Where Damon Stoudamire gets his pot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gist I Say!

One of my favourite individuals in the NBA game is the 'role' player one would define as an undersized power forward. Second-round draft picks like Houston's Carl Landry and Utah's Paul Milsap are the prototypical new-age power forward: a couple inches under the preferred height, loads of NCAA experience, the ability to pick up points without a play ever being called for them, and a preternatural ability to find boards, often on the offensive glass. These guys are almost always steals in the draft. I fail to see how three or four-year collegiate players from major conferences who put up big numbers and have a knack for finding the basketball are often over-looked in lieu of 'projects' or European dudes who play in suspect leagues. Simply put, you can't teach aggression and tenacity, and Landry and Milsap have it. Last year Landry was a huge steal, and looking at this year's draftees, I believe the same could happen to James Gist out of Maryland. I'd call him a SF/PF hybrid - certainly his ability to run the floor and finish around the hoop is reminiscent of wing players or only the most athletic of PF's. It'll be tough to get burn in San Antonio, but Gist injects some much needed athleticism into a locker room starting to resemble a geriatric unit.

Here's an article from Sam Smith on Hoopshype in which he talks about basketball players being a little more politically-charged and opinionated during this election campaign, in comparison with other years. For the most part, NBA athletes have pledged their support support for Barack Obama - fair enough, my politics seem to coincide with theirs. But I hardly agree with Smith that athletes have become any more politically opinionated with this election. Earlier in the article he references Bill Walton's attempt to deliver a letter to Nixon asking for his resignation and, in addition, Walton's on-campus protesting at UCLA. We're all familiar with Muhammed Ali, the pinnacle of sports and politics intersecting in a manner of discourse. There's a big difference between an athlete taking a stand for issues than Greg Oden posting his preference for Obama on his blog. The athletes mentioned in Smith's article have done nothing more than say they support Obama. We don't even know whether they're in favour of his politics, simply that they support him.

The race card is a difficult thing to get into. Look, I'm all for Barack Obama and feel he's the superior candidate. But let's go over some statistics: the NBA is around 80% black; the Democratic NBA supporters mentioned in the article were black; the only Republican mentioned was Spencer Hawes, a big white dude who most likely hunts bucks with his pa. There's nothing revelatory about several black athletes showing their support for a black presidential candidate, yet somehow Smith has misinterpreted the degree to which athletes are getting involved (apparently Baron Davis has hosted events, so he's off the hook). Offhandedly mentioning you're a Barack supporter during an interview does not qualify you as a politically-charged individual when the candidate is of the same race as you. I am glad athletes are lending their support, yet somewhat feel there's an inherent moral obligation to support a leading member of your racial community. Once again, I'm treading in difficult water here, but a truly maverick guy would be the black athlete who openly expressed his preference for McCain/Palin. And I think most African-American athletes share more in common than you'd think with McCain and Palin's policies, especially those individuals who hold the same religious beliefs.

It's nice that Sam Smith could point out some instances of athletes eschewing their standard sense of political apathy, but the comparisons to truly passionate individuals who were willing to risk and/or sacrifice their reputation and image for the greater good are out of place. It's sad that we're willing to pat an athlete's back for having an opinion. Very little is at stake for African-American athletes showering praise and support upon Obama, so there's no need to congratulate them when other athletes have used their public platform to not only announce their opinions, but strive for social change.

No comments: