Who Is The Blackest Player In The NBA?

By Claude Johnson
Updated: December 28, 2008

Basketballs CONNECTICUT — This is a tough one.

And I’m not going to make it any easier by defining what “black” means.

You decide.

Is it a color? A skill? An attitude? A lifestyle? A playing style? A race? A culture? A music? An ethnicity? A dialect? A gene? A jean?

If there is “black” then is there black, blacker, and blackest?

Is there light-black, black, and dark-black?

Is there not-so-black, black, and very black?

Does the blackest player have the blackest game?

But I want to take it further.

So, follow the logic with me for a minute.

Of course a black player can have a black game. Allen Iverson, let’s say. Check.

And a non-black player can have a non-black game. Maybe Kirk Hinrich? Check.

And a non-black player can have a black game (i.e., Jason “White Chocolate” Williams). O.K., check.

And a black player can have a non-black game (i.e., Tim “Big Fundamental” Duncan). O.K., check.

Meanwhile a black player can be non-black (i.e., Tim Duncan). I guess, check.

And a non-black player can be black (i.e., Jason Williams). O.K., check.

Which logically leads me to ask, can a non-black player remain non-black but have a black game? Can’t think of anyone today … maybe Steve Nash? Could this have been Larry Bird?

And … can a black player remain black but have a non-black game? Can’t think of anyone today, but could this have been someone like a Dennis Rodman? Charles Oakley?

Which naturally leads to the question, can a non-black player be black but have a non-black game? Can’t think of anyone today.

And … can a black player be non-black but have a black game? Is this Barack Obama (he’s honorary N.B.A., I think, since he’s Baller In Chief)?

Are you following this? My guess is that, yes, you are!

But that’s scary! Because there’s a profound silliness here.

I’m inspired by Bethlehem Shoals over at the intellectually fascinating and zany basketball blog FreeDarko.com. He spent about a week contemplating which player has the most “Jewish” game in the N.B.A.

Which, it was concluded, was different from asking, who is the most Jewish player?

The answer, of course, is Who cares?!

But they had a lot of fun with it, and Bethlehem Shoals is Jewish. So why can’t I do the same thing and have some fun over here?

The fact is, we brought this on ourselves, by overusing and misusing the word “black.”

I do it too. The way it’s used in the term “Black Fives” is to designate a race, or rather, the label that people often use to describe “people of color,” or, more accurately, people of African descent.

I could have named all of this “African American Fives” or “Fives Of Color” or “Fives Of African Descent” but it wouldn’t have been the same at all.

We’re programmed and conditioned a certain way. And while we may acknowledge that we are, it still doesn’t mean we must be slaves to that conditioning and programming.

One way to do that, is to have fun with it.

So, how do you use the word “black”?

Who is the blackest player in the N.B.A. by how you see it?