Thursday night 60 dreams came true at the 2017 NBA Draft.
The annual tradition of seeing athletes accomplish their goals is special, as it’s truly a night of celebration.
The NBA Draft is one in which a lot of casual fans tune in to find out what college kid, or international transplant, their favorite team has added to their roster.
With that comes comparisons. It’s a way for analysts and writers to give casual fans an idea of who a player could be, or a description of who their game resembles.
Draft comparisons are meant to be complimentary, as draftees are experiencing the biggest night of their lives.
But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the comparisons can be spot on, but more often than not, they’re downright lazy, and a little racist.
Draft coverages are full of coded language and a lot of that is based on race, especially in basketball.
If a player is labeled as “athletic,” that means he’s Black.
And if he’s described as a “gamer,” “hard worker,” “gym rat,” “competitor,” “deceptively quick,” or has “surprising athleticism,” he’s definitely going to be White.
It’s an example of how having a limited vocabulary can be incredibly unfair to players of both races.
There is nothing wrong with a Black player whose game is similar to a White player’s, and it’s O.K. if a White player has game like a “brotha.”
One of the worst comparisons in recent memory was from back in 2006, when people wanted to compare Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison to Larry Bird just because they were tall, could shoot, went to small schools, and were White.
Take away their race and jump shot, and Morrison and Bird had nothing in common besides having really bad mustaches.
When Duke’s Grayson Allen was considering entering the draft this season, people labeled him as the next Bobby Sura, only because they were both White and can dunk.
Grayson Allen doesn’t play like Bobby Sura because the better comparison would be Phoenix Suns’ guard Eric Bledsoe. But since Allen and Sura are White, and Bledsoe is Black, analysts usually take the easy way out and compare players by race, which is wrong and unoriginal.
But every now and then, somebody “doesn’t see color” and actually gets it right. ESPN commentator Jalen Rose was on the money Thursday night with two of his comparisons when he linked Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac with former Utah Jazz swingman Andrei Kirilenko and Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen with Cleveland Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting big man Channing Frye.
Isaac and Frye are Black, while Markkanen and Kirilenko are White. The comparisons work because they’re based off their games, not their skin color.
However, there were a few blunders, and below are some of the worst comparisons that writers and analyst came up with on-air and online before, and during, Thursday’s night draft:
– Gonzaga’s Zach Collins was compared to former Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boy” Bill Laimbeer by Rose when in actuality he’s a poor man’s version of San Antonio Spurs’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
– Duke’s Luke Kennard was thought to be similar to Philadelphia Sixers’ shooting guard Nik Stauskas and former Utah Jazz great Jeff Hornaceck. Take race away, and offensively Kennard is closer to Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson because of their height, build and superior shooting ability.
– UCLA’s TJ Leaf was compared to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Nick Collison when his game is much closer to Indiana Pacer’s pick-and-pop big man Myles Turner.
Thursday night, history was made when 16 freshmen were selected in the first round. It was an example of how the game is changing, as the one-and-done era has had a huge impact on college and NBA basketball in the last decade.
The NBA is home to the best basketball players on the planet regardless of their race. Which is why comparisons should be colorblind.
If you have game it doesn’t matter what color you are. Which is why analysts and writers need to focus on a player’s production, instead of their pigment.