any game, and it’s easy to see just how tight-knit the team is. They play as a team, they stick together, they look out for each other… and there is camaraderie there that transcends any level of ignorance we see elsewhere. They are truly teammates.
Speaking of teammates, Shane Battier won the 2014 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award back in May, and reinforced just how important the concept of teammates and brotherhood is within the NBA. Here’s what his coach Erik Spoelstra had to say:
“I think everybody would agree that you could make a case for a lot of guys in the locker room, but Shane, he’s the ultimate teammate. Selfless. He’ll do whatever it takes. He’s a leader. He’s playing for his brothers, his teammates, and you can feel it. So it’s a great award.”
Now you may not find this with every player on every team in the league, but I’ll bet that the majority of players in the NBA consider their teammates to be their brothers – regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, etc.
It’s a microcosm of what our real world should look like, and that, even by itself, is a great reason to watch the NBA. I already can’t wait for the 2014-15 season to get underway… and of course for the Evil Empire to lose to the Suns in the playoffs.