Kill the noise

There's not enough here to warrant an entry in our infamous "NBA Racial Semiotics" series, but I'm getting so sick of hearing about it that I couldn't keep quiet.

Look, I know this second round is going to suck, and we're headed towards the Pistons/Spurs Finals the league has dreaded since day one of the season. But on the real, this Steve Nash-MVP/race riot in the making thing has got to stop now. It may make for juicier discussion than the playoffs as they stand, but here are all the reasons why there's absolutely no weight there:

1. Nash is hardly the great white hope. He's a Canadian who reads Marx, loves soccer, and likes to travel the world. His best friend is a seven-foot tall German musician who just happens to be another non-candidate for "pale face of the league" (for obvious reasons). And while he's a gamer, he's no hustle player (where would he be without his speed?) and never gives the impression that, without basketball, he'd live a totally meaningless life.

2. Shaq is the most beloved athlete in America, who, despite being the biggest, blackest man most of us will ever see, is pretty much beyond race at this point.

3. Shaq has the potential to be the league's automatic MVP without lifting a finger, but his defense is largely accidental, he's hurt a lot, and the advantage he offers a team is largely psychological. I'm not trying to downplay his value, or question the talents of the third or fourth greatest center in the history of the game. But unless he's post 30-15-4 every night with Duncan-like consistency, Shaq's performance simply isn't matching his mythical year-in, year-out value to a team. And last time I checked, that's what we base the MVP on. Otherwise, Jackie Robinson should have been the NL's MVP every year of his career.

4. If the NBA had a race problem, why would Iverson and Garnett both have MVP's in recent years? To quote THC, "it gets no realer."

5. At the risk of pissing off quite a few people, aren't Tim Duncan's two MVP's better evidence of this racial dynamic? He's a "good guy" who plays "fundamental basketball" for a "quality team with character." Versus Nash, a Radiohead-listening free-thinker who dates models, orchestrates a free-wheeling, profligate offense, and gets on swimmingly with a squad of hip-hop-loving twenty somethings. Now where's your (racial) mainstream, ladies and gentlemen?

6. Shaq himself put it best: "Steve's a great guy and has had a great year." This year the Suns ruled the NBA, and Nash was the engine that made them go. He didn't just help his team, he helped the whole damn Association. All Shaq did was prove that last season was an aberration, that he's still here and still a force of nature that can be counted on to anchor a contendor. If anything, he should get Most Improved, except that statistically speaking, this year's not that much better than 2003-2004. Shaq was better with the Lakers, and trading in Wade for Kobe means he should be even more of an offensive force. To say nothing of jumping to a woefully small conference. . .

7. This is a black league, explicitly and implicitly. That's why, if you really wanted to give the MVP to the league's new face, the guy that makes everyone happy, the one figure who says all the right things while keeping his swagger, wows us without defiling the game, and looks to be NBA's single most important player for the next decade or so, there's really only one choice for MVP if you believe the whole thing was somehow rigged.

8. No one can tell me that Nash is a bigger, more rousing underdog than Iverson, who is at this point a problem child in look only. If we want to make this about class and ethics as much as race, Nash is a spoiled, head-in-the-clouds underachiever who suddenly had everything handed to him (in Dallas, too), while Iverson embodies the upwardly-mobile grit, determination, and self-reliance that all Americans like to think they're made of. And Shaq, well, he's just big.

9. If you want to blame someone for Shaq only having one MVP, blame Kobe.

10. We always talk about how much Kobe relied on Shaq; how much was Shaq a creation of Kobe?


At 5/09/2005 7:54 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Dang...y'all beat me to the punch I guess.

At 5/09/2005 9:06 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

even though i thought it was interesting a couple weeks ago when simmons posed the question, i agree with you that there's not much weight to the race issue. for the record, i think shaq should've won in a landslide since a)nash is a defensive liability, and b) w/shaq the lakers were in the finals and without him they were the worst team in LA, while Miami went from being a decent team to a 59 game winning title contender (also, i haven't seen this get any attention, but dallas has had a much more successful season than last year, winning 6 more games and already advancing one round further in the playoffs). don't these things more or less dictate their respective values? i mean, dallas can get jason terry as a replacement for nash and be fine. nobody can replace shaq (maybe duncan).

some thoughts on your post:
-did you just cite "radiohead-listening" as evidence of nash's non-whiteness? who's whiter than radiohead?

-it's kinda fucked to say that being a "good guy" somehow makes tim duncan less black. you seem like an intelligent, overly- educated, (presumably) liberal dude, and i have no doubt that what you were saying came from a well-intentioned place. that said, it just seems like a dangerous stereotype to promote. i think it's particularly problematic when it comes from the mouth of someone who's white or jewish. it's also unfair to duncan in other ways since he grew up in the virgin islands, which is radically different than growing up in inner-city america.

-how was shaq a creation of kobe? big aristotle was in the finals before kobe was in high school.

At 5/09/2005 9:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

yes! some heat!

-that terry angle is a good point.

-i was thinking more in terms of a cultural mainstream. for the record, i hate radiohead. but listening to them is, at least to some people, some kind of "alternative" statement. it marks him as "young," not the kind of person a stodgier, older fan would necessarily think "proper" (compared, say, to peyton manning). dude's a fucking long hair!!!

-the "good guy" statement was meant two ways. one, in contrast to the "thugishness" of many younger nba players, which is read by this same (imaginary?) older fan based as "blackness." it's kind of a syllogism, but i'm not the one thinking it: if (hip-hop generation) black=thug, then non-thug=white.

-two, while it's not my business to judge people's relative blackness, duncan has much less to do with hip-hop, what's thought of as a race-based subculture. hip-hop has been demonized, and since tim duncan can steer clear of being associated with it, he's placed in the cultural mainstream--i.e., "white"

-i don't think you'd disagree that duncan lends himself better to a "color-blind" reading than iverson or garnett.

-the point about duncan's background is dually noted, though again, i don't think there's anything about him that prevents him, culturally, from being embraced by the (white) mainstream as their own.

-i pick on duncan a lot, but he's probably the starting PF on my all-time team. that is, if i were wanting to win.

-the line about kobe was because i needed a tenth line and wanted to say something provocative. but it is worth noting just how good shaq was with kobe at his side. no matter how much people want to shit on kobe, you can't argue that he didn't in some ways make shaq better. at least better than wade does at the moment.

At 5/09/2005 10:55 PM, Anonymous Nels OC said...

I think one of the main reasons that Kobe appears to make Shaq better than Dwade does is simply that Shaq is older now and his knees (and the rest of his huge body) are only getting worse at this point. If Wade works on his outside (ie: 3-point) shot this summer, he will be as good a complement to Shaq as Kobe ever was.

At 5/09/2005 11:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i was just waiting for someone to say that, since it's obviously true. the question, then, is if a depleted shaq is still that much better, by default, than everyone else in the league.

and nels, as long as the suns are in it, there's no way i won't be more excited about the playoffs than race.

it should get interesting once the heat have to face some real competition. it's always great to watch the suns run on people, but watching the heat beat up on other teams in suspiciously reminsicent of watching the shaq/kobe lakers: lots of open jumpers, shaq getting swarmed, and the periodic jaw-dropper from the star guard

At 5/10/2005 3:39 PM, Anonymous Brickowski said...

sorry for not replying sooner but i had to run out last night to watch those amazing suns with a mavs fan (and BS, responding within 20 minutes shows some serious damn dedication to this space). aight, i see what you were saying. my bad. i should've known better than to get serious on ye olde domain of darko (repentant darko makes me sad for some reason). i just like to waste time arguing about all things hoop, and there's a shortage of people who are down to that.

admittedly, shaq isn't what he used to be. the award was his this season if he was really gunning for it, but instead he seemed to be content resting for the playoffs and letting dwayne get his shine. at least that's what shaq says. i'm inclined to believe him, since he's done these things before. but at the same time i have doubts since he hasn't won in a few years. if i was a miami fan, though, my bigger concern would be the way shaq responded to not winning the award. this is certainly not the same shaq who used to go jordan on us, using the smallest perceivable slight as motivation to destroy his opponent.

-kobe certainly made shaq better than wade has made him. let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. as good as dwayne wade is, he still isn't kobe. i don't really see how he will ever be on kobe's level since he's smaller and doesn't have nearly the same range. can you think of something that wade does better than kobe? i mean he doesn't constantly front, and he doesn't bite the hand that feeds him, but if we're strictly talking balling ability (no homo), i don't see anything.

-you're certainly correct in noting that kobe is the biggest reason shaq has one MVP. but that's another reason i don't see giving it to Nash. he's got 2 all stars playing with him. shaq has 2nd year d.wade and that's it (i know the new buzz is that miami is really deep, but nobody said that until the playoffs--back then hoes didn't want me, yada yada). and frankly, amare is starting to look pretty damn shaq-like. and you can say that nash is what made these kids better, and there's certainly truth there, but c'mon: who didn't think amare, 2 years out of high school, would be a lot better this year? same for joe johnson. and the suns didn't have Q or jim jackson until this season. that's a lot of shit goin down, yet nash seemingly gets all of the credit. Hypothetical: if you were the GM for an expansion team starting next year and playing only one season, would you take nash or amare? Personally, I think I’d take Mr. Standing Tall And Talented.

-why are you so convinced we're headed towards a spurs-pistons final? these suns are phenomenal! I thought dallas might win a couple of games, but they were dominated start to finish last night. I think spurs-suns is gonna be some of the most exciting shit in years.


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