In “Do The Right Thing,” the 1989 comedy-drama that was nominated for two Oscars and is widely considered an all-time great film, John Turturro’s character (Pino) unwittingly shows that he is fond of African-Americans despite his frequent use of a common slur.
The revelation arrives subtly, under questioning by Spike Lee’s character (Mookie).
Mookie: “Who’s your favorite basketball player?”
Pino: “Magic Johnson.”
Mookie: “And not Larry Bird? Who’s your favorite movie star?”
Pino: “Eddie Murphy.”
We soon discover that Pino’s favorite rock star is Prince, which leads Mookie to conclude that some of Pino’s favorite people are the same ones he refers to with the n-word.
Pino: “It’s different. Magic, Eddie, Prince are not n—–s. I mean, are not black. I mean, they’re black, but not really black. They’re more than black. It’s different.”
Like many consumers of American pop culture, Pino gets much of his information from mainstream media, where black celebrities can be among the most prominent individuals in their fields. Though he’d probably harbor different emotions if Magic Johnson was a janitor, at least he’s able to admit affinity for Magic Johnson the NBA star,.
That mindset is bad enough, but some folks’ are even worse.
There are those who can’t get past pigmentation at all, whether it’s athletes on a field or worshipers at a Bible study.
Thankfully, everyone who’s blinded by color doesn’t act out their beliefs like the wicked Dylann Roof in Charleston. There are gulfs between mere dislike, pure hatred and cold-blooded murder. But the journey isn’t made in one trip, rather via a series of easily overlooked steps that subconsciously can move us closer to the extreme.
For instance, coverage of black athletes can play a significant role in shaping some opinions of blacks in general. Cynthia Frisby, a professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, points out the problem in a new book, “How You See Me, How You Don’t.”
Her research finds that black athletes are more likely than white athletes to be portrayed negatively in the media.
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By DERON SNYDER
What a great story!
LeBron James returned home and formed his Big Three Remix, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals.
He made everyone forget about “The Decision.” He validated management’s faith in rookie coach David Blatt. He played at a superhuman level, allowing the championship-starved citizens to rejoice as the town’s title drought ended, despite two-thirds of the star trio being out with injuries.
The NBA couldn’t go wrong with that tale of perseverance, resilience and an unsung hero nicknamed “Delly.”
That’s not what happened. But the league still capped the season with an unbelievable warm-and-fuzzy adventure.
The Golden State Warriors compiled the NBA’s best record and reached the Finals with an MVP in Steph Curry, a rookie coach in Steve Kerr and an 11-year veteran who previously had started every game in his career but came off the bench all year.
But Andre Iguodala changed the course of the Finals when he was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4. He played superhuman defense on James, knocked down shots, crashed the boards and found the open man. He allowed the Bay Area to celebrate the franchise’s first title since 1975.
Golden State’s version made the final cut – not Cleveland’s alternate ending – and the NBA couldn’t be happier with the Warriors’ tale of unselfishness, sacrifice and a surprise Finals MVP nicknamed “Iggy.”
You can argue that a Cavs’ victory would’ve been a better narrative, the prodigal son’s homecoming culminating with a rare celebration in one of our most hardscrabble cities.
But that’s no better than the Warriors earning the O’Brien Trophy after a scintillating season of ego-less, position-less basketball that very well could transform the game.
By DERON SNYDER
Golden State coach Steve Kerr made the key adjustment in the NBA Finals when he switched to small-ball in Game 4. Putting Andre Iguodala in the staring lineup helped the Warriors even the series instead of being one loss away from vacation.
The next move was up to Cleveland coach David Blatt and he followed suit, playing center Timofey Mozgov for just nine minutes in Game 5 as Cavaliers played their own small lineup.
As Golden State looks to end the series Tuesday on the road, Blatt has to decide whether to match up with the Warriors or try to pound them when they’re diminutive. The Cavs have lost both ways in the last two contests but might feel compelled to stick with the first option.
“We were in the game the way we were playing,” Blatt said in a postgame news conference Sunday night, defending the lack of playing time for Mozgov, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4.
“We were right there,” Blatt said. “So that’s the way we played it. … I thought that was our best chance to win the game and we were definitely in the game with a chance to win.”
Asked if he would stick with that game plan, Blatt said “not necessarily.”
But it’s probably too late to turn back.
The Cavs imposed their will through the first three games, slowing the pace with a LeBron James-centric offense and taking a 2-1 series lead, but the Warriors have flipped the script. They gambled that the risk of being out-rebounded wouldn’t out-weigh the reward of more space and a faster pace.
Starting center Andrew Bogut, who played 28 and 25 minutes respectively in Games 1 and 2, played just 19 minutes total over the last three games. He didn’t play at all Sunday after playing just two minutes in Game 4.
By DERON SNYDER
No matter what happens in the NBA Finals over the next two or more games, the Golden State Warriors can always savor their regular-season performance.
But it will leave a bitter aftertaste unless they find the right ingredients to neutralize Cleveland.
More Curry would be a great place to start.
A couple of weeks ago, the Warriors were in the conversation on all-time great NBA teams based on their body of work. The way they rolled through the competition was more impressive because they reside in the rugged Western Conference. Their franchise-record 67 victories included a plus-minus of 10.1 points – the only team this season with a double-digit average margin of victory – and no other squad scored more than its 110 points per game.
The Warriors seemed to have it all. They could shoot the lights out, play great defense and move the ball. They enjoyed good health, especially relative to the crippled Cavs and other hobbled playoff teams. At home the Warriors were virtually unbeatable, 39-2 during the regular season and 7-1 in the playoffs entering the Finals. They had the MVP in Steph Curry, the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up in Draymond Green and several other dangerous, multifaceted players.
Now all they have is a puzzling 2-1 deficit and a slew of questions that have perplexed the public.
How can this team twice be held to less than 60 points through three quarters? Where is the spectular offensive firepower? What happened to Curry and who is Matthew Dellavedova to stop him?
If you were looking for the same pyrotechnic attack that the Splash Brothers & Co. made routine, you might have to wait until October.
By DERON SNYDER
An NBA series isn’t a series until one team loses on its home court.
So welcome to the NBA Finals.
This series was supposed to be over the instant Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in Game 1. There was no way Cleveland could compete against Golden State minus the All-NBA point guard, the Cavaliers’ second-best player who had an incredible performance in the opener. Already underdogs with Irving, the Cavs faced the distinct possibility of being swept without him.
Even the great LeBron James wouldn’t be enough to carry an undermanned squad past the Warriors, who including the postseason were 47-3 at Oracle Arena entering Game 2. You almost pitied the Cavs; they didn’t have a fighting chance with Irving and Kevin Love – the team’s third-best player – unavailable for action.
But, sometimes, having the game’s best player is enough. He infuses teammates with confidence. They use splashes from his preternatural powers to water their limited skill sets and watch them grow.
James played 50 minutes in the 53-minute contest and failed to hit the game-winner at the end of regulation – again – but he put his team in position to win and they gutted it out, taking the lead for good on a pair of free throws from backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova who grabbed an offensive rebound with 10.1 seconds left in overtime.
“It’s the grit squad that we have,” James said in a postgame news conference after posting a 39-16-11 triple double. “It’s not cute at all. If you’re looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that’s not us right now. Everything is tough. We’re going to come in with an aggressive mindset defensively and offensively.”
Cleveland has stolen homecourt advantage but not Stephen Curry’s confidence. The NBA MVP had a dreadful game, missing 13 of 15 attempts from 3-point territory and 18 of 23 shots overall. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson was cooking Dellavedova early and finished with 34 points, but Curry never ignited after the pesky Aussie was switched to him.
By DERON SNYDER
It’s the mentality in football: Playing hurt. Playing in pain. Playing with a concussion. NFL star Emmitt Smith recently said that he did it. His peers did it. And others will continue to do it. It’s part of the sport.
But it’s that part that’s also taking parents who had been sitting on the fence about letting their sons play football from “maybe” to “hell, no.”
“You do it for the sake of the game,” the NFL Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys star reportedly told an audience recently at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health Family, Football and Fame luncheon in San Angelo, Texas. “You do it for the sake of your teammates. You do it because it’s your team.”
His mindset was such that he once played in a game with a separated shoulder, simply ignoring the pain and continuing to take handoffs. Such bravado—machismo? stupidity?—is woven into the sport’s fabric. Staying on the field is more rule than exception.
“Should you be out there? The answer is probably not. Would I do it again? Yes, I would,” Smith said. “But that’s football. That’s the way I was raised. If you can’t play with pain, you can’t play the game.”
A growing number of parents, and even NFL players, have begun to question that approach, which can lead to mangled limbs, frayed joints, broken necks and scrambled brains. From the men who recently decided that early retirement beats a pro career, to the former players suffering from head trauma and suing the NFL in a class action concussion lawsuit, to the prep and youth organizations facing litigation of their own, football has become a tackling dummy.
The trend began about six years ago when Congress grilled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the league’s concussion policies. It started to bear fruit in November 2013 when ESPN reported that Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football program, saw participation drop by nearly 10 percent. Head injuries were thought to be the No. 1 reason.
“Unless we deal with these truths, we’re not going to get past the dropping popularity of the sport and people dropping out of the sport,” Dr. Juan Bailes, Pop Warner’s chief medical officer, told ESPN. “We need to get it right.”
For some parents, their kids’ desire to play football is a lost cause. For others, it’s not a problem at all. Family members can be at opposite ends of the spectrum.
“My [15-year-old] son has played every year since he was 12,” said Deborah Crimes of Upper Marlboro, Md. “Even though he’s had a concussion, he still plays. That didn’t taint me. I know things happen with kids.
“But my sister won’t let her sons play,” Crimes continued. “They have played soccer, baseball and basketball, but she won’t allow football. The principal and football coach are trying to recruit my youngest nephew right now, and she’s not having it.”
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By DERON SNYDER
History was made in March when African-American swimmers finished first, second and third in a single event in the women’s Division I NCAA championship.
For a long time, when it came to African Americans and sports, it was a safe bet to follow the money. The trail ended at what it cost to play. Or what one could get paid for playing.
That’s one reason black and brown faces are so prominent in football and basketball. Besides being the most popular traditionally, these sports offer the most full-ride scholarships in college and the quickest road to riches in the pros.
But outliers are on the come-up, found in “action sports” such as motocross, skateboarding and Rollerblading; country club sports such as golf and tennis; and Olympic sports including speed skating (Shani Davis) and gymnastics (Gabby Douglas).
Don’t be surprised as another contender enters into view like a thoroughbred charging from behind to close ground on the leaders. This newest contender for black athletes was created by Native Americans and is considered this continent’s oldest sport: lacrosse.
According to a survey by governing body US Lacrosse, 99 colleges added varsity programs between 2013 and 2014. Participants in lacrosse nationally have tripled to more than 770,000 over the past 14 years, and 55 percent of players are under age 15. What’s more, the sport is moving past its traditional base on the East Coast: The University of Denver last weekend became the first school west of the Appalachians to win the Division I men’s title.
“The growth is faster than I thought it was going to be,” coach Bill Tierney told reporters. He led Princeton to six national titles before taking the job at Denver in 2009.
“It’s out there,” he continued. “There’s tons of teams playing great lacrosse.”
There aren’t a ton of black players … yet. The biggest wave is a few years away.
But the ones on the field currently are hard to miss for reasons other than their color. Especially Duke University junior Myles Jones, who has been compared to the game’s greatest of all time, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
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By DERON SNYDER
Go East young man!
That advice runs contrary to the 1851 editorial by John Babsone Lane Souie in the Terre Haute (Ind.) Express, which suggested guys should head west and grab the country’s manifest destiny. The West was seen as the land of opportunity.
But the view is much different nowadays if you play pro hoops for a living. Your best shot at success isn’t out West, where Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Grizzlies and other threatening species roam.
In the NBA, prospects for prosperity increase the farther you are from the Pacific Ocean. Dead and in his grave for 125 years, even Souie would acknowledge the landscape has changed.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been without Kevin Love, one of their three best players, for two postseason rounds. Kyrie Irving, also among their three best players, missed most of the Eastern Conference finals. Nevertheless, Cleveland is just four wins away from its first-ever NBA championship.
The disparity between the conferences is glaring. Two of the West’s non-playoff teams (Oklahoma City and Phoenix had more wins than the East’s eighth-seed Brooklyn. Another West also-ran (Utah) had as many wins as Brooklyn. Five teams in the West won at least 55 games; only the Atlanta Hawks did so in the East.
If the balance of power is cyclical, then a shift is inevitable. The talent might be ready to give it a jump-start.
“Players will consider going to the East, for sure,” an anonymous Western Conference player told Basketball Insiders. “The East is down right now and the West is a dogfight. The seventh- or eighth-seeded team in the West could possibly make the Eastern Conference finals with how things are now.”
On Sunday, Love spoke to media for the first time since last month’s surgery on his left shoulder. His future in Cleveland has been the subject of intense speculation, with some observers predicting he’ll bolt as an unrestricted free agent and sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are in position to draft either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor with the No.2 pick on June 25. Either way, with or without Love, the team’s final season with Kobe Bryant doesn’t hold much promise and Love squashed talk of donning purple and gold.
By DERON SNYDER
Where Robert Griffin III once brought promise, now the offer is hope.
Our confidence has been replaced by optimism, assuredness exchanged for wishfulness. A battle rages in our head, where doubt and skepticism threaten to drown out more-positive inner voices.
Rookie-of-the-Year campaigns followed by two mediocre, injury-ravaged years can have that effect.
But Washington’s NFL team has doubled down on RG3, picking up his fifth-year option and naming him the starter entering training camp, actions that were uncertain if not unlikely when last season ended.
Like 2012, it’s all history now as RG3 enters his fourth year overall and second season under coach Jay Gruden. Griffin left an indelible impression on Gruden but has an opportunity to counteract that bad memory.
“Playing in the same system for the second year, usually the second year you have a little bit more confidence,” Gruden told reporters Tuesday after the first official practice this year. “There’s a little bit more of an air about you that you should show improvement, lots of improvement – hearing the concepts and seeing the plays over and over again and dealing with the pressure and all that good stuff. I think Robert’s going to be fine.”
We don’t know if that’s the whole truth or a half-lie, but Gruden can’t say anything else. He went too far in publicly dissecting the QB’s performance last season and must offer full support to soothe RG3’s psyche.
Griffin undoubtedly has talent; Gruden’s job – along with new quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh – is to extract it and develop it. Helping him set goals and boundaries is one step that, apparently, needs a little more direction.
For instance, RG3’s main focus should be evolving as a passer in the pocket. That’s where the vast majority of his success will be found. Conversely, he should be judicious in the number of times he runs. Scampering is a fine option when all else fails but not as the first or second choice.
It’s unclear whether RG3 totally grasps that.
By DERON SNYDER
“Who’s got LeBron?”
That’s the central question and perplexing problem for Cleveland Cavaliers’ opponents. And none have come up with a good answer yet.
Watching LeBron James dismantle the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals leads you to wonder how the Wizards would’ve handled the 6-foot-8, 250-pound force of nature. Paul Pierce was abused by the Hawks’ Paul Millsap in Game 6 of the semifinals. Otto Porter gives up 50 pounds to James; Garrett Temple gives up the same weight plus two inches.
The Wizards can worry about that next season, as the eastern road to the NBA Finals will run through Cleveland. Atlanta can begin looking forward to next year as well, facing a 3-0 deficit entering Game 4 Tuesday night. No NBA team has ever overcome such a hole and only three teams were able to force a Game 7.
Golden State offers a strong candidate to defend James in Draymond Green, a nimble 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward who was runner-up to San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard as Defensive Player of the Year. Green is the rare NBA player in history who can legitimately guard all five positions.
Actually, that works out perfectly, because James is one of a handful who can play all five positions, often at the same time.
The Warriors and Cavaliers split during the regular season, with Golden State winning at home in a January game that didn’t feature James. He was in the midst of an eight-game absence as he recovered from knee and back injuries. Newly-acquired J.R. Smith torched the Warriors for 27 points but the hosts prevailed and pulled away late in the fourth quarter for a 112-94 victory.
However, James was in uniform when the Warriors’ visited Cleveland in February and Green’s presence wasn’t a deterrent. James had game-highs in points (42) and rebounds (11), totally outplaying Steph Curry on national TV. The four-time MVP asserted his case as his name was dropping from the discussion.
Curry won the award but James is still the planet’s best player. Anyone who forgot could look at his performance against Atlanta in Game 3.