November 24, 2004

Is the NBA losing its fan base because of its makeup?: Is the NBA pushing to internationalization in order to reach more demographics? Is the hip-hopification of the NBA causing its downfall?

posted by kinack to basketball at 04:29 PM - 17 comments

Sorry about the registration thing. You can use these from Bugmenot: lulu29

posted by kinack at 04:38 PM on November 24

Is the hip-hopification of the NBA causing its downfall? What, you mean all the DJs spinning old JB's breaks are inhibiting the style of play? Are the verbal stylings of Lord Finesse keeping fans from buying tickets? I suspect you don't know what the hell you are talking about.

posted by rocketman at 05:13 PM on November 24

I suspect he RTFA. "Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell, Kobe Bryant, Dream Team failures, an embrace of all the negative aspects of the hip-hop culture and a horrid style of play have conspired to make the NBA easy to ignore." Try not to shoot the messenger.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 05:18 PM on November 24

I'm surprised to see a sports columnist echoing the ill-informed sentiments of people who don't watch enough NBA basketball to pass judgment on it. The notion that the NBA is too "hip-hop" is just another way of saying it's too black, as shown by this quote from a fan of Whitlock's column who doesn't even bother to hide it:

I couldn't agree more. I use to be an avid fan of basketball, but that was back in the 80's when you use to see a white guy on the court. Nowadays it's all black, and I just don't care to waste my time or money watching men act like ghetto hustlers and showboaters.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but during the NBA's golden age in the '80s and early '90s, weren't Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and a majority of the other star players black? The virtues of basketball that these too-hip-hop critics claim to miss were on full display in the last NBA Finals. The Pistons played gritty, exciting no-I-in-team basketball without showboating. I guess a Hee Haw marathon was on TV that week and they missed the games. Friday's incident should not be used to deride the NBA as a bunch of thugs. The biggest thug turned out to be the beer thrower in the stands, and one of the NBA's supposed bad guys, Rashid Wallace, was a peacemaker.

posted by rcade at 05:19 PM on November 24

Of course, Sheed was up to his old tricks again a few days later.

posted by dusted at 05:44 PM on November 24

I suspect he RTFA. I did too, and it was easy enough to see that it's a bunch of hooey. As for shooting the messenger, it seems to be a message he likes delivering.

posted by rocketman at 06:37 PM on November 24

"Losing its fan base"...I don't think so. Fan alienation happens, but it takes a lot more than a change in the favorite musical style to alienate the "fan base". My dad used to grumble about the organ music at the ballparks, which wasn't there when he was young -- he grumbled, but he didn't stop watching the games. The NBA is a little different; it's so big now that it's easy to forget that it hasn't been that big for that long. Was the prototypical NBA fan ever a middle-aged white guy who felt "alienated" at the sight of black players? I don't think so, but if it ever was, it was back in the days when NBA fandom as a whole was a lot smaller. The departure (if departure it is) of those middle-aged white guys, combined with the arrival of many more new fans, can hardly be called "losing its fan base". (and to the extent that the NBA is pushing to internationalization, it might have something to do with wanting to be able to win games against international squads)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:32 PM on November 24

One thing the NBA has going for it is that kids still play basketball on their own. That's going to help when they grow up, because most of us decide in childhood what sports to obsess over for life. It seems like the other major team sports, aside from soccer, aren't as big among children as they were when I was a kid. We used to play pickup games of baseball every summer day in my '70s-era childhood. I saw a pickup game while driving through Orlando last weekend, and was shocked to see it.

posted by rcade at 08:44 PM on November 24

I think the push for internationalization is also a push to expand the fan base - not an attempt to counter lower ratings and decreased attendance. Remember, all for-profit organizations in this country want to show growth. By breaking into the Chinese market with Yao, they're trying to capture a vast sea of disposable income. As my dad always says, if you could sell a T-shirt to everyone in China and make a buck on the deal, you could take it easy the rest of your life.

posted by rocketman at 07:24 AM on November 25

Correct me if I'm wrong, but during the NBA's golden age in the '80s and early '90s, weren't Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and a majority of the other star players black? posted by rcade at 5:19 PM CST on November 24 That's kind of the point, isn't it? This has nothing to do with a black/white thing. People, including white people, could connect with and support Michael Jordan. That is what made him the phenom that he was. People could associate with him and saw him as a great basketball player, not a great black basketball player. Same with Magic and all the rest. But the point of the article is hip/hopification. Not the blackfication. The two are not synoymous. It is sad that people can't address this issue. Everyone treats it like the 800 lb. elephant in the living room. Can't talk about it. When you do, everyone starts crying racisim. It's really pathetic that we have allowed political correctness to destroy our ability to address problems. I digress. But back to the point. People could support Michael Jordan. But when they look out there now and see the cornrows, insane tattoos, the attitudes, the rap albums, a lot of people can't support and/or associate such players. Hip/hop is a violent, anti-intellectual, criminal and mysoginistic culture. You have to be willfully disingenuous to deny that. A lot of people despise that culture. And that appears to be more common in the NBA these days. Surely we can talk about this without the issue of racism.

posted by kinack at 10:51 AM on November 25

By the way, for what it's worth: the author is a black man, in case you missed that. Perhaps that will add some sort of legitmacy in some people's eyes.

posted by kinack at 11:21 AM on November 25

Hip/hop is a violent, anti-intellectual, criminal and mysoginistic culture. You have to be willfully disingenuous to deny that. Whoa. Not even close. Hip hop (or hip-hop, there is no slash between the two words) for the most part is a philosophy that includes musical expression, and that -- again, for the most part -- preaches tolerance, respect, harmony- racial and otherwise, but mostly is about telling stories that a lot of people don't get to hear. And it is far more intellectual than most of the crapola you hear on the radio. Yes, there are certain elements of the violence, mysogyny, etc. that you mention above, in a certain subset of the music (namely, gangsta rap), but any attempts to use that to tar the hip hop movement as a whole are either misguided, ill-informed, or bigoted.

posted by smithers at 11:55 AM on November 25

Smithers, not to pick an argument, but my perception (as someone who reads a lot more about today's music than listens to it) is that the bulk of the popular hip-hop groups and singers are in line with kinack's characterization; for every KRS-One there're four or five ODBs and Tupacs. Which is sad but not that surprising to me and matches, in a commercial sense, the sales popularity of a lot of better selling video games. For at least the last century, the most popular music with the 12-35 demographic has been seen as rebelling and for the past 50 years, rebelling against an oppressive older group. Tying this back to the NBA and sports, listen to the soundtracks and more violent options of quite a few sports video games.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:26 PM on November 25

From the article: In general, African-American athletes have always been for lack of a better description more expressive and flamboyant on the field of play. Go back to the Negro Leagues showboating was part of the entertainment package. The Negro Leagues catered to a predominately black fan base. We, black people, begged for integration. We demanded the right to play in the major leagues, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL. These leagues accommodate a white audience. As long as the customer base is white, the standard for appropriate sportsmanship, style of play and appearance should be set by white people. Wrong. The players don't follow mass culture, they create it. Are white kids doing what their parents did? No - they're following the new popular culture icons, including, to a small degree, pro basketball players. This shift in culture and values makes the old generation uncomfortable, as it has for at least the last century and probably longer. Whitlock is just another old man pining for the good ol' days.

posted by dusted at 01:42 PM on November 25

there're four or five ODBs and Tupacs. Ever bother to listen to ODB? How 'bout Tupac? Ever bother to grok their message before believing what others tell you about it?

posted by rocketman at 07:06 PM on November 25

People could support Michael Jordan. But when they look out there now and see the cornrows, insane tattoos, the attitudes, the rap albums, a lot of people can't support and/or associate such players. If it's too wild you're too old. There are always going to be fashion statements exhibited by young athletes that are out of step with older fans. In the '70s, I'm sure there were sports fans who couldn't stand the shaggy hair and 'fros, and some of those young players are now the Jason Whitlocks of today. Claiming that the NBA has left behind fans because of hair, music, or tattoos is silly. I'll grant you that there are some players with attitudes that turn off fans, but on the whole, people who follow the league can find as much to admire among NBA players today as there was in the Jordan era. Jordan himself wasn't nearly the clean-living paragon of good behavior that he was billed to be.

posted by rcade at 09:33 PM on November 25

Oh blaming hip-hop is such a cop-out. And Judas Priest is responsible for the rise in suicides among teens. Such stupidity needs no counter point. On another note, will someone teach me how to grok? I think I need to know.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:28 AM on November 26

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