Buzz Bissinger caused a stir a while back when he posited that the NBA is becoming less popular due to a dearth of white stars, and much of it was highly negative. Never one to shy away from expressions of rage (whether they be his own or someone else’s), however, that didn’t stop Bissinger from writing another piece on basketball and race. This one focuses on BYU star Jimmer Fredette. You can probably guess why Bissinger thinks he’s so popular, and honestly, after reading it, we’re thinking it’s about time Buzz lays off the race stuff for a while.
Bissinger doesn’t waste much time getting to his point:
Jimmer Fredette is the most popular player in the tournament and perhaps the country. Why is that?
Because he is perceived as the next white hope of the NBA, even though the odds of that are mixed at best.
It’s about race. It always is in America.
The Jimmer has been ordained as pro basketball’s next white comet. As a student at Brigham Young, where there are rules against drinking coffee and doing the funky monkey, the Jimmer is nothing less than a thick-necked Tea Party poster boy.
We’ll agree that Fredette’s chance for NBA success is up in the air. And we imagine that being white plays either consciously or subconsciously into his folk hero status with some people (just like it does for Danny Woodhead). But we won’t agree that race is the main thing making Fredette so popular, nor that he’s seen as some kind of beacon heralding a white NBA revival. In fact, we’d say a different passage from Bissinger’s piece does a much better job explaining why people love Jimmer so:
He has a great shot. He handles the ball well. He is exciting to watch. He led the nation in scoring with 28.5 points for Brigham Young University and had 13 games of more than 30 points.
That’s why people love him. He’s a fantastic college player. He’s a constant threat to completely go off and score 50 (or 40, which he did on three other occasions this season). He scores a ton of points, and fans like to see a ton of points scored.
As far as the “NBA great white hope” stuff, we don’t see it. As Bissinger himself says:
[T]he Jimmer is only 6-foot-2, doesn’t have the lightning quickness required for that height, won’t be able to penetrate, and doesn’t play particularly good defense.
And we haven’t seen a great deal of denial about any of that (though Bissinger cites ESPN’s John Ireland as having the opinion that “the Jimmer will be able to start immediately for an NBA team”). Additionally, another figure Bissinger cites – ESPN’s projection that Fredette will be the 18th pick of this year’s draft (and it’s a weak draft) – seems to indicate that reasonable people are able to separate his college achievements from his pro prospects.
Additionally, are good white players in the NBA as non-existent as Bissinger tries to argue? We’d say Kevin Love is doing pretty well for himself up in Minnesota, and last we checked, he was white. (We doubt that’s changed.)
We also take issue with Bissinger’s line about how Fredette is “getting the same swooning swirl as fellow whites Christian Laettner, J.J. Reddick [sic], and Adam Morrison all received.” Laettner and Morrison, maybe. But J.J. Redick? Did anyone outside of Duke fans not absolutely loathe him? (These folks sure aren’t feeling too much love for him.)
Come to think of it, though Bissinger didn’t mention him, the same goes for Tyler Hansbrough, former North Carolina star and noted white. And not only could plenty of people not stand him, but he’s been awfully productive at the NBA level of late – an inconvenient example for Bissinger on two counts.
We won’t dispute that Jimmer Fredette might not be a very good NBA player. We won’t dispute that being white can only help his overall popularity. We will dispute the idea that his performance this season makes him anything other than fully worthy of all the attention he’s gotten. He’s better than anyone in the college game at putting the ball in the basket, and that, not his complexion, is the real reason behind Jimmer-mania.
AP photo, via