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Duke vs Michigan
March 16, 2011 12:45 PM   Subscribe

On Sunday, ESPN aired an acclaimed documentary about the University of Michigan's Fab Five. In one segment the members of the Fab Five discuss their hatred of the Duke University basketball program, and Jalen Rose goes so far as to say that at the time he felt like Duke players were "Uncle Toms". Link goes to clip of relevant segment (1:24), after a short ad. Grant Hill, who played for Duke against the Fab Five, responded in today's New York Times.

The NYT version was edited for space constraints, so the full version is available on Hill's website.

The full documentary is on Youtube, starting here.
posted by auto-correct (88 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The doc is worth watching, but should be taken with a grain of salt since it was produced by the players themselves.

Chris Webber, the most famous member of the group, chose not to be involved in the film presumably because of the NCAA violations he was later convicted of.
posted by auto-correct at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2011


I'm only half-cracking a joke here, but that letter to me is the brightest moment in Grant Hill's career.
posted by phaedon at 12:50 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoa. Those Michigan guys should take a time out there.

/if they have one, that is.
posted by azpenguin at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2011 [44 favorites]


Grant Hill seems to have missed the fact that Jalen Rose was talking about how he felt about Hill and Duke when he was 18. That said, Coach K has said many times that he only considers recruits who can graduate from Duke. Kids from stable and successful families are much more likely to be recruited at Duke. Does that make them Uncle Toms? Maybe to an 18 year old from Detroit.
posted by arveale at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's a wonder that Grant Hill didn't sprain his wrist while writing that letter.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


That Grant Hill seems like a mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
posted by orthogonality at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a wonder that Grant Hill didn't sprain his wrist while writing that letter.

He didn't, but he did flop backwards several times when the wind rustled the paper.
posted by clearly at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a wonder that Grant Hill didn't sprain his wrist while writing that letter.

Phoenix's training staff are goddamn miracle workers. They've kept Nash going, Hill plays like he's 27, and even Shaq stayed healthy virtually the entire time he was there. I wish Yao and Greg Oden would get traded there and win like 4 championships during the last few productive years of Yao's career.
posted by shen1138 at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jalen Rose is ignorant of own his history. If Duke players were "Uncle Toms," then Michigan players were a pack of hired guns, recruited in a near nakedly-underhanded fashion because his coach needed to look good, fast.

Steve Fisher took over the Michigan program in the middle of the 1988–89 season and led them to an improbable championship. Then all those players graduated, and Fisher led Michigan into a debacle of a season, missing the NCAA tournament altogether. Not good to go into the tank that fast -- it says you can't recruit and keep a program going long term.

Fished needed a solution. Ta-da, the Fab Five showed up next season.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:03 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The documentary was very well done and affecting. Pity the Uncle Tom reference has distracted from the overall story. As usual Ta-Nehisi Coates has a more measured read on this.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Ohio State Fuckeyes!?!? Motherfucker. Still I appreciate Jalen Rose's candor about what was said and felt.
posted by phaedon at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2011


I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.

*chuckle*

Not a Duke fan.
posted by marxchivist at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grant Hill, who played for Duke against the Fab Five, responded in today's New York Times.

The Fab Five would say that proves their point EXACTLY about the typical African-American Duke player back in the 90's.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


i want to thank the fab 5 for their work in making 'nut-hugging' shorts unfashionable.
posted by the aloha at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's worth reading Bomani Jones's thoughts. Like he says toward the end, the relationship of Duke basketball to race is an incredibly complicated thing.
posted by Copronymus at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2011


Ugh go watch the documentary. This is taken out of context. It was an angry 19 year-old Jalen Rose calling Hill an Uncle Tom. And to a 19 year old child of a single mom growing up in inner city Detroit, the image and adulation Grant Hill got because of who he was, and what Rose was never going to have the chance to be must have been infuriating. Hill got so much adulation not just because he was a great college basketball player, but also because he was the opposite of a kid like Rose, and was thus non-threatening to the predominantly white media. It infuriating them to the degree that it led the Fab Five to underestimate Hill's actual talents rather than what the media story line was. Clearly Rose was wrong for using that epithet, and if you watch the documentary you can see that with his sheepish laugh

Its akin to some SEC player talking trash about Tim Tebow and then getting run over by him.

The Fab Five would say that proves their point EXACTLY about the typical African-American Duke player back in the 90's.


exactly.

I mean I can't think of a young Grant Hill without this image of Billy Packer quietly thinking "Oh and he's so well spoken"
posted by JPD at 1:24 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course he responded in the New York Times. Shit should have been in Vibe or XXL if he was keeping it real.
posted by yerfatma at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean you want to see how distored media coverage was WRT to race and basketball read some of the coverage surrounding Georgetown - like this article
posted by JPD at 1:30 PM on March 16, 2011


Billy Packer quietly thinking "Oh and he's so well spoken"

Billy Packer probably said exactly that on live TV. Or maybe "He's very articulate".
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2011


If we're talking about the Fab Five, it's worth watching this video of Great NCAA Moments in Lego Form for the moment when Lego Chris Webber calls time out while a lego fan waves a sign that says "This won't count anyway."

As to the point of the post, I think there are pretty clearly racial issues with Duke Basketball that are worth talking about. Duke consistently fields fewer black players than their peer teams. It's hard to know the reasons for that, but I do think that the racial balance of the Duke team plays into portrayal of Duke in the media. The racially charged image of white athletes(hardworking, smart, not especially athletic, but overcoming their natural shortcoming with "hustle") gets writ large on the Duke team; they're praised for their smarts, hard work, and "sound fundamentals," when I think a team of predominately black players that played in the same style would get very different treatment.

Just to be clear, I'm a Carolina fan, so by "same style" I mean like cheating, hand checking thugs. That said, I think the racial issues should be clear even to people without my particular basis.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Basis should be bias, obviously
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2011


Yeah Grant Hill responding to charges that he's an Uncle Tom via NYT's blog called "The Quad" almost tips the irony scales too much. I'm looking forward to further responses during NPR's "All Things Considered," a sharply worded "Dear Sirs" letter to The Economist and an interview, followed by an open Q&A, at the 92nd St. Y.
posted by geoff. at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of course he responded in the New York Times. Shit should have been in Vibe or XXL if he was keeping it real.


I don't think you get why the NYT is sort of funny. If some other basketball player wants to address some public conflict with a peer in print, then it really is magazines that appeal to an urban audience that are their only options. Grant Hill gets to do his in the times.
posted by JPD at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2011


If some other basketball player wants to address some public conflict with a peer in print, then it really is magazines that appeal to an urban audience that are their only options.

Or Twitter.
posted by jmd82 at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2011


So Grant Hill should "black it up"? I'm trying to imagine what it would be like if I was constantly under the microscope for not being Jewish enough. What an unnecessary and useless fucking burden for a young man.
posted by docpops at 1:41 PM on March 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Grant Hill gets to do his in the times.

No, Hill chose to do his in the Times. I am sure they'd have published something from Jalen Rose in the Times as well.
posted by Mister_A at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Duke sucks.
posted by Mcable at 1:45 PM on March 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Duke consistently fields fewer black players than their peer teams.

I'm going to need to see some stats for that one. No, really, it would be interesting to see Duke Mens Basketball's racial makeup vs. the average for Div 1 teams, and vs. top 25 teams. Do you have any numbers on that one?

Not picking a fight, it really would be interesting to see Duke vs averages.
posted by Tehhund at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2011


I think the reaction in the media and blogosphere to this situation has been surprisingly thoughtful and nuanced.

It's amazing how different the dialogue about racial issues is when it's brought up by the players themselves compared to when it's caused by some blowhard talk radio host.
posted by auto-correct at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2011


You gotta kinda laugh that Ta-Nehisi Coates accidently lumps Hubert Davis in with the Dookies.

No, Hill chose to do his in the Times. I am sure they'd have published something from Jalen Rose in the Times as well.


39-yo ex-NBA All-Star, TV Commentator Jalen Rose sure. 19 year old Jalen Rose? No.
posted by JPD at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


19 year old Jalen Rose? No.

How many 19 years old incoming freshmen basketball players have articles published in the Times, regardless of race?

posted by wildcrdj at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2011


Yeah, but the signaling of Hill's response appearing in the Times emphasizes what the Fab Five were saying about Duke. I'm not saying Hill should "black it up" (ugh), but the fact that he chose to put it in the Times speaks volumes about who he's speaking to. The Fab Five documentary appeared on ESPN; Hill's response appeared in the NYT. Which do you think the modern day equivalent of 19 year old Jalen Rose is more likely to see and be informed by?
posted by KingEdRa at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah Grant Hill responding to charges that he's an Uncle Tom via NYT's blog called "The Quad" almost tips the irony scales too much. I'm looking forward to further responses during NPR's "All Things Considered," a sharply worded "Dear Sirs" letter to The Economist and an interview, followed by an open Q&A, at the 92nd St. Y.

So what exactly does this mean? Was he supposed to write his response in "The Source" to prove his street cred?

This argument between Jalen and Grant is as old as the one between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. It will never be resolved. You know why? Because we black folks are not a monolithic group.

And Jalen should be ashamed of himself.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chris Webber, the most famous member of the group, chose not to be involved in the film presumably because of the NCAA violations he was later convicted of.

I will never forget the picture of a slumped Chris Webber walking back to the locker room on the cover of the Chicago Tribune. I hated Michigan growing up; I had a copy of that day's paper up in my room throughout high school. I imagine Chris didn't do this documentary because he couldn't revisit that day. As time passes, my sympathies for these players grows. It honestly does.

I remember that "jersey in the window" story that Mitch Albom recounts from back then and I quote it often in support of paying players. In retrospect that really was a turning point in college athletics.
posted by phaedon at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2011


TNC :
I didn't think Rose's point was that Grant Hill was--objectively--an Uncle Tom. The point was that as a 19-year old kid, who had significant anger toward his own father, significant anger about growing up poor, he saw Grant Hill as a Tom and the Duke program as targeting Toms.

That's very different than making an actual, literal case that, say, Elton Brand [is an] Uncle Tom. Rose is dismissive of Christian Laettner, but he actually says he only felt that way, "until I got on the floor with him." I'm not sure why that's wrong. I could fill a blog post about the objectionable thoughts I had at 19. It almost gives the thing too much credit to say people are "taking it out of context." From what I can tell, folks heard "Duke" and "Uncle Tom" and then stopped listening.
Also, a good post in the comments of that blog post on Duke's recruiting:
There are a couple of factors. I don't think, for example, Duke is more interested in background than UNC, but over time when your program gets to a point when you can pick and choose who you recruit you go for the best player who is going to cause you the least amount of trouble and graduate. They may come from a single parent home or not, but you can avoid kids than seem headed for trouble (Dean stopped recruiting Chris Washburn for this reason). It's kind of like Oprah. When her show first started she was doing paternity test, KKK, and makeover shows like everyone else, once she got success she was able to do it the way she wanted to.

Duke is very skilled at PR for their program. The basketball program is definitely used to sell the school. For example, every year they will play at least one Ivy League team in a non conference game. They are trying with this to sell Duke as being in the same class as the Ivies, but we also have a great basketball team which they don't have, you'll have more fun if you come here. Those are the students they are trying to appeal to. This further adds to the tension between UNC & Duke because most of them aren't from NC and don't really care for the state. I went on a recruiting trip to Duke and on the tour the guide said,'the only thing good about this state is this university.' He obviously didn't know I was a native. I also happen to think the annual drubbing an Ivy League school is important to the students as some of them didn't get into those institutions, probably one of the few times they had been told 'no'. One of the jokes at UNC is the easiet way to shut up a Dookie is just say 'Harvard.'

They will usually schedule a game in the NY/NJ area as they have a lot of alumni there. The biggest difference between Coach K and his mentor Bobby Knight is the former's understanding of good relations with the media. That said I think the hatred for Duke ,outside of NC & MD especially, is due to the constant media narrative of Duke as the ONLY school that does it the right way. There are plenty of schools that are on the level of Duke in bball and academics but they have been singled out. It's the same push back seen in the Tebow and Tyler Hansbrough phenomena.

There is definitely an element of race involved. I think people realize Duke is being pushed to the forefront by the media in part because they attract white athletes who are stars in their program. This is the part that makes people mad, not at the athletes, but at the way their whiteness is celebrated. Through no fault of their own becoming media darlings created a backlash. Coach K embraced the backlash and uses it as motivation for his team. Dick Vitale was really bad about it.
posted by AceRock at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


39-yo ex-NBA All-Star, TV Commentator Jalen Rose sure. 19 year old Jalen Rose? No.

Grant Hill, who played for Duke against the Fab Five, responded in today's New York Times.
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what exactly does this mean? Was he supposed to write his response in "The Source" to prove his street cred?

Slam will probably do an interesting story on this.
posted by drezdn at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2011


I grew up a Michigan basketball fan, and the Fab 5 pretty much ended my interest in NCAA basketball for years.
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2011


Slam will probably do an interesting story on this.

Not if Scoop Jackson writes it.
posted by AceRock at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grant Hill, who played for Duke against the Fab Five, responded in today's New York Times.


It isn't Jalen Rose calling Grant Hill an Uncle Tom today, it was 20 years ago. Watch the documentary. Jalen Rose does not appear to believe that today.
posted by JPD at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what exactly does this mean? Was he supposed to write his response in "The Source" to prove his street cred?

When I saw the documentary I thought it was less about race and more about class (granted the two overlap a ton). Responding in the NYT is a class marker, as is going on NPR, being at the 92nd St Y, etc. It is like John Daly calling Phil Mickelson a snob (just pulled that one out of my ass.. can't think of any pretentious golfers) in SI and Phil Mickelson responding with an op-ed in the WSJ.
posted by geoff. at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


But since Jalen produced it, he surely had an opportunity to tape an apology to be included in the documentary.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:19 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyway, there are some valid points here. Rose hated the "golden boys" of Duke because they represented everything that he'd been denied in his young life, but as he himself says, that changed when he hit the floor and found out that Laettner was a hell of a player. And there's a big lesson he learned there, about underestimating an opponent, in the near term; and, I hope in the long run, the lesson about judging people negatively based on their appearance. I hope that Rose learned that, as terrible as it is for him to have been judged all his life by the color of his skin, it doesn't make things one whit better to judge others the same way, or to question the legitimacy or "blackness" of another man (Grant Hill).

I don't judge Rose harshly for this; it's understandable, and for all I can see, he has moved well past those feelings now.
posted by Mister_A at 2:19 PM on March 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm going to need to see some stats for that one. No, really, it would be interesting to see Duke Mens Basketball's racial makeup vs. the average for Div 1 teams, and vs. top 25 teams. Do you have any numbers on that one?

This puts the percentage of African American players on Division I basketball teams as roughly 60% over the past few years, up from 55% in 1999. My rough counting of this years' Duke team (based on a team photo) puts it at 6 white and 6 black, last year's team was 8 and 5 by my count. Of course, the fact that was only able to find two years and was judging race by looking at tiny pictures makes that data pretty suspect. It also doesn't treat the issue of who is starting, which is pretty important. This article found that 34 of 40 Final Four teams over a ten year period (1999-2009) consistently only had one white starter, Duke this year has three, I believe. Obviously, to be demonstrated empirically, this would need more data than exists right now. That said, I believe the point I made is true, based on my observation.

Even leaving aside whether Duke actually has more white players, the appearance (from a fan's perspective) is that Duke's teams are more white than average, and it's that perception that drives the media treatment of Duke more than anything.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2011


It isn't Jalen Rose calling Grant Hill an Uncle Tom today, it was 20 years ago. Watch the documentary. Jalen Rose does not appear to believe that today.

I tried to make that clear in the FPP: Jalen Rose goes so far as to say that at the time he felt like Duke players were "Uncle Toms". Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Rose emphasized the same point again on twitter: For those MOANING about how something or someone was portrayed in the doc note that it was FRAMED from 1991-1993 not 2011.

Personally, I was pretty impressed with the honesty that they showed to talk about how they felt as teenagers. They could have gone with the same old platitudes, but they admitted to how they felt, even if those feelings were a little ugly.
posted by auto-correct at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another good comment on TNC about Duke recruiting:
As a big fan of this blog, I'm a little disappointed in what appears to be TNC's acceptance of the received wisdom on Duke hatred, since he's such a perceptive debunker of equivalent shallow thinking on similar topics. I arrive at Duke the same year Coach K did (1980), and I was no fan of Duke basketball -- their late 70s teams that were very good featured white guys, like Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel, who didn't favorably impress me (I grew up in Philly and rooted for Big 5 schools like LaSalle, where my father had gone). I've watched and thought about the anti-Duke phenomenon for many years, and while I don't think the explanation for it is simple, I don't think either the quote highlighted by TNC or the "Duke turns up its collective nose at people like (me)" narrative are all that accurate. I think the two most important things to keep in mind when evaluating one's perceptions of Duke are these:

(1) If you read K's books and listen to stuff he says, he's always been very consistent about how he recruits. He came from what he describes as a working class background and revered his parents, who he viewed as sacrificing everything to make possible a better life for him and his brother; he went to West Point; he got into a profession that, by definition, relies on adherence to authority. He clearly has two big personal obsessions: "family" as the most important thing someone can devote one's self to, and adherence to authority as the organizing principle for achieving anything. He has always been forthright about saying that he tries to recruit players who've been instilled growing up with the same core values. I remember reading that he says that the most important thing he pays attention to during recruiting is how the kid acts toward his parent(s) -- if the kid shows the proper respect and deference and appreciation toward Mom and Dad, that's the kind of kid he wants. He makes much of trying to create a "family" atmosphere with the team, and involves his wife and grown daughters a great deal in trying to create that atmosphere. The kids who choose to go there always cite that as important to their decisions, and players long graduated always talk about that.

Basically, K's always operated with a highly developed conception of what he thinks it takes to be successful, and a lot of that, perhaps self-servingly, focuses on getting talented players who are going to easily accept him as an all-powerful authority figure, and who are going to pull together as a "family" under the unquestioned leadership of "Dad" K. One can pick bones about this philosophy as archaic, shortsighted, even sexist, but I have a tough time seeing it as racial. I think it does tend to self-select toward certain types -- sons of coaches (Bobby Hurley, Jeff Capel, Chris Collins), sons of successful pro athletes who made their peace with/became part of the system (Danny Ferry, Grant Hill, Nolan Smith, Seth Curry). I don't think it's coincidence that so many Duke players, black and white, go into coaching. But it doesn't necessarily rule out kids based on race or economics. K rightly gives credit to his first big recruit, Johnny Dawkins, for making the program. Dawkins grew up in modest circumstances in DC. Chris Carrawell came from similar circumstances in St. Louis. Ditto William Avery from Augusta, GA. I'm not sure that any of those guys had a father in their lives, but I know Elton Brand and Chris Duhon didn't, yet they passed the test as K's kind of kid, so two-parent families don't seem to be a requirement.

The idea that Duke as an institution exerts some kind of pressure over K in terms of who he recruits or how he presents his program is farcical. The guy is the most powerful and autonomous person at that school, and has been for two decades. Yes, the school piggy backs on the basketball team's success, no differently than any other school does with a successful sports program. The only influence the school exerts is that it establishes minimal test score requirements for recruits (the school does fancy itself as academically selective, after all). Maybe that does put certain kids on the outside. But at this point, the Duke basketball team's image is almost self-perpetuating in terms of the players it gets -- the JJ Redicks and Greg Pauluses grew up wanting to play for Duke, and maybe that had something to do with Duke having a certain number of white players, but they still had to be good enough. Maybe if you're an elite white basketball player who does reasonably well in school and wants to play for an elite program and go to an elite academic school, you're going to be really interested in being recruited by Coach K. Does that merit the racial rancor that gets directed at Duke?

(2) The lazy explanation for all of the praise Duke gets from Vitale and his ilk is that it's all inherently racial, that it's a bunch of old white guys loving that a white team is successful and doing it "the right way" and all of that. Maybe. But I think it's more about the inherent hypocrisy of big time college sports and those paid large sums to flack it. Think about the cognitive dissonance those guys must endure -- they know that big time college basketball is not a haven of "student athletes" getting in some extracurricular activity while vigorously pursuing higher learning, supported by an institution committed to ensuring their academic progress. Yet they have to pretend that John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (we'll forget about Corey Maggette and Josh McRoberts for the moment) are just like any other UK frosh except that they have a marketable skill that compels them to start earning money prior to getting the degree that they began so earnestly to pursue.

Think of how psychologically comfortable it is for those guys to praise Duke for "doing it the right way" et al., with players who graduate and don't get in trouble and don't consort with Worldwide Wes. I'm sure Vitale wishes that every program was as praiseworthy on his terms as is Duke -- it would make his job selling the glories of the NCAA so much easier. In fact, I bet that if there was a program like Duke's that featured nothing but "good kids" who "do things the right way" and were very successful and had nothing but black players, Vitale et al. would fall all over themselves praising that program with twice the vehemence they shower on Duke. I've got nothing original to add to all the jaded observations of big time college sports. But even propagandists must especially enjoy those moments when they believe their propaganda is true. (Of course, the received view of Duke is becoming less so as time goes by, given that as many Duke players leave school early as anywhere else. I think it's true that the Duke praise has decreased in recent years, tempered both by backlash and by reality).

Personally, I got over my Duke hatred when I decided to go there. I went to every game I could, cheered for bad teams (12-18 both my sophomore and junior years), got to see the beginnings of what the program would become, went to class with (I really did) and cheered for black and white players. It's been a lot of fun to be a Duke fan for the last 30 years, and not because Christian Laettner is white, or Grant Hill grew up in the suburbs, or Dick Vitale makes an ass of himself regularly.
posted by AceRock at 2:24 PM on March 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


it's that perception that drives the media treatment of Duke more than anything.

You're neglecting a key element in the media treatment: Consistent success. No program has had this level of consistent success since Wooden's UCLA program.
posted by Mister_A at 2:26 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, Duke really is the NY Yankees of college hoops.
posted by Mister_A at 2:26 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jimmy King, one of the lesser known members of the Fab Five, responds to Grant Hill in the WSJ's sports blog:
“I don’t have any issues with Grant today,” King said in a phone interview. “I’ve grown up. I don’t view people in that manner anymore. Today I understand why Duke would recruit the sort of people that they’re viewed to recruit. If that’s what that school is looking for, that’s fine. That was where we were coming from 20 years ago.
posted by auto-correct at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the documentary (yet - though I'm excited to check it out), but it seems to me that Duke, the NY Times, and Grant Hill represent the "establishment" niches within their respective industries. Everything I've ever read about Grant Hill indicate that he's a great guy who has had some really tough breaks in terms of injuries. And as a bit of a hoops junkie, I know that plenty of ink has been spilled over Grant Hill over the course of his career.

By contrast, most things I've read about Chris Webber focus on his ability to choke in pressure situations. Or they talk about the "burden" of being a #1 overall pick. Hill was the #3 overall pick, was injured throughout his prime, yet most media coverage of the day referred to his injuries as one of those "really bad things that happens to a really good person". If the media had treated Hill as they did the Fab Five, the injuries would be the story, not the narrative behind his lifestyle, which became the focus when Hill couldn't play hoops.

And I've hardly ever seen mainstream articles on Jalen Rose. I have a feeling that he's more than aware of that. Maybe that media narrative reinforced the chip on a the Jalen's shoulder, and he has the opportunity to tell the story himself. From coverage of the doc I've read so far, it sounds like he's been honest about his feelings as a 19-year-old - when he was given an opportunity as a producer to whitewash the past, he chose not to - for that he should be applauded.
posted by antonymous at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Michigan's Athletic program is as establishment as it gets, even if Basketball is a the step-sister, U of M is huge, and was even bigger back in the late 80's early 90's.

WRT to Duke and recruiting white athlete's I suspect a lot of it is self-perpetuating. Not only in terms of certain players choosing to go there, but also certain players choosing not to go there. I mean its not like Duke loses recruits lesser programs. If you look at the high priority guys Duke has failed to sign over the last 10 years they aren't choosing Bucknell over Duke, but rather UConn or Kansas.

I suspect what's really going on is that K for reasons year in the making, and no where near as intentional as people think just has a much higher hit rate on white athletes.

And having defended Duke I will know kneel and ritually slit my stomach.
posted by JPD at 2:38 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the numbers, Bulgaroktonos. I might steal that info to do a little more analysis on my own.

Even leaving aside whether Duke actually has more white players, the appearance (from a fan's perspective) is that Duke's teams are more white than average, and it's that perception that drives the media treatment of Duke more than anything.

I think there's a bit of a leap after your comma - a little correlation/causation issue. Duke gets a lot of media attention, and Duke (seemingly) fields a lot of white players. But there are equally-compelling explanations as well. For instance, airing a Duke game pulls in other teams' fans like no other game, largely due to the vitriol against Duke. And doing commentary about Duke is ESPN playing Fox News - air something that pisses off your viewers / makes them feel wronged, and you get ratings. You could make a strong case that the coverage Duke gets isn't as much about Duke, their team, and their fans, but about other teams' fans' reaction to Duke.

But you are right that a fan could see it that way (the media loves Duke because they're very white), which could drive comments like the one in the documentary.
posted by Tehhund at 2:46 PM on March 16, 2011


One Shining Moment
posted by dragonsi55 at 2:57 PM on March 16, 2011


We all do stupid things when we're 19, like playing basketball for the University of Michigan.
posted by Fizz at 3:01 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grant Hill had a recruitment meeting at Georgetown when he was a junior in high school, and he was offended when the team's academic advisor asked him to read aloud from a book.
posted by candyland at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


By contrast, most things I've read about Chris Webber focus on his ability to choke in pressure situations.

I am going to assume that you live in LA. Chris Webber and the 2002 Kings got jobbed.
posted by clearly at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2011


By contrast, most things I've read about Chris Webber focus on his ability to choke in pressure situations. Or they talk about the "burden" of being a #1 overall pick. Hill was the #3 overall pick, was injured throughout his prime, yet most media coverage of the day referred to his injuries as one of those "really bad things that happens to a really good person". If the media had treated Hill as they did the Fab Five, the injuries would be the story, not the narrative behind his lifestyle, which became the focus when Hill couldn't play hoops.

That Michigan team was really the vanguard of what I'll call the "Allen Iverson problem" in basketball, i.e. that black basketball players started having cornrows and tattoos and releasing rap albums and generally doing things that old white people didn't like/were scared of. For example, one of the things that Michigan team is famous for is that it was one of the first teams to wear baggy shorts instead of the short shorts that almost defined 80s basketball. It sounds like a comparatively minor thing, but you still hear people moaning and complaining about sagging pants to this day. They were driving culture and they were doing it by rejecting a lot of what had become traditional basketball culture. (And, what's more, they won that competition in a walk. No one outside of Durham cares about that Duke team, but the fingerprints of the Fab Five are still all over basketball today.)

All of this is to say, it's not entirely about white players and black players as it is a certain kind of black player (Chris Webber, Allen Iverson) whose style was out of keeping with what sports writers/TV announcers liked to see. That's why Webber got crapped on his whole career for choking and why less confrontational black players like Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway turned into national tragedies. Allen Iverson's playing style was absolutely everything sportswriters claim to love about the game, but instead he was turned into a monster that was everything wrong with everything. Chris Webber's narrative also includes the millstone that is the Huge Potential label, sort of like what happened to Vince Carter, and because some sportswriters decided he was surly, it's not tragic at all but him spoiling his potential by Not Caring Enough or whatever. It's shameful, and it's kind of absurd, but it's still how narratives of athletes are created by the likes of ESPN.
posted by Copronymus at 3:15 PM on March 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


> For example, one of the things that Michigan team is famous for is that it was one of the first teams to wear baggy shorts instead of the short shorts that almost defined 80s basketball. It sounds like a comparatively minor thing, but you still hear people moaning and complaining about sagging pants to this day.

I'm not any kind of basketball expert, but I have never heard anyone, anywhere advocate for the return of '80s-style nut-hugger shorts.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:21 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not any kind of basketball expert, but I have never heard anyone, anywhere advocate for the return of '80s-style nut-hugger shorts.

Somewhere, John Stockton watches . . . and waits.
posted by Copronymus at 3:31 PM on March 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


As a fan of another (oft-struggling) ACC team, I have grown up in the Coach K era, and I hate Duke as much as any pasty white girl can. I have been thinking about Duke and race a lot in the past two days, and it occurred to me that the players for whom I have the greatest disdain are all ... white. I can't say Laettner without a metric ton of disgust. A sneer coats every mention of Hurley. And Singler. And Reddick. And in my family, we have only recently started occasionally calling The Spitter by his real name, although the Bilas name is itself spit out in disgust.

My disgust is only 75% based in envy. The rest is a reaction to what seems to be an arrogance that has been soaked in pridefulness, cooked in the tradition of expectation and demand, and dried in the hot air of unconsidered media adulation.

Why have I not hated Grant Hill, who has personally killed my teams in the past, like I despise(d) Bobby Hurley? Why doesn't Nolan Smith, who makes Duke _Duke_ this year, make me fume (unlike Singler, who I hate and glory in every ill-fated shot he's made lately)? Why did I basically give Duhon a pass for what I remember as being very doofy dancing skills after a particularly crushing victory over my team? I think it's because as a white person, one of the things that pushes all of my buttons is obnoxious (usually white) frat boys with all the advantages who take it as their due that those advantages are owed to them, and that is one of the common Duke stereotypes (and I have met and worked with quite a few folks who smashed those stereotypes, I should say, as well as many who have seen that as a goal to meet.) that those players conveniently can be classed under it. Arrogance really gets under my skin, too. That combination is not good for me.

So in that sense, I kinda get where the Fab Five was coming from, even though I have the luxury of being white and not generally expected to live up to some ideal or standard of whiteness like they were saddled with as soon as their abilities were recognized and started gathering acclaim... Also they've grown up, and I'm still throwing things when the Spitter forgets he's not the Great God of Basketball.
posted by julen at 3:37 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"one of the things that pushes all of my buttons is obnoxious (usually white) frat boys with all the advantages who take it as their due that those advantages are owed to them, and that is one of the common Duke stereotypes"

Oh yeah. My reaction to the lacrosse rape thing was very much shaped by that bias, in retrospect.
posted by klangklangston at 3:51 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


julen, J.A. Adande has theory that doesn't seem like applies to you but may apply to some other non-Duke fans:
My theory is that, for whatever reason, fans have a need to belittle opponents in order to feel better about themselves. And for crowds that are predominately white, spewing venom at another white person allows them to unload all of that hatred without the fear of being labeled racist. How would it be received if white fans taunted black players the way they went at Redick? You know how. So did the fans. Those college kids were mean, but they weren’t dumb.
posted by AceRock at 3:52 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've certainly wondered whether or not my not loathing black Duke players with the intensity white players have engendered in me is racist, actually. Am I being paternalistic? Am I giving them leeway for having had a [what I assume was] harder time before Duke? Am I not letting myself hate them so thoroughly simply because they are black? Am I projecting virtues onto them that I will not allow their white counterparts because of their race? Am I too worried about seeming racist to avoid being racist in this respect? Am I not addressing something in myself to do this?

Conversely, maybe I know more about their backstories because the media feels like it has to explain the black stars and why they're so safe to root for to what they think is largely a white audience so I see them as being human. I am all "That dude was named for a classical figure! Man, parents!" and "Dang, that dude's mom is awesome, and his little brother is so dang cute." whereas I only learned Singler was a visual arts major this weekend.
posted by julen at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The phenomenon of Duke hate is pretty interesting. As a North Carolinian and a Carolina fan, I hate them for a few simple reason
1) I was a born a Carolina fan, I'll die a Carolina fan, and they were Duke and not hating them would be like spitting on my grandmother's grave.
2) The students are all Yankees, State University of New Jersey, Durham, and all that
3) The students were all rich private school kids.

Bizarrely, as a Northern living graduate of not one but two high level private universities, I still hate them for those second two reasons. I think that speaks to a lot of why people hate Duke, it's not about resentment of the success of the team, it's about resenting the success of the students. You hate the player who most embody that success.

whereas I only learned Singler was a visual arts major this weekend.

I think its only natural that a human being as ugly as Kyle Singler would want to study things that are supposed to look nice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


julen, it sounds racist to me, or at least simple unvarnished prejudice. You give the black guys a pass, I'm going to assume, because unconsciously you imagine they struggled to get where they are and therefore deserve whatever spoils befall them. Your venom toward white players is just bizarre. I attended Duke and dormed with a lot of the football players. The weirdest thing I can say about the athletes was that, like most of the people I met there, they were exceptionally smart, and often funny as hell. So while I can't speak for anyone on the basketball team, I'm guessing Coach K wouldn't tolerate bullshit from anyone. But pride in one's school or athletic abilities is a different story.

And for whatever it's worth, most everyone I knew was from the suburbs, but were products of a two-working parent household and about as arrogant as a beagle puppy. Some were from blue-collar backwaters in New England. The closest I ever got to a private school was driving past Episcopal on the way to Hebrew school on Wednesday nights.
posted by docpops at 7:22 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Motherfuck a Duke Basketball
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:22 PM on March 16, 2011


"(2) The lazy explanation for all of the praise Duke gets from Vitale and his ilk is that it's all inherently racial, that it's a bunch of old white guys loving that a white team is successful and doing it "the right way" and all of that. Maybe."

Lazy? The trope of the NBA getting too black for white fans, has been a CONSTANT recurring since whatever good old days when each team was limited to only one black player?

I'm not going out on a limb to say that some fans of Duke are riding this sentiment.

and docpops - to be fair I don't like Boozer or Battier either.
posted by stratastar at 8:32 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


docpops: "julen, it sounds racist to me, or at least simple unvarnished prejudice."

Even factoring in a little hyperbole on my part, I'm thinking you may be right. (My hatred isn't bone-deep or constant; it's usually centered around the games against my teams or teams I'm rooting for. I have actually said nice things about Bilas in the past week; I think Hurley ended up being a very good coach (his on-floor skills mapped really well to it); Reddick was obviously one of the Top 3 Shooters in ACC history and I thought he should have ignored his own desires and enrolled where I wanted him to, etc) I should clarify: I didn't hate all white players for Duke. Off the top of my head: I thought Snyder was a very good floor general who could run the game well (although he turned out to be a mediocre coach at Missouri), Mark Alarie was kinda marvelous to watch while my hands were on my head and one eye was on the scoreboard and the whole place groaned, and I still can't believe Danny Ferry didn't have a better pro career. He might have been the best Duke player I ever saw in person. I also thought Wojo's bad reputation amongst fans of the other schools was totally unfair (seriously he was no scrappier than my favorite players!), and I always liked Horvath.

There were only 5-6 players in the last 32 years that I disliked beyond "Oh crud. There's no way my guy can beat that guy." and, yes, they were all white. It's been a little disturbing to realize this, obviously. I mean Boozer was a little obnoxious and I was glad to see him graduate, and I thought the Magette-Brand combo could verge on occasional jerkiness and didn't miss them when they left early, but they didn't seem to have that arrogant frat boy "Look at how special I am and hey, I'm getting away with it" attitude that drives me nuts.
posted by julen at 9:03 PM on March 16, 2011


Was I the only one who didn't like this doc? I had to turn it off after 10 minutes. Poorly written and self-indulgent.

As far as Jalen's comments go, (full disclosure I'm a diehard Tar Heel) he used a nasty word but the fact remains that Duke's student body is made up of some of the most privileged kids in the country. I read recently that Duke has one of the highest rates of undergraduates paying 100% of their tuition costs in the nation. Rose is right that a ghetto kid from public schools isn't wanted at Duke, either as an athlete or as a student. Frankly, I'm amazed that Coach K fields top teams every year if he indeed limits his program only to players who fit that hyper-privileged elite mold. The evil rat bastard.
posted by willie11 at 10:49 PM on March 16, 2011


Just for the sake of argument, couldn't you make a case that white players are under represented in college basketball, and that Duke is one of the few schools that is doing something to create opportunity for this group?
posted by cccorlew at 11:00 PM on March 16, 2011


Just for the sake of argument, couldn't you make a case that white players are under represented in college basketball

This is why God invented intramural basketball.

and that Duke is one of the few schools that is doing something to create opportunity for this group?

Absolutely. I would also like to give credit to UCLA for giving a scholarship to Kevin Love out of the realization that white players are underrepresented in the college basketball landscape of today.
posted by clearly at 11:24 PM on March 16, 2011


I'm not any kind of basketball expert, but I have never heard anyone, anywhere advocate for the return of '80s-style nut-hugger shorts.

For basketball, I think this is true. But every other semi-racist rant e-mail I receive from relatives has a "Pull up your pants we don't wear pants like that 'round here it's disrespectful" line.
posted by graventy at 12:52 AM on March 17, 2011


Fab Five? You mean this isn't the Enid Blyton thread?
posted by arcticseal at 1:18 AM on March 17, 2011


Previous post ("As every college hoops fan knows, the one shining moment of the NCAA Tournament isn't when your favorite team wins. It's when Duke loses" and "narcissistic personality disorder") has been updated:

Teams We Hate
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:00 AM on March 17, 2011


Update Updated.
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:02 AM on March 17, 2011


it's worth watching this video of Great NCAA Moments in Lego Form for the moment when Lego Chris Webber calls time out

Shouldn't Lego UNC gotten T'ed up for having two players with a #4 jersey?
posted by kirkaracha at 8:30 AM on March 17, 2011


Shouldn't Lego UNC gotten T'ed up for having two players with a #4 jersey?

Give them credit for being fairly accurate, in life that was 34 George Lynch and 14 Derrick Phelps

I also think its worth quoting this line from dragonsi55's second link:

"When the teams were out there," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tells Sports Illustrated, in an interview about last year's national title game, "nobody watching was thinking, This pro and that pro. Where will they go in the draft? It was just about these kids at Butler and those kids at Duke. The word people kept using with me was pure. It just seemed pure."

That quote is overrunning with racially tinged language. Remember that, Butler-Duke was a final so white that some people in the media actually talked about it. So, when a championship game noted for its whiteness is described as "pure," that make me uncomfortable. Apparently, not Mike Krzyzewski; if I were a black player, I might not want to play for someone who didn't see why that language was problematic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Phoenix's training staff are goddamn miracle workers."

There must be something to that, I remember when Rajah Bell blew out his calf in a playoff game when he was with the Suns and wound up missing only one game. I had that same injury once and was down and out for two weeks.
posted by e1c at 10:59 AM on March 17, 2011


I'm not any kind of basketball expert, but I have never heard anyone, anywhere advocate for the return of '80s-style nut-hugger shorts.

For basketball, I think this is true. But every other semi-racist rant e-mail I receive from relatives has a "Pull up your pants we don't wear pants like that 'round here it's disrespectful" line.


yeah but big shorts aren't like sagging - the elastic fits and the pants stay up when the shorts are as long as you want them to be.

OTOH, go to some poor high school out in the sticks and look at the shorts and how they wear 'em. they've got on '80s nut-huggers that were bought in the late '90s (or even last year) because that's what the boosters want the boys (and to a lesser degree the girls, if they even think about them) to wear.

But the kids ha-hate them so much that they pull the short shorts down to sagging level, just so the hems will cover some of their long thighbones. Then they can't get up and down the floor because they're holding onto their shorts. and I'm talking about the *white* kids.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:17 AM on March 17, 2011


I heard Jalen Rose interviewed last week by Jim Rome on the radio. The term "Uncle Tom" was not in the interview (the show had not aired yet and it was not yet a juicy story and I don't think Rome had even seen the show). Hate on Duke was big in the interview. But Rose had anger for many many others and I seem to recall him saying something like it was him and the other four guys "against the world". His biggest complaint is that he claims all his gifts at U.M. were permitted under NCAA regs from a guy he knew in high school who kept the neighborhood athletes in the gym and away from the drug pushers. His second complaint was the publicized 600 thousand dollar number was pulled out of thin air and the number was nowhere near that, although the logical inference distance is a long ways when you have to wonder how he could presume to know how much the other four guys were taking.

Considering there are 30 NBA teams * 80 games / 2 = 1200 professional basketball game a year to watch I wonder why the heck anybody would ever spend the time watching college players. Everybody I know is talking about the NCAA tournament right now and I don't know and don't care if my school is even in it. Presumably I would care if I had gone to Duke but I have no idea why I would. Rose and Howard and Webber all ended up fine NBA players which is the only fact that seems significant to me. I'd say more like 3/5ths fabulous.
posted by bukvich at 11:28 AM on March 17, 2011


Everybody I know is talking about the NCAA tournament right now and I don't know and don't care if my school is even in it.

People watch and care about the tournament because of gambling. NBA basketball is so much more entertaining to watch (if you have no money riding on the game).
posted by AceRock at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2011


Allen Iverson's playing style was absolutely everything sportswriters claim to love about the game, but instead he was turned into a monster that was everything wrong with everything.

I never lived in a town where he played (and heard/read a ton of AI coverage), but my sense was that people did love his game, were at times displeased by his attitude.

Seemed like there were times when his attitude toward practice, etc., got questionable (and I can live with a view that a coach can't arbitrarily allow latitude)... though I can believe media coverage in Philly got silly.
posted by ambient2 at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2011


I wonder why the heck anybody would ever spend the time watching college players.

For me, it's not about individual players but about the identity of teams. Shooters are revered at Indiana; Kentucky coaches had better be capable of implementing a full-court press. For years the match-up zone defined Temple. The players come and go, by design.
posted by dragonsi55 at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2011


I'm not any kind of basketball expert, but I have never heard anyone, anywhere advocate for the return of '80s-style nut-hugger shorts.

I'm imagining you wearing wrinkle free dockers while writing this.
posted by srboisvert at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2011


Considering there are 30 NBA teams * 80 games / 2 = 1200 professional basketball game a year to watch I wonder why the heck anybody would ever spend the time watching college players. Everybody I know is talking about the NCAA tournament right now and I don't know and don't care if my school is even in it.

Because it is do or die elimination and those kids play their brand new unbroken hearts out.

While the NBA has guys like Vince Carter deliberately tanking the end of a contract, Tracy McGrady moaning about not being the star, and teams that call themselves the Raptors after a prop in a rather dumb blockbuster movie that didn't even get the dinosaur name correct.

They too many games, have too many teams, the refs are arbitrary and starwalking is the norm. Players won't even participate in the dunk contests anymore for fear of hurting endorsements! The NBA could be awesome but they can't be bothered. It's just one baby step up from wrestling.
posted by srboisvert at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My man, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady haven't been relevant in like 8 years. With the one-and-done trend in college ball, a lot of the complaints people used to have about NBA hoops now apply more to the college game. The biggest stars in the NBA tend to stick with their team (LeBron notwithstanding). D-Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, etc. have all played for their NBA teams for a lot longer than most college stars play for their schools. And the argument that the college players play harder is BS. NBA players play too many games in the regular season and they STILL bust their asses as the season winds down and during the playoffs. The NBA is GREAT right now. If you have not been watching because you still hold on to those notions that its a league filled with lazy spoiled rich dudes (and it looks like you do because you're talking about Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady), you are missing out my friend.
posted by AceRock at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My man, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady haven't been relevant in like 8 years....f you have not been watching because you still hold on to those notions that its a league filled with lazy spoiled rich dudes (and it looks like you do because you're talking about Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady), you are missing out my friend.

I moved away from the only NBA team I ever watched a bazillion years ago and to a different country and way out of the timezone 6 years ago. So yeah, my examples are dated. I am also old and arthritic.

But I think the NBA players playing too many games is the problem. As a fan I commit my time, more precious now with an awareness that it is finite, to watch the best and I might even pay to see it live. And then they can't bring it because they are tired or injured or bored or having a contract dispute.

The NCAA on the other hand makes up for lack of talent with awesome intensity. Everything matters. In the NBA pretty much nothing matters until the playoffs and even some of those games don't matter very much.

It doesn't matter who is playing or who they will be later. March madness is always good entertainment. I just wish I could watch it.
posted by srboisvert at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by ESPN.
Sorry about that.


So this thread was based upon some bootlegged video on youtube?
posted by hal_c_on at 2:57 PM on March 20, 2011


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