Pandering To Race In The NBA

2 of 3

The NBA in the 1970’s was considered a black league that had lost touch with white audiences. Games were often tape delayed. Larry Bird by himself changed that. The NBA, in conjunction with Magic Johnson‘s arrival with the Los Angeles Lakers, began to market its two most intriguing players hard. Lurking underneath the marketing of the Lakers – Boston Celtics rivalry were racial overtones and the league ran toward it. The Celtics were presented as the hard working team that played “the right way” and the Lakers were the flashy, “showtime” team. White basketball fans returned to the NBA in droves and the league was reborn because they had one of their own to identify with.

Since then, the NBA has been sensitive to its image with fans. As hip hop and  players like Allen Iverson began to dominate the image of the league in the late 1990’s, NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a dress code. The message was clear. The NBA wanted a more “polished” image presented to the fans. But which fans exactly?

The NBA’s Western Conference teams have long used Spanish language jerseys and promotion to  reach out to areas with large hispanic populations.

The influx of international players opened up new markets to teams and the emergence of Yao Ming gave the league its greatest potential area for growth – Asia. Since Yao Ming, NBA stars and teams annually make the pilgrimage to China to continue to grow their brands there with a rabid, emerging fan base. The search for the next Asian basketball star has been ongoing.

That is how Linsanity! happened in the first place.