What It’s Like Being White In The NBA

There are only a few places in America where a white man is a minority. The NBA is one of those areas. While European players numbers are growing in the association, the number of white American players has been on the decline.

The 2016 – 2017 NBA season kicks off today, as of Sunday, there were 43 white Americans on 30 NBA teams. The Undefeated spoke with Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott, Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, Washington Wizards forward-center Jason Smith and former NBA guard Jimmer Fredette of the Shanghai Sharks about being a minority in the league. Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward were also invited to participate and respectfully declined.

Check out some of their responses to questions on race, being white and in the NBA.

What is it like to be a white American in the NBA?

Doug McDermott: When they see a Dirk [Nowitzki], they’ll go, ‘Well, that’s a white player.’ But, they’re not American guys … Just from an outsider perspective, I bet a lot of NBA fans when they see a white guy, they’re always probably from Spain, or you know Germany, or France. But there’s very few of us. We’re proud of it.

Jimmer Fredette: I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have been able to play basketball in the NBA. It’s an honor to be able to play the game I love for my profession and I hope I can give every white American kid out there hope that they can make it to the NBA no matter what race they are or where they are from.

Who is the best white American NBA player?

Anderson: Kevin Love is supertalented. I grew up playing against Kevin Love quite a bit in college and everything. But, there is no harder-working white American basketball player than J.J. Redick.

Parsons: Me, of course.

Has anyone ever said anything to you racially on the basketball floor?

Anderson: There might be a few, like, ‘white guys can’t jump’ jokes. I’m a shooter. I’m not the most fast, athletic, running player. So, there’s a lot of just little jokes like that. But at the same time, if you can play, there is no race. There is no color in basketball and that’s the beauty of it.

Parsons: Being white in the NBA, there are a lot of stereotypes. It’s almost like a joking thing among guys in the league about the stereotypes, whether it’s music or food or the way we dress. It’s just stereotypes that are kind of like an ongoing thing that goes on in the NBA …

There’s stuff where people call me, ‘white boy,’ or things like that. Same thing with stereotypes. Obviously, I’m a shooter because I’m white or I’m slow and less athletic because I’m white. But not hate. When I dunk on somebody, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, Chandler Parsons is deceptively athletic.’ Why wouldn’t I just be athletic?”

Fredette: The only thing I can think of is in AAU when you would see a team with all black players and then one or two white kids, the joke would be that the ‘white boys’ would always be the shooters. That was me on my AAU team, so I was always spotted as the shooter by other teams.

McDermott: A couple guys [at USA Basketball camp] have joked have been like, ‘Oh, token white guy.’ That’s just the way it is, you know. They assume I’m just floor space, but I feel like I’m showing them that I can do a lot. You know I’ve played with a lot of good players here [at USA camp], and they’ve all been obviously very respectful …

Has it been hard for you to discuss the racial tension with your African-American teammates and how to react as a team to the playing of the national anthem?