The NBA continues to get it right

The NBA continues to get it right
June 09
08:15 2022

Ever since Adam Silver took over as the commissioner of the NBA, the league has been head and shoulders above the other major sports leagues when it comes to fighting for equality. As other professional sports leagues battle to have proper representation on the sidelines, the NBA now has 50% of their teams coached by Black head coaches for the first time in history.

Nearly 75% of the players in the NBA is comprised of African American players and for years the league has talked about having those numbers reflected in the coaching ranks as well as in the front offices of teams. Over the past year, eight coaching jobs have been filled by Black candidates, which helped the league get to this unprecedented point.

“It means a lot,” said Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, who will be taking over as the Sacramento Kings head coach once the NBA Finals are over. “When my son, and my oldest son’s about to have his first son, when they turn on the TV and they see people that look like them leading an NBA team on the sidelines, it can be inspiring.

“For me, carrying the torch and then passing it to the next generation is something that I think about often – not just for my family, but for others out there.”

In the last 12 months, Boston’s Ime Udoka, Portland’s Chauncey Billups, Dallas’ Jason Kidd, Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley, Washington’s Wes Unseld Jr., New Orleans’ Willie Green, Brown and the newly hired Darvin Ham of the Los Angeles Lakers, are the eight coaches that were hired to bring the number of Black head coaches in the league to 15.

This is something that I didn’t think I would see anytime soon; however, I am not surprised that it was the NBA that achieved this momentous occasion first. The NBA routinely beats the NFL to the punch when it comes to matters of equality and fairness.

There have been several individuals who have been campaigning for more representation on the sidelines of the NFL and NBA. One of the loudest voices has been that of ESPN’s Steven A. Smith, who not only called out the league, but also the players for not speaking up about it themselves more often. He felt players in the NBA should have been more outspoken about having more Black head coaches in the league.

“NBA players are some of the most powerful people in this world, when have they spoken up for Black coaches?” Smith asked on set before later walking off.  “When?! When have they spoken up for Black coaches and Black executives, GMs, president of basketball operations? When has that happened? LeBron, all of them, everybody! Where the hell have they been? Nobody has done anything.

“Steve Nash never coached on any level. And not only does he get the job, but he gets the job with full support of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who, by the way, never insisted that a Black candidate be interviewed.

“We’re supposed to be woke. We’re supposed to understand that, that knee on George Floyd’s neck wasn’t just about violence and police brutality. It was also the figurative semblance that it provided, where you’re feeling like constantly, people have their knee on your neck since the time you’ve come out of the womb.

From a figurative perspective, what we witnessed and what got the nation up and just inspired was because what we saw was symptomatic and emblematic of how we feel as a people – consistently being minimized, consistently being under-appreciated, undervalued.”

Powerful words from a man with a large platform on ESPN. That was a very bold stance for him to take, knowing the possible backlash from fans and even the players, by essentially calling them out. That’s one of the things I appreciate most about Smith is his willingness to address tough topics and to take a definitive stance on those issues.

I am not saying that Smith is directly responsible for what has transpired in the NBA, but it definitely didn’t hurt. Maybe he opened up some ears of those who are in charge of hiring in the NBA and that has resulted in some necessary results that everyone should be happy to see.  

There are several issues that I disagree with Stephen A. Smith on, but with this topic, he was spot on. I have to give credit to ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins for echoing the words of Smith on several ESPN shows. Both Smith and Perkins both make a good point; why haven’t more high-profile NBA stars been willing to speak out about this issue?

Players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and others all have enough clout to speak on the issue but chose not to. That is why I give even more credit to the NBA, because there wasn’t this outcry from players for more Black men on the sidelines, yet it still happened.

The NBA didn’t need a Rooney Rule to mandate minority candidates are interviewed and they didn’t have to incentivize the hiring of Black coaches either. The owners of the 30 NBA teams hold the ultimate power and they have shown what side they stand on. I believe they saw the issue with the small number of Black coaches on the sidelines and decided to do something about it. And I am glad that it wasn’t just teams in the lottery that were hiring Black coaches, but instead there were several teams that have the opportunity and talent to win now that did so.

Once again, the NFL is playing catch-up to the NBA. I doubt there will be any noticeable change in the NFL anytime soon, so right now we will celebrate this unprecedented time in the NBA.   


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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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