Despite differences, these athletes got game

In a league where over 75 percent of players are black, the NBA still has plenty of white athletes who got game. With all due respect to former greats like West and Bird, it is undeniable that the NBA has evolved into an African-American dominated league. I will leave you all to decide the likely reasons for this trend. When you hear talk of the NBA, names like Kobe, Garnett, McGrady and Iverson usually dominate those discussions. These aforementioned ballers seem to get most of the press from the NBA fraternity, and rightfully so. However, there is a bunch of white ballers who deserves some of that press. Do the names Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Williams and Wally Szczerbiak, ring any bells? Maybe not. But these ballers all have just as much game as anybody, and they have the numbers to prove it.

Nowitzki is sixth in the league in scoring (one behind Shaq); meanwhile Jason Williams and Steve Nash are fifth and ninth in the assists respectively. Nash is also tied with Alan Houston for number one in the NBA in free throw shooting, not to mention he is the band leader for the league’s top team, the Dallas Mavericks. Stojakovic is the two-time reigning 3-point champion, while Szczerbiak and Garnett are one of the league’s best one-two combinations. These superstars are just more examples of athletes who have thrived in an environment (in this case it’s sports) where they have found themselves part of a distinct minority.

Venus and Serena Williams are two more examples of athletes who have thrived in such an environment. The Williams sisters are both under twenty-three years of age and have already amassed eight tennis grand slam titles between them. After Venus went on a title rampage (three consecutive grand slams) ending around a year ago, her younger sister Serena picked up where she left off. Serena has now won the last three tennis grand slam titles, and she defeated her older sister in the final of all three. Serena has not lost a match this year, and says her goal is to go undefeated. I will get back to you on that one. The sisters have been this dominant despite being two of only three African-Americans females on the entire senior tennis circuit. Remarkably, the sisters have been able to answer all the questions relating to their many differences, all while focusing on their game. Their commitment to improvment, and their ability to block out all the ready distractions, will have them atop women’s tennis for years to come.

Mike Grier, Donald Brashear and Anson Carter are three of the handful of black players in the NHL. Any real fan of the league will tell you that these guys aren’t quota fillers; they belong in the league. Some people might argue that hockey’s inaccessibility to all different socio-economic and racial backgrounds has negatively affected the sport’s popularity. It certainly is not a sport that is very available to African-Americans living in urban inner cities and rural areas. However, these black players have done extremely well, as they prove that all different kinds of players can be successful in the NHL.

Although the professional baseball leagues in Asian countries like Japan are very credible leagues, they are not up to the standard of Major League Baseball. However, this has not stopped a recent wave of Japanese players from making the trip over to the MLB and being very successful. There is Nomo (who pitched a perfect game two years ago), Suzuki (who finished ninth in batting average) and Ohka (who was seventh in NL for ERA). These are just three of the growing minority of Asian players who are making a legitimate claim in MLB. Now, it’s no surprise that the Yankees think they have the latest sensation to come over, in Hideki Matsui. The pundits believe Matsui might hit up to fifty home runs as a power hitter for the Yankees this season.

Of course, we all know the Tiger Woods story. He is only the most popular athlete in the world, just behind Ronaldo and MJ. Although Tiger himself seems to be a bit confused as to his own race, let us agree that whatever he is, he is not white. With that in mind, this makes him an extreme minority on the PGA tour. Obviously this has not affected Tiger, who, despite the distractions and expectations, is unquestionably Mr. Golf.

There might be several reasons why these athletes have been very successful despite being a minority in their respective sports. Some would argue that the answer lies within these individual athletes: a special will that drives them, and allows them to focus on the sport itself and not the politics. Yet, a more scientific approach would suggest that these athletes thriving as minorities is merely due to the laws of probability. Whatever you believe has led to the success of these above athletes, it is still another example of how American society has become more racially inclusive.