The Whitest Team in the NBA

November 6, 2012

I am a huge NBA fan, but due to geographic constraints I don’t really have a favorite team.  There is no team within three hours of Raleigh, and none of the closest teams (Bobcats, Wizards, Hawks) have either the storied tradition or recent history of success that inspires loyalty.  As a result I am something of an NBA free agent.  I pick a few rooting interests at the beginning of each year based on how fun I think they will be to watch.  And I always root against the Heat.  Thanks to the magic of NBA league pass I am able to watch my adopted teams and any other games that seem fun.  It is a weird, low-pressure kind of sports fandom and the polar opposite of the way I consume college football, basketball and the NFL.  It would suck not to have a team in most sports, but it works with the NBA.  I usually like to watch every team once before I pick my favorites for the year, but this year I can definitively say that I am standing behind the Minnesota Timberwolves.

I am choosing the Timberwolves because I respect their bold experiment to try to field the whitest professional basketball team in history.  I watched them play last night and in crunch time the Wolves lineup included 4 white guys.  This was so shocking to me that I looked up their roster and found that 10 of the 15 players on the team were white.  This is an absolutely astounding statistic.  This 66% white player rate is by far the highest in the league.  The Cavaliers are closest at 40% and most teams are between 10-20%.

The percentage of white players isn’t even the craziest thing about this year’s Timberwolves team.  By this metric they are the whitest team since the mid-80’s Celtics teams, but I think their whiteness runs deeper than that.  When everyone is healthy for Minnesota is is possible, likely even, that their best starting lineup will consist entirely of white players: Ricky Rubio at point guard, Alexey Shved at shooting guard, Andrei Kirilenko at small forward, Kevin Love at power forward and Nikola Pekovic at center.  Even more remarkable, out of their top 9 players (NBA teams usually go 9 players deep) 8 of them could be white.  Joining the starting five could be Chase Buddinger, J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour, with Dante Cunningham as the lone black rotation player.  While the 80’s Celtics and probably a few other teams have been whiter percentage wise, its has been a really long time since an NBA team rolled out an all white starting line up on a regular basis.

Line-up data from the early years of the NBA is relatively sparse, but near as I can tell the last team to rock an entirely white starting lineup for a full season was the 1957-58 Syracuse Nationals.  The 57-58 Syracuse team played in something called the Onondaga War Memorial Arena, and featured the “National Basketball Association’s last two-handed set shooter.”  Yup, its been a long fucking time since there has been a whiter NBA team than the Timberwolves

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves roster is so startlingly white that it has drawn the attention of local civil rights leaders and has even confused some of the players on the team.  In a Minneapolis Star Tribune article that looks like something out of The Onion, civil rights leaders express their concern that this was an intentional ploy to sell tickets. (Timberwolves management emphatically deny these accusations and point to the international nature of the team as a defense.)  Dante Cunningham chimes in stating, “Day One, we were all in the elevator and I kind of looked up and I was just like, ‘Where is everybody?'”

The shock and outrage over a team of exclusively white players is absolutely hilarious to me.  The modern-day argument that a team needs a few black players is just as absurd and offensive as the 50’s and 60’s era argument that teams needed at least a few white players to provide leadership and stability. In a way the 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves are a bizarro version of the 1966 UTEP team.  Battling stereotypes and (hopefully) winning games all year-long.  I would love to see Minnesota in the finals against the Heat.  It would be like the final scene from Glory Road.  Except the exact opposite.

Of all the many storylines in the NBA this year, the Timberwolves utter whitewash of their lineup is by far the most unusual.  There is almost nothing that could feasibly happen this year that hasn’t happened at least once since the 57-58 season.  We’ve seen 100 point games, massive on court brawls, full season triple doubles, and even talent stealing aliens since the last time a team regularly took the court without at least one black player.  I don’t know how this is going to work out (I can guess) but I am excited to find out.

Plus the T-Wolves team pictures look like One Direction posters

 

 

My sincere thanks go out to Minnesota GM David “The Bizarro Branch Rickey” Kahn for assembling this roster and at the very least ensuring that The Racist Announcer Watch has its busiest year ever

 

 

 

 

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