NBA Playoff Race War Semiotics: Part 1

While you’d never guess it from our fetishization of all things African-American, we at FreeDarko have some ethnic affiliations of our own to toot. In fact, the essential character of this blog often comes down to the conflict between several Jews and the Recluse’s Oriental frequencies. Never was this more evident than when we attempted to dissect these playoffs, which are nothing if not another episode in the long-forgotten beef between our peoples. Things got so unruly that lines were drawn, lots were cast, and we knew what we had to do: determine once and for all which teams belonged to whom. At the Recluse’s request, we begin with the East.

(Note: I have included some soothing image of racial harmony in case anyone starts getting crazy ideas.)

Detroit Pistons

Bethlehem Shoals: Detroit is a city that was once ruled by Jewish mobsters; the Pistons are a team whose brightest memories came at the hand of a certain dictatorial Levantine. Not surprisingly, both entities hit the skids as soon as they passed the reins to people of another texture. By virtue of this double-barreled dependence on the civic and professional powers of my people, I have no choice but to pronounce this playoff entrant totally Jew. P.S. We get an astounding number of hits off of search engine queries for "Darko Jewish," which I think settles this once and for all.

Brown Recluse, Esq.: I can’t argue with my Hebrew homie on this one. Even though Detroit’s precision and selfless, team-first attitude would please Asian Uncle Tom Gedde Watanabe and the rest of those dudes from Gung Ho, we’ve known that we’re not welcome in the Motor City ever since a Detroit court let Vincent Chin’s killers walk back in ’82. Not forgotten, motherfuckers.

Chicago Bulls

BS: I bet u all are thinking I'm going to say that Skiles is stingy with his minutes, his accolades, and revels in guilt-drenched effort. Here's the catch: he refuses to anoint a star, or let this team get shiny like a sea of them. We are not some Protestant, driven by the dignity of the grind, schmoes. Let me hit you with two words: EXCEPTIONALISM. We hustle because we're special, and call each sun cause we can always do better (than you). Maybe we're in thrall to super-egos, but it's a springboard to our radiant birthright. I don't see Skiles chosing no one for nothing.

BR: Cubans may be the “yews of the Caribbean” (see below), but West Indians have a lot in common with their Eastern counterparts: hard workers, committed to education, and loath to break the rules. Also, Japanese people love reggae. It doesn’t hurt that the League’s most prominent Jamaican, Ben Gordon, and his head coach are both short, just like most Asians.

Toronto Raptors

BS: They were supposed to be nothing, and while they didn't quite take over the world, they've sure laid down a statement this season. Sounds familiar. Chris Bosh could be a sticking point, since he's tall and was drafted super-high. However, compared to his partners in 2003-ness, he's on the outside looking in. Oh, and what’s that I hear, wearing #18 and champagning for the wisdom of the ages? ANTHONY PARKER, fresh off El Al.

BR: All right, here’s where the selfless, team-first attitude does make a team Asian. The Raptors have succeeded by sacrificing personal rewards for the benefit of the group. While there are no Asians on the roster, they do feature players from Italy, Spain, and Slovenia, reflecting the international character of the city, which includes a large Chinese population. Plus, Chris Bosh has chinky eyes.

Miami Heat

BS: I don't think a single Asian has ever set foot in the state of Miami, which is different than the rest of the state, which is essentially one big conduit into Disneyworld. Also, part of the characteristic Jewish hustle is not embracing hard work when it's not absolutely necessary. That's why Asians are chumps, and why Shaq is the largest member of the tribe in recorded history. Bonus points for semi-Jew SVG, who laid the groundwork and was then steamrolled by glossy arch-fiend Riley.

BR: Shaq-fu aside, I’ll have to concede that there’s not too much Asian about the Heat or the city of Miami. As The New York Times reported last March, Asians tend to go for “small, shapely buttocks,” so a lot of Miami’s appeal is lost on us. And since most Asians already live in Southern California, where there is warm weather and a Disney theme park, there’s really no reason to ever go to Florida.

Cleveland Cavaliers

BS: I've compared LeBron to Old Testament theology, which was kind of fun. And "Chosen One" is, I don't know, dangerously close to my people's favorite sobriquet. I would also argue that a lot of what he does is as inexorably and freshly true as Sinai, and that the game is forever altered thus. Which, pardon my diletantitude, is kind of the premise behind the tradition of commentary. So finally it emerges: I stay a LeBron believer because in some way, my imaginary picture of my religious heritage depends on it. I only come to Judiasm through the lens of King James.

BR: Confucius say, “He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.” What that means for the Cavs is that, in order to advance in the playoffs, they need to share the damn ball. LeBron hasn’t played with a true point guard the entire time he’s been in Cleveland, and for the past couple seasons, he’s been embracing his Jordan legacy in lieu of his Magic one. It’s time that the Cavs realize that the future belongs to Asia, as being greedy and/or waiting for the Messiah to save them isn’t going to work any longer.

New Jersey Nets

BS: Goodbye Columbus. The Father of Silverbird. And, soon, the Zion-like return to Brooklyn. All the cheese in China couldn't wrest the Nets from my cheap, ethical grasp.

BR: Once the Nets move to Brooklyn, this one is over, but since they're still in New Jersey, let me drop some science on you. First, New Jersey is the third most Asian state in the Union after only Hawaii and California. Secondly, its nickname is the Garden State, and a lot of gardeners are Asian. Finally, Atlantic City is in New Jersey, and Asians like to gamble. As for the team itself, the following players all have vaguely Asian qualities (in descending order of Asianness): Jason Collins, Richard Jefferson, Josh Boone, Vince Carter, Eddie House, and Antoine Wright.

Washington Wizards

BS: This one's simple: Arenas is the league's only Cuban. Cubans refer to themselves as "the yews of the Caribbean." This could not be any simpler.

BR: Let’s face facts: Arenas is only half-Cuban and seems only dimly aware of his Spanish heritage. He is, however, from Southern California and a video game and car aficionado, which would scream Asian if Asians weren’t too quiet and polite to scream. Speaking of quiet and polite, Antawn Jamison, with his respectful manner and commitment to education, is about as Asian as a 6’9” black man can get. Also, Caron Butler just seems Korean to me for some reason.

Orlando Magic

I'm going to have to concede this one. First, when a team's only notable person is a physically imposing fundamentalist Christian, there's precious little wiggle room for my wiggly race. And, if you'll allow me to step outside of basketball for a second, I've always sharply contrasted Miami, i.e. Hymietown II, with the rest of Florida—Orlando being the only point of reference I have for the "other" FL. Really, all I've got for this one is that Hedo looks a lot like Silverbird, but that's some eye-of-the-goy lump exoticization. It's poor planning that's to blame for the Magic's exclusion from this post, but on some level, I probably didn't want to confront their likeness anyhow.

It is impossible to think of Orlando without thinking also of Disneyworld. Asians love cartoons, and they love cute shit, in general, so the Magic are a no-brainer Asian squad. In fact, the first Disney park built outside of the United States was built in Japan, and there's also one in Hong Kong. As for the players: Dwight Howard is a braces-wearing goodie-goodie, Jameer Nelson is short, and Trevor Ariza could easily be the name of a Filipino.


At 4/18/2007 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post... throw some random stereotypes at each team and see what sticks.

At 4/18/2007 9:18 AM, Blogger evan said...

Gilly is certainly tribe as his point of origination is Miami. He was born and forever carries the swagger that you only see out of Miamians and those who play at the U.

anony: appears it's your want to toss something like that out and hope it sticks to the comments thread.

Let's talk stereotypes and see that the Spurs are mishbucha. Old, move in rhythm that only a seasoned JCC could do. They sweat profusely, complain incessantly and probably don't eat anything considered less than ethnic.

Tim Duncan to Joey Crawford: "What, should I not be laughing? Bob here is a chazar."

nerd up!

At 4/18/2007 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good pick up on caron's inscrutable korean-ness. i can't explain why, but it's just so true. (i'm asian if this lends any credibility...)


At 4/18/2007 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Let me hit you with two words: EXCEPTIONALISM."

Isn't Exceptionalism one word? Lipset in the house.

At 4/18/2007 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

any thoughts on the 8 seed Magic? I would have to go with Asian: 8 represents good fortune in China and in the NBA - assured of the revenue from at least two more home games. And Dwight Howard after a platter of atomic chicken wings could do a mean Godzilla impression complete with flame-breath.

At 4/18/2007 10:48 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

smk--magic on the way. along with an excuse for our grievous omission.

anon 10:00--no, it's two words. know your mathematics.

At 4/18/2007 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

etan thomas's commitment to social justice wins the wiz for the jews. no question. and this is less stereotype, more social belief system.

At 4/18/2007 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, I could use some images of soothing racial harmony. Things are so depressing right now.

At 4/18/2007 11:24 AM, Blogger Joey said...

Isn't Mickey Arison Jewish? And he owns a team in Miami? That makes the Heat the Chosen People of playoff contenders.

When you do the West, I pray to the Lord that Houston gets claimed by Shoals. JVG is a hardworking schlep who's risen to disproportionate power and influence. Even Micheal Ray and Tommy Thompson could see that Jewish hustle.

At 4/18/2007 11:41 AM, Blogger Cornell Lolz said...



At 4/18/2007 12:24 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

one thousand apologies to the good people of new jersey and orlando. your basketball teams' respective jewishness and asianness have now been evaluated for your entertainment and edification. enjoy.

At 4/18/2007 12:51 PM, Blogger Joey said...

BR, can't the "Asians love so-and-so destination" argument be used with Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Woodbury Commons premium outlets in Woodbury, NY? I feel like that's one more argument for the Nets and one for the All-Star game (take that, American hip-hop community!).

At 4/18/2007 12:54 PM, Blogger evan said...

it hurts that orlando has become the asian team since i'm the j00 and live in this savannah of sprawl (I couldn't think of anything to rhyme with vedlt since afrikaans/dutch is not my strong suit).

to backup the wreck, we have a huuuuge vietnamese population and a pretty large indian one as well. to the point that a few blocks of downtown are known as little saigon.

check out nerditry for thought on the florida divide from a few nights ago. orlando is so not jewish that it dresses up for halloween and goes as boca raton.

At 4/18/2007 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, for one, wholeheartedly welcome Caron into our caring (albiet momentarily stunned) community.

On a more serious note, damn now I can't root for the bad boys without being reminded of Vincent Chin. Why must you spoil my pleasure.

At 4/18/2007 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


-Bethlehem Shoals

At 4/18/2007 2:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


At 4/18/2007 3:01 PM, Blogger C-los said...

great post...can't wait for the West Conf rundown just to see where the Lakers will fit in

At 4/18/2007 3:09 PM, Blogger badly drawn boykins said...

The Nets are Asian - that goes without saying.

For one thing, Fort Lee, which requires a Korean passport for entry, is a Kia's throw away from ConAir Arena.

Rex Walters, the NBA's first Asian-American player, was drafted by the Nets.

And Vince Carter clearly believes in the Japanese proverb, "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down", hiding is superior talent so as not to upstage his inferior Toronto teammates.

At 4/18/2007 3:21 PM, Blogger The Lord Humongous said...

Sound logic. Also, Magic, as a concept, is pretty goyish (fuck a Copperfield and half a Blaine).

I think we need to cede the Rockets to our Chinese brethren, yaoming? But JvG is definitely tribal.

At 4/18/2007 3:43 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

20 comments, and I gonna have to get this off my chest: Screw ya'll. The Heat are Latino, they are in Miami for crissakes, and Shaq is the most Latino player in the league. He couldn't be any more Cuban Pete if he was dancing the rumba while shaking a maraca....

I find this whole thread offensive, because you left out Hispanics. Damn it, can you just go out and buy FD a minority contributor, just for credibility purposes?!?

At 4/18/2007 4:00 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Babydaddy, I guess it comes down to this: With a player whose game is about taking charges, hitting shots with his feet set, and hustling on defense (some beloved Jewish gym rat pastimes); an undersized PF who isn't all that athletic but is somehow effective (another archetype I've seen in JCC pickup games); and JVG, does that would-be Jewishness overtake the actual Chinese origins of Yao Ming?

At 4/18/2007 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Jew, every Jersey Asian I've ever met seems to consider themself to be an honorary Jew. There's no way you're taking Jersey away from us.

At 4/18/2007 4:35 PM, Blogger The Lord Humongous said...

Joey--I concede that you know the Houston game better than I do. Bottom line, however: no way are we wrestling this team away from 1.3B Chinese folks. I'd be interested in hearing how Dirk is more Jewish than Asian though.

At 4/18/2007 4:41 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

sml--our latino contributor is too busy exploiting workers in mainland china to write anything these days. blame him.

At 4/18/2007 4:54 PM, Blogger badly drawn boykins said...

Aaron, you might be correct, but we all know that the capital of Jewish Jersey is Cherry Hill, which sits squarely in 76ers Country.

Plus, the Nets have Jason Kidd, the ultimate Confucian benevolent ruler. He dishes out to teammates but rules his house with an iron fist, almost literally.

At 4/18/2007 4:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm totally stoked at how much conversation this is generating. but can we hold off on the west until tomorrow? i'm in the middle of writing mine now, and i'm seriously worried you all will beat me to my material!

At 4/18/2007 5:15 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

totally stoked? is your surfer slang part of getting in that left coast mindset?

At 4/18/2007 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me endorse Aaron's note about Jersey Asians as honorary Jews. That said, as a chosen child of the Garden State, I'm willing to let our twelfth tribe Asian brothers have the Nets. Growing up, most of my youthful coreligionists were Knicks fans, maybe due to the New York roots, maybe just because of the joke the Nets were when we were growing up. Oh and also no doubt because of JvG, whom I was identifying with before I even knew what identifying was. Remember when his car (Honda Accord) got flipped over by a jet engine?

Spinachdip -- The Cherry Hill JCC is an enormous fortress-city, but the philly side of new jersey is and will always be the ugly forgotten step child.

At 4/18/2007 7:17 PM, Blogger evan said...

ftk: it's funny you mention it that way because my family moved from philly (dad and grandparents) to cherry hill and then eventually miami. the greatest jewish exodus since egypt itself and all of the hot spots.

depending on where you grew up there are lots of honorary jews. cubans in south florida, asians in jersey, and probably indians in some neck of the woods.

in fact, i'm declaring toronto as being officially jewish owned and operated in light of the sheer number of indians and pakistanis. they are the honorary jews of east canada.

excuse me while i enjoy flounder stuffed with crab leftovers.

At 4/18/2007 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A note regarding Jewish Toronto: Jews comprise about 1% of Canada -- 50% of whom live in Ontario, and 80% of that group live in the Greater Toronto Area. Suffice to say, it's something of a northern hub for the Chosen People.

As well, while I don't spend too much time with my fellow Jews, the few Semitic friends I do have did the whole summer camp thing as kids and, as such, have enormous groups of Jewish acquaintances who are, to a man, the most obsessive hoops fans I've ever met.

Though I'm not sure if that proves anything, aside from basketball fandom possibly being a mitzvah.

At 4/18/2007 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"an undersized PF who isn't all that athletic but is somehow effective (another archetype I've seen in JCC pickup games)"
joey- in all my years of korean church league ball, i've never seen a more asian mold than this. jcc can't take it.

At 4/18/2007 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Jew from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. I went to a Gifted School, so all my friends are Chinese. I think I'm the authority on this subject.

Jews. Everyone thought that Kobe and his 81 and all the terrible moves that TO's GM's had made had basically destroyed the Raptors. But by some holy miracle, they bounced back and they are doing some pretty remarkable things. Chosen people? Anyone?

Asians. This one is obvious. Their hard work ethic and commitment to defence is something that any other team in the league ('cept the spurs) can match. Asians are the hardest workers I know. Asians.

Jews. It's obvious. Half the jews in North America are in Ft. Lauderdale during the winter times. And most of them have heat tickets. Besides, Shaq was in Kazaam. If that didn't have a Jewish producer...you can call me Christian McBible-Study.

Asians. This one is obvious. They dont make jews like dwight howard.
"He does unbelievable things with his body but he also has a child-like soul".
Is anyone else thinking of Jackie Chan? I know I am.

Jews. You take a bunch of misfits from all around the league and you give them a holy land (Detroit) and what do they do with it? They build a dynasty.

Asians. I was going to say jews, but seriously you have to look at two things. Lebron James is learning Cantonese so that one day he can become emperor of China (/the first billionair athlete). AND
Anderson Varaejo. Just when you think he's going to stop trying hard, he tries harder. Its like if he stops his parents are going to beat him. If any asians would like to talk about their experiences learning the piano, I think they'll find its very similar.

Jews. When people said Gilbert couldn't do it, he did it. And when people said Gilbert couldn't blog it, he blogged it. This man is one of gods chosen people. After all, who takes a shot and then has the faith (audacity?) to walk back to the bench after?

New Jersey
Asian. We're going to ignore Vince Carter for a second (I dont think he's going to like it) and look at Jason Kidd. This man practically averages triple doubles. What does that mean? It means he scores, he rebounds and he passes. He can do everything. Just when you thought he couldn't get any better, he'll beat you on a math test and a science lab. There is a word for someone who can do the glamourous stuff and the dirty work. And that word is "Asian". You guys are hard as nails.

Thats my wrap up for the east. Honestly...it doesn't really matter. Because at the end of the world, the only things left will be a couple of leveled buildings, some cockroaches, a couple of jews and some Asians inside the leveled buildings doing math.

At 4/19/2007 12:45 AM, Blogger Joey said...

If Korean's are laying claim to the Chuck Hayes style, I will concede the point, although having gone to a high school where 1750 of the 3000 kids were Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, I have had my fair share of runs with Asian people. I don't recall a lot of bruisers, although they may have been playing football.

Unrelated to my previous comments: If tomorrow's post is as successful as today's, might there be parts 3 and four when the FD staff applies the Supreme Mathematics to the playoffs?

At 4/19/2007 12:46 AM, Blogger Joey said...

No apostrophe in "Koreans." I wasn't attempting to imply anything untoward.

At 4/19/2007 12:12 PM, Blogger Plumpy's Ghost said...

In regards to the Wizards, how could you neglect to mention Arenas' love for screaming "Hibachi" during games. That's unbeatable.


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