American Exceptionalism and a culture of flopping

The NBA finals start tonight and while I am less than enthusiastic about the matchup, so much so that Chopped reruns might capture more of my attention, I am hopeful that the series will bring a lot of flopping.  Yes, flopping is what I am rooting for.  Besides the artistry and creativity, not too mention that talent required to deceive America’s best referee crew, the prospects of flopping will invariably send the NBA press corps into a tizzy. Fantastic.

The last couple weeks (and the season as whole) has prompted a series of hyperbolic, reactionary, and otherwise ridiculous columns on flopping. According to Ken Berger, “The NBA during the postseason has been as flop-tastic as ever.”  Calling for suspensions repeating acting on the job, Berger pins the game’s success on truthfulness and honesty: “ Nominal fines are doing nothing but encouraging floppers to do a better job of it so they don’t get caught. There’s only one punishment that will have any teeth with the players, coaches and front offices: suspensions.”

Israel Gutierrez seems to agree, equating flopping to cheating.

The label should push guys to keep it real.  Having the reputation as a flopper would seem to be a very unwanted label. Again, it implies you need to ‘cheat’ to succeed. And with all the other labels that get thrown around in the NBA (‘dirty,’ ‘soft,’ ‘choker,’ etc.), you’d think you’d want to avoid this particular one.

But the leader of the pack is Marshall Zweig, whose assessment of the fluidity between Hollywood and Springfield Massachusetts is so over-the –top I found myself wondering, satire.  But I think not.

The public is watching roundball criminals get away with their crime right in front of our eyes—and no one is really doing a thing about it. . . .   Fines and embarrassment are not working well enough. The league needs to up the ante. And it won’t do it unless we all get on its case. So make your outrage count.

Given the NBA discourse, and the tendency to imagine its (black) players as criminals in the post-Palace Brawl landscape, the link between flopping and criminality is striking.  And not a in a good way.

Despite the league induced panic, flopping isn’t anything new. In “Flopping in the NBA: A History of (Non)violence,” netw3rk makes this clear, seemingly reminding those who wax nostalgic that “golden age” of the NBA was defined by rampant flopping:

Flopping is to basketball as farting is to being alive; it’s annoying, ridiculous, and sometimes embarrassing reality, but a reality nonetheless. If something has been part of the game since the dribble, it’s probably more apt to refer to it as a tradition rather than a scourge.

While I don’t find flopping to be ridiculous or annoying, maybe these critics are onto something.  Isn’t flopping just another word for deception, lying, and otherwise exaggerating or making up for the sake of a particular point?  Flopping is something America has an endless supply.  Land of the free, home of flopping.  American exceptionalism at its best.  Yet, it seems a movement has taken hold in the NBA; whose got next?

One can only hope that anti-flopping movement takes hold throughout this nation

Will politicians (yes Michelle Bachman) stop flopping on the House Floor?

Does this mean politicians will no longer lament the end of civilization because mothers are working since flopping is bad?

Will politicians who blame moms working for the nation’s education failure face a fine?  The league office would surely be busy if it had to regulate the flopping of Washington, Wall Street, or Madison Ave.

And while I am talking about education, isn’t No Child Left Behind the ultimate example of flopping since it has left most children behind?

And if flopping is so bad on the hardwood shouldn’t we push to have it removed from the news arena.  I believe the “F” in FOX stands for flopping

The movement against flopping could cause more damage to advertising than the DVR.

Because aren’t commercials just flopping; deception, exaggeration, and in some instances lies to compel action from the consumer?  If flopping is bad in the NBA, surely we should rid society of this destructive and insidious influence in our everyday lives.

The examples of flopping are endless (and yes I am rhetorically flopping here).  From “the check is in the mail” to “sorry I was late there was a lot of traffic” (and are we really sorry) flopping is part of our daily praxis.  Some examples are harmless – acting like an opponent elbowed you in the face – whereas others can lead a nation into war.

Now that is some real flopping.

Metta World Peace and the Stigma of Criminalized Bodies Pt. 2 | Urban Cusp


Metta World Peace and the Stigma of Criminalized Bodies Pt. 2

By David J. Leonard

The elbow seen around the world and the media fallout continues to bother me. Over the last five weeks, I have found myself debating others online, yelling angrily at the television and otherwise struggling to make sense of Metta World Peace’s elbow of James Harden. As I noted in part 1, my concern stems from a media narrative that too often invokes the language and frames reserved for “criminal justice” matters (the courts). It also reflects a narrative that refuses to let MWP live in the moment, to be defined by his actions in our present. Instead, he is defined now (and as he has been since 2004) by his actions and the meaning of those actions within our racialized society. Having paid his debt to the NBA, and society, he continues to be dogged by the past, an unfair constraint of America’s criminalizing culture.

The efforts to criminalize MWP, to depict him as pathological and dangerous, as a constant threat to those on the court is illustrated in language usage but also in the constant references to his past. The constant reference to the Palace Brawl and to past suspensions without any acknowledgement of the specifics of each instance (and the differences), the timeframe involved, or the changes MWP has shown is telling. For example, many commentators continue to reference his “past,” his “history” and the fact that he has been suspended “13 times in his NBA career for a total of 111 games.”

However, few provide any specifics, as if they don’t matter. Three of those suspensions (4 games) were for exceeding the maximum allowable flagrant foul points, with another coming from his leaving the bench during an altercation that he was not involved with. Even his first suspension in the league (4 games – “With the Pacers, four games for confronting and making physical contact with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, for taunting the Miami bench, for committing a flagrant foul-2 on Caron Butler (pushing him into the stands) and making an obscene gesture toward fans”) or two of his more recent suspensions, both of which were clearly impacted by his involvement with the Palace Brawl, points to the problems of imagining MWP as some “habitual” offender.

None of this is to excuse MWP for the elbow or even past actions (including a plea of “nolo contender” in a case where involving infliction of injury his wife, clearly his most troubling offense yet one that received much less media outrage that the elbow or the Palace). Rather, I call for specifics and reflection as a way to caution against the continued merging of the criminal justice system and public culture, between the criminal court and the basketball court. The normalization of the language of the criminal justice system and the criminalizing of “bad” bodies gives life to America’s prison culture, to America’s new Jim Crow.

This leads me to why the media coverage regarding the elbow gives me pause – why it troubles me more than the elbow itself. The intrusion of the language of the criminal justice system, the ubiquitous references to Metta’s past, and inability of others to allow MWP to move forward without the past shackling, defining, and controlling him reflects a larger injustice: the stigmas, life-sentence, and 2nd-class citizenship “afforded” to criminalized communities. “A criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind,” writes Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

Continue reading @ Metta World Peace and the Stigma of Criminalized Bodies Pt. 2 | Urban Cusp.

SLAM ONLINE | » The Crackdown on Smack Downs

SLAM ONLINE | » The Crackdown on Smack Downs

The Crackdown on Smack Downs

Why we are seeing the end of the hard foul in the NBA.

by David J. Leonard

“McHale clotheslines Rambis”

“Laimbeer hammers Bird”

“Karl Malone elbows Isiah Thomas”

“Rick Mahorn levels MJ”

The list of NBA hard fouls is a long one; whether during the regular season or the most memorable deckings during the playoffs, the history of the NBA is one littered with hard fouls, flagrant fouls, and physical play. Yet, if you turned on the television these days and read countless commentaries on the NBA’s problem with physical play, you would think the NBA was facing some new epidemic of lawlessness and dirty plays. The game has always been physical and the NBA’s crackdown on such play doesn’t reflect changes in the game or the players’ approach to the game, but a myriad of factors that are bigger than the game itself.

There are multiple reasons for why the NBA is cracking down on physical play and hard fouls: (1) the style of play within the NBA has changed since late 1980s and early 1990s. Responding to the rise of the “Bad Boys” and their distant cousins in NY and Miami, as well as the lack of fanfare for the physical domination of the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, the League has pushed through changes that have led to a more free-flowing game, one defined by slashing and dynamic scorers going hard to the basket. While scoring is actually down from the golden age of both hard fouls and offense, the twenty-first century game is defined by penetration, athletic moves around the basket, and the artistry that results from Westbrook, DRose, or LeBron attacking the rim. A league of hard fouls, or a strictly enforced “no layup rule” would potentially undermine the beauty of the contemporary game.

(2) Hard fouls have been dramatically curtailed because of the NBA’s reliance on stars as global marketing icons. The need for multiple superstars, many of whom garner their global reach through success during the Playoffs, makes minimizing injuries crucial.

(3) Increased knowledge about the long-term effects of injuries as well as the physical changes amongst today’s athletes compels greater scrutiny when it comes to fouls. “Nowadays bigger, stronger bodies collide play after play, at elevations off the court few could imagine three decades ago,” writes Henry Abbott. “The forces in play are vastly greater, the knowledge of brain damage that much more acute. The League does far more than ever to prevent the escalation of violence, because it has to and should.” While these issues surely play a role in the heightened anxiety, the increasingly loud calls from the media to crackdown on the rough play in the NBA, and that flagrant foul calls have become more commonplace than traveling and double dribbling calls combine, the changing landscape of the sports media and race help explain the draconian approach to hard fouls within today’s NBA.

Sandwiched between Blake Griffin’s Kia commercials and those for Subway, the media landscape during the last month of NBA coverage has been dominated by Metta World Peace’s elbow of James Harden. Seemingly played on an endless loop, it seems that virtually every conversation about the NBA lead to a replay of the elbow over and over again. The widespread circulation of these fouls, and the saturation of the airwaves of fouls create conditions where league intervention is inevitable. With its efforts to reach untapped markets within and beyond the United States, the league seeks to control its image, an increasingly difficult task within our highlight-oriented culture. A flagrant foul can potentially be seen within minutes of its occurrence, leading to many judgments and commentaries from fans and pundits alike even before the league is able to formally review the play. Reflecting the 24-7 sports new industry, the reach of blogs, the power of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, hard fouls in the NBA exists as a spectacle allowing fans to witness the physicality and the violence over and over again.

At YouTube, one can type in “3-pointer and Metta World Peace” only to find a handful of videos that has been viewed in the thousands. Type in “flagrant foul and Metta World Peace” and shockingly there are endless video choices, some of which have been viewed by over 1 million people. Do the same for “Andrew Bynum and post moves” and compare that to “Andrew Bynum” and “JJ Barea/flagrant fouls”; even someone like Dwyane Wade, who clearly has a highlight reel of brilliant shots and slashing drives, is equally visible within new media circles for an array of flagrant and hard fouls.

While physical play, flagrant fouls and suspensions are not unique to the playoffs, this time of year seems to bring about heightened insecurity about elbows, forearm shivers, and “no layup” defense. Sure, the play might be more physical, as more is at stake, but it would seem that the increased coverage during the playoffs, the millions of new eyes watching, puts the league in a difficult situation. The hyper saturation contributes to an impression of the league as getting more and more physical, more and more violent, which not surprisingly has compelled intervention from the League—for the sake of publication relations and for “basketball reasons” the League has shown itself to be unwilling to return to the physical play of yesteryear.

Continue reading @ SLAM ONLINE | » The Crackdown on Smack Downs.

NewBlackMan: ‘No [Hoodies] Allowed’: The NBA’s Dress Code & the Politics of New Racism —Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness

‘No [Hoodies] Allowed’: The NBA’s Dress Code & the Politics of New Racism —Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness

—Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The murder of Trayvon Martin has prompted widespread discussions about race in America, persistent inequalities within the criminal justice system, differential values afforded to different bodies, and the real-life consequences of racial stereotypes. Amid many of the discussions, media reports, and the protests have been questions about the racial signifier of the hoodie. From the million hoodie march to the backlash directed at Geraldo Rivera, who named the hoodie as a co-conspirator along with George Zimmerman, the discourse has reflected on the racial signifiers embedded in the hoodie. In other words, how is a black body, inherently criminal and suspect when read within a hoodie; what are the dialects between the hoodie and the black body within these processes of criminalization? These types of questions have been asked and represented in a spectrum of spaces, highlighting the ways the black bodies are imagined as threatening within the dominant white imagination. Pushing the conversation beyond individual prejudice and “what was in George’s heart,” such counternarratives have reflected on how media narratives, popular culture, and a culture that criminalizes black bodies produces a Trayvon Martin, whose mere presence is seen as a threat, all while producing a George Zimmerman.

As a scholar of race and sport, these questions have long guided my work: how do the representations of black athletes, particularly those in the NBA, buttress larger ideological, political, and criminalizing processes? How does the ubiquitous references to NBA players as “thugs” and “gangstas” as “criminals” and “punks” normalize blackness as questionable, undesirable, and inherently suspect? The murder of Trayvon, the prison industrial complex, the racial segregation in school discipline, and the levels of state violence are a product of these cultural projects. According to a report from the Opportunity Agenda, “distorted media representations can be expected to create attitudinal effects ranging from general antagonism toward black men and boys, to higher tolerance for race-based socio-economic disparities, reduced attention to structural and other big-picture factors, and public support for punitive approaches to problems.”

In my recently release book – After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness (SUNY 2012), I explore the broader criminalization of blackness inside and outside of the NBA’s arenas, that among things has focused on the attitudes, demeanor, and clothing of NBA ballers. I, thus, present to you a short excerpt from the book, one that explores the racialization and criminalization that is evident in the NBA’s dress code as a way to expand our conversation about the murder of Trayvon Martin to reflect on how popular culture, media discourses, and the language of everyday racism both normalizes the criminalization of blackness and points to the importance of intervention in this regard.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: ‘No [Hoodies] Allowed’: The NBA’s Dress Code & the Politics of New Racism —Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness.

NewBlackMan: The Elbow Heard Around the Nation: The NBA and the End of ‘Peace’

The Elbow Heard Around the Nation: The NBA and the End of ‘Peace’

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The Elbow Heard Around the Nation: The NBA and the End of ‘Peace’

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

When Ron Artest announced his intent to change his name to Metta World Peace, I had discussions with several people about potentially changing the name of my book, After Artest (May 2012, SUNY Press) to reflect his metamorphosis. Examining how the Palace Brawl forever changed the NBA, while also highlighting the larger scripts of race and criminalization, After Artest reflects on the processes of demonization and criminalization directed at Artest and his black baller brethren in the aftermath of the 2004 fight between the Pacers-Pistons-Piston fans.  While deciding against changing the book’s title for a myriad of reasons, one principle issue for me in pushing back against a title like “Peace after the Palace” was that in spite of efforts from the NBA, its fans, and the media establishment to police, punish, and control blackness in their efforts to secure peace, neither condemnations and suspensions, dress codes or age restrictions, would bring about peace for the league because of the ways that race and racial narratives operate within the American cultural landscape.  The efforts to recreate the illusion of a racially-colorblind Jordan-esque landscape were futile given persistent anti-black racism and governing stereotypes.  Peace after the palace was not possible because of the ways that blackness and anti-black racism overdetermined its meaning within the national landscape.  Artest and what he embodied in the national imagination guided and served as a lens as the NBA sought to deracialize itself within the national imagination.  This is why I start After Artest as follows:

“The real question, how does it feel to be a problem” – W.E.B. DuBois, 1903 (Quoted in Jackson 2006, p. 9)

“Ron Artest more than likely will be suspended, but so should Kobe” (Resnick 2009)

“Kobe vs. Artest: Proof Artest Will Kill Your Team” (2009)

“NBA Bad Boy Ron Artest of L.A. Lakers Admits He Had A Problem: Drinking During Games! ” (Douglas 2009)

“Trevor Ariza loses shoe, Ron Artest tosses it into the stands” (2009).

Artest, who’s trying to put his bad-boy image behind him, said he could simply display his ring in his living room or he could wear it.’ But I think it’ll be more important to give back to something I believe in, which is providing kids with someone to talk to because it’s so expensive. I pay for parenting counseling, marriage counseling and anger management, and it’s very expensive. This will be for children of all demographics, rich or poor — preferably the rich can pay for their own psychologists — but it’ll be a great way to help kids who don’t know where they’re going in their life at this point’ (“Ron Artest Plans” 2010)


Artest, who’s trying to put his bad-boy image behind him, said he could simply display his ring in his living room or he could wear it.’ But I think it’ll be more important to give back to something I believe in, which is providing kids with someone to talk to because it’s so expensive. I pay for parenting counseling, marriage counseling and anger management, and it’s very expensive. This will be for children of all demographics, rich or poor — preferably the rich can pay for their own psychologists — but it’ll be a great way to help kids who don’t know where they’re going in their life at this point’ (“Ron Artest Plans” 2010)


At first glance, the above headlines point to the fact that Ron Artest’s personal history, and especially his association with the Palace Brawl, continues to determine the public narrative assigned to him by the dominant media and broader public discourse. Even those instances of praise and celebratory redemption does so in relationship to his past indiscretions. Despite the banality of his exchange with Kobe and his tossing of another player’s shoe off the court (his sportsmanship was questioned by an announcer), and notwithstanding his efforts to admit to a past drinking problem1 or shed light on the issue of mental health, each in varying degrees have been the read through the lens of the Palace Brawl.

In 2009, Ron Artest admitted to drinking alcohol at halftime while he was a member of the Chicago Bulls. Hoping to teach kids by sharing his past mistakes, Artest’s admission, not surprisingly, prompted much media and public debate. Although some people questioned the truthfulness of his admission, others used this moment as an opportunity to speculate about whether Artest was indeed drunk when he entered the stands in 2004. Likewise, his tossing of Trevor Ariza’s shoe into the stands, along with his physical and verbal altercations with Kobe Bryant, were given amplified meaning and importance considering his role. In all four instances, Artest’s past and his character are used as points of reference.

Often invoking his involvement in the 2004 Palace Brawl, the dominant frame that facilitates his representations is not only constrained by Artest’s personal and professional histories, but by the prism of race and blackness. He is consistently imagined as a problem. The nature of these representations point to the ways in which blackness overdetermines not only the meaning of Artest, but of all black NBA players in a post-Brawl context. Post-Artest, blackness is the hegemonic point of reference for both the commentaries and the policy shifts within the NBA, demonstrating that the Palace Brawl changed the racial meaning of the NBA and thus changed the regulatory practices governing the league. . . . .

The Palace Brawl was the culmination of the recoloring of the NBA. It represented a moment when the blackness of the league was irrefutable and thus needed to be managed, controlled, and, if necessary, destroyed. After Artest argues that the Palace Brawl served as that “aha moment” in which blackness displaced the racially transcendent signifier of Michael Jordan. This blackness, and its representative threat, were undeniable and, as such, necessitated intervention, termed as an assault within this book’s title. Not surprisingly, anti-black racist/white racial frames have anchored the debates and policies that have followed Artest; frames based on racial transcendence or colorblindness remain in the background. In this sense, Artest mandated a reversal wherein race/blackness had to be noticed (and controlled/destroyed), leading to public articulations of the white racial frame instead of denials of racial significance.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that the sports media establishment, and the social media world is all abuzz following a Metta World Peace foul on James Harden on Sunday in a nationally televised game.  A hard foul that was reckless and dangerous; one that warranted an injection (unlike others I have no idea his “intent”) and a suspension; and one that was disappointing to say the least and not worry of defense. I am not here to defend the foul or explain, although those who use the foul as a referendum on Metta, the NBA, or blackness need to check themselves.

It was unfortunate; yet equally unfortunate and more destructive have been the response.   Hayden Kim, on The Bleacher Report, referenced Metta’s “unstable mental stable” and an inability to maintain control; worse yet, he described his outburst in the following way:  “As he pounded his chest, acting like a gorilla during mating season, he caught James Harden with an ill-advised elbow that could have caused an earthquake” (the original piece no longer has this language but can still be found here and here).  The hyperbole notwithstanding, the descriptor of Metta as a “gorilla” given its historic meaning is disturbing to say the least – disgraceful, in fact.

Ken Berger focused more on the typical hyperbole and ‘what ifs” with his discussion of the elbow heard around the world.  “Metta World Peace’s vicious, dangerous elbow to the head of James Harden Sunday was no garden variety NBA elbow, and it probably will result in longer than your typical elbowing suspension,” writes Berger. “It should, anyway. This was about as cheap as a cheap shot gets. It’ll have nothing to do with the fact that Metta World Peace is really Ron Artest, he of Malice at the Palace fame. World Peace, after all, has come a long way since his 73-game suspension for going into the stands in Auburn Hills, Mich., in 2004, and even won the NBA’s citizenship award last season (when his name was still Ron Artest).”  Berger, unlike so many others notes his recent citizenship award, falls into the trap that he cautions against: reading the incident through the Palace Brawl.

Continue reading @NewBlackMan: The Elbow Heard Around the Nation: The NBA and the End of ‘Peace’.

SLAM ONLINE | » Condemn The Foul, Not The Mind

Condemn The Foul, Not The Mind

Leave the mental assessments for professionals.

by David J. Leonard / @drdavidjleonard

There is no defense for the elbow seen around the world. Metta, why? Irrespective of intent, it was a hard flagrant foul, one that has no place in the beautiful game of basketball. The seven-game suspension, while a bit on the high side, is measured and appropriate.

In fact, given the incendiary rhetoric from the media, the continuous loop of the incident, and their overall efforts to excite anger, the decision from David Stern to issue a sensible suspension (not the case with the Palace Brawl) is worthy of praise.

As such, there is nothing to debate regarding Metta World Peace elbowing James Harden in the head—it was vicious, uncalled for and disheartening. As a Lakers, Metta World Peace and basketball fan—it was disappointing. It is indefensible; yet, that fact is not a defense for a media spectacle-defined unnecessary cheap shots, much of which has nothing to do with the incident.

From the hyperbole and rhetoric designed to incite anger, to the constant invoking of the language of the criminal justice system and the demonization of Metta as a crazy person, much of the sports media has failed to inform and elevate the discussion, instead embracing roles as referee, commissioner and worse yet, doctor.

A common theme evident since the nationally televised elbow has been the constant mention of Metta’s mental state. While one might think mental illness mitigates culpability (it can within our justice system), the media establishment has used his purported mental fabric and wiring as part of a narrative that depicts him as pathological and dangerous. Although painting him as unstable and mentally weak, the ubiquitous references to his mind reflect an effort to mock, make fun and ridicule Metta World Peace.

The references have saturated the airwaves. “To say that something is wrong with Artest would not do him justice. This is the guy who applied for a job at Circuit City to get a discount, has come to practice in a bath robe and has admitted to drinking cognac at halftime,” writes Jason Black. “After winning the NBA Championship in 2010 he thanked his psychiatrist. There are many people who need therapy or have mental health disorders, so the fact that he publicly talked about having a psychiatrist isn’t a bad thing, but it tells us there is a problem.”

Black goes onto argue that Metta’s mental illness represents a threat to himself, other players and the game itself, calling for extensive punishment as a method of protection: “Having a mental health issue and getting help for it is commendable, but what price does somebody have to pay before it’s too late?” As with media pundits like Stephen A. Smith, who described Metta as “not that far away from coo-coo nest,” “as touched,” and as someone who has refused to take his medication in the past, the media narrative demonizes Metta for his mental issues.

Describing him as having “violent tendencies,” Bill Plaschke furthers the picture of MWP as psychopath, as crazy dangerous man: “This was about a celebration that turned caustic when somebody walked into the middle of it, the weird mind of World Peace switching from jubilation to rage in a matter of seconds. Maybe even scarier than the elbow was the look in his wild and crazy eyes as he stalked around the floor immediately afterward.”

Continue reading @ SLAM ONLINE | » Condemn The Foul, Not The Mind.

SLAM ONLINE | » Restricted Access

Restricted Access

On David Stern’s push to eliminate one-and-done players.

by David J. Leonard / @drdavidjleonard

It should come as no surprise that David Stern wants to change the NBA’s age restriction. The effort to curtail the straight-from-high-school baller has been longstanding, gaining the necessary steam and leverage in wake of the Palace Brawl.

With the lockout behind them, the League is obviously seeking to further modify the rule, requiring players to be two years out of school prior to entering the NBA. Stern, who has offered several different rationales for the age restriction over the years, is now focusing on basketball reasons:

“That’s not our rule. Our rule is that they won’t be eligible for the Draft until they’re 19. They can play in Europe, they can play in the D-League, they can go to college. This is a not a social program, this is a business rule for us. The NFL has a rule, which requires three years of college. So the focus is often on ours, but it’s really not what we require in college. It’s that we say we would like a year to look at them and I think it’s been interesting to see how the players do against first-class competition in the NCAAs and then teams have the ability to judge and make judgments, because high-ranking draft picks are very, very valuable.”

Stern is not alone with much support from those who yearn for a repeat Championship run from Kentucky or those who pine for a Jared Sullinger redemption tour as well as those who trot out arguments about maturity, the value of education, and countless other explanations.

Ironically, one of the loudest sources of support for adding a year to the NBA’s age restriction has come from Mark Cuban. He offers multiple reasons for a bolstered age restriction, recycling two of the most commonly articulated arguments: the cautionary tale and they are role models:

I just think there’s a lot more kids that get ruined coming out early or going to school trying to be developed to come out early than actually make it. “For every Kobe (Bryant) or (Kevin) Garnett or Carmelo (Anthony), there’s 100 Lenny Cooke’s.

It’s not even so much about lottery busts It’s about kids’ lives that we’re ruining. Even if you’re a first-round pick and you have three years of guaranteed money—or two years now of guaranteed money—then what? Because if you’re a bust and it turns out you just can’t play in the NBA, your ‘rocks for jocks’ one year of schooling isn’t going to get you far.

These sorts of arguments are not new. In my book, After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness (SUNY 2012), I explore the history behind the rule, the arguments offered to support it, and the larger implications of the end to the straight-out-HS baller.

While clearly arguing against the rule, I reflect on the larger implications as it relates to race, class and America’s education system. To highlight these broader issues and my belief that the rule is neither fair nor needed and that it embodies the NBA’s efforts to deal with race more than basketball issues, I offer you an excerpt from the book.

After Artest

In an interview in Sports Illustrated, Phil Jackson denounced the NBA for its increased emphasis on young talent, offering insight into long-standing discursive articulations about the necessity and burden of Whiteness controlling savage, child-like Blackness. “It doesn’t matter whether they can play or not. We’ve ended up becoming a service for growth. Now it’s, ‘We’ll hire a chef, we’ll hire laundry, we’ll hire Mom, we’ll hire somebody to come and live with them so that they can perform at this level’” (Quoted in Thompson 2004, p. 84).

David Stern’s successful institutionalization of an age limit for those under 19 did provide an answer to Phil Jackson and others calling for a blockade to the NBA’s youth movement. That wasn’t its true motive. It did, however, seek to appease fans by projecting its purported image problem on to the backs, bodies and cornrows of young straight-out-of-high-school ballers. While the sports world celebrates the youth movement in golf, soccer and tennis, as “prodigies” and geniuses, the opposite seems to be the case in the world of basketball.

Continue reading @ SLAM ONLINE | » Restricted Access.