Hoop dreams
August 1, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

The unlevel playing field - "Contrary to popular perception, poverty and broken homes are underrepresented in the NBA, not overrepresented. ... We believe that skills always trump circumstances. But that's a myth."
posted by mrgrimm (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"We believe that skills always trump circumstances." - Only if *we* are idiots.
posted by Ardiril at 8:51 AM on August 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Group of the hyper-advantaged super-wealthy shows low percentage of members having disadvantaged poverty backgrounds, film at 11."
posted by FatherDagon at 9:06 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


havent read all your links but that first article is fantastic. thanks!
posted by liza at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2011


I'm reminded of all of the talk about how "the best athletes in the US don't play soccer, but are playing other sports instead." The best counter to that is to remind them that it's not a matter of who is playing, but who is coaching them.

The fundamental difference between kids playing in Argentina and kids in the US is that there are 'development academies' in soccer which make a lot of money off of taking youngsters, training the hell out of them, and selling them to big name teams.

It's not a function of 'raw talent', as it is a matter of having some of the best coaching systems on the planet in play.

Similarly, for basketball and football, the US' high-school and college development systems are easily the best in the world, and are damned effective at scouting and recruiting talent, and funneling it to the right places.

The move towards specialized, high-profile basketball programs isn't much of a surprise to me, and, at certain private schools, the push to acquire talent is such that they'll underwrite the whole of the high school education for a sufficiently talented player.
posted by The Giant Squid at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Skills always trump circumstances, but your circumstances are where you train your skills. If, for instance, your circumstances do not include a basketball court, coach, and team, I wouldn't expect you to join the NBA.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2011


"Group of the hyper-advantaged super-wealthy shows low percentage of members having disadvantaged poverty backgrounds, film at 11."

You think that those who aspire to be NBA players are generally perceived as hyper-advantaged super-wealthy? I suppose I'm still stuck in the '70s and '80s ...
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on August 1, 2011


You think that those who aspire to be NBA players are generally perceived as hyper-advantaged super-wealthy? I suppose I'm still stuck in the '70s and '80s ...

Of the current batch of NBA stars, only Kobe grew up rich. The rest grew up middle-class or lower-middle-class.
posted by The Giant Squid at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2011


That may be true. But are poverty and broken homes less underrepresented in the NBA than among some other group of people at the top of their profession? I'm guessing yes.

Also, in case you're curious: the article says that the median population of the hometown of NBA players is 110,000. Only eighty million Americans -- a little over one-fourth -- live in towns/cities with population this large. (See Wikipedia plus some math.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2011


> Skills always trump circumstances, but your circumstances are where you train your skills. If, for instance, your circumstances do not include a basketball court, coach, and team, I wouldn't expect you to join the NBA.

That's the thing LogicalDash. It's like the author of that piece just discovered that it's nature plus nurture. Athletes with the best nutrition, training, coaching, and competitive environment obviously have an advantage over their physical peers.

Or as the FPP article succinctly put it:

Economics and family boost or drag an athlete, like in other professions.

That pretty much sums it up.
posted by three blind mice at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of the current batch of NBA stars, only Kobe grew up rich. The rest grew up middle-class or lower-middle-class.

Chris Bosh? (Only the first name I tried...) Depends on how you define "middle class." I would guess his parents may have topped $200,000 per year (systems analyst and "plumbing engineer"), and certainly $150,000.

That may be true. But are poverty and broken homes less underrepresented in the NBA than among some other group of people at the top of their profession? I'm guessing yes.

The idea being that professional sports are marketed as and often perceived to be meritocratic, or free from race and class privilege. The best players who work the hardest are supposed to be the ones who become professionals.

This new study claims that socioeconomic status is a major factor in professional athletic success, which might surprise some fans.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 AM on August 1, 2011


Of the current batch of NBA stars, only Kobe grew up rich. The rest grew up middle-class or lower-middle-class.

Joakim Noah (son of former tennis star Yannick Noah) also comes to mind, depending on how you define NBA "star".
posted by gyc at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2011


I AM SO SURPRISED. I WAS SURE THE STEEP PYRAMID OF PRO SPORT WAS ONE OF THE LAST BASTIONS OF EGALITARIAN CULTURAL PARTICIPATION.

I WILL WEAR THIS SURPRISED FACE ALL DAY.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:08 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Freakonomics recently had a podcast on quiting where they talked about the economics of professional baseball aspirations. Turns out there are huge opportunity costs so it should be no suprise that the people who can sustain this kind of ambition into adulthood mostly likely have some resources to draw on to buffer that cost.
posted by srboisvert at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's also the case that many teams prefer to draft players who may not be the most skilled, but are deemed to be "good fits" or "coachable". Thus you have mediocre players from Duke (a school notorious for recruiting players from wealthier-than-average backgrounds) getting drafted and signed while more talented players who "lack character" are overlooked.
posted by MetalFingerz at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2011


I am reminded of the team that the kids in West Baltimore tried to put together in David Simon's book "The Corner". Skill didn't mean anything. Circumstances completely dictated the direction those kids were going.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tsk, it's obvious none of you are watching enough cricket. Now that's a proper sport, and over five days! Rich and poor, what more could you want?
posted by ciderwoman at 5:46 PM on August 2, 2011


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