Race and ethnicity in the NBA
The composition of race and ethnicity in the National Basketball Association (NBA) has changed throughout the league's history. The first non-white player to enter the league was Wataru Misaka in 1947. According to racial equality activist Richard Lapchick, the NBA in 2015 was composed of 74.4 percent black players, 23.3 percent white players, 1.8 percent Latino players, and 0.2 percent Asian players. The league has the highest percentage of black players of any major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.
The NBA was founded in June 1946, with its first season played in 1946–47. Wataru Misaka debuted in 1947–48 as the first non-white player and the first player of Asian descent to play in the league.
African Americans first appeared in the NBA in 1950. Chuck Cooper was the first black player drafted in the NBA. On April 26, 1950, Harold Hunter signed with the Washington Capitols, becoming the first African American to sign a contract with any NBA team in history. However, Hunter was cut from the team during training camp and did not play professionally. On May 24, Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton was the second African-American player to sign an NBA contract.[a] Earl Lloyd was the first to play in the NBA. Hank DeZonie also played that year. In 1953, Don Barksdale became the first African American to play in an NBA All-Star Game.
With the emergence of African-American players by the 1960s, the NBA game was stylistically being played faster and above the rim. Many of the league's great players were black. At that time, African Americans believed they were limited by an unofficial league quota of four black players per team.
In 2011, Richard Lapchick with The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) of the University of Central Florida reported in their annual Racial and Gender Report Card that 17 percent of the league's players were white, the lowest since the report began in 1990.[b] Hall of Fame player and Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird, who is white, stated in 2004 that the league needed more white players since the league's fans are mostly white. "And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them [the fans, not the guys] a little excited. But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American," said Bird.
More recently, a number of commentators have remarked on the league's dwindling number of white American players. While a TIDES study found that the NBA was 18.3% white in the 2015–16 season, this number also included non-Americans, most notably Europeans. During the entire 1996–97 season, only three NBA teams did not field an American-born white; on the opening day of the 2016–17 season, eight teams did not have a white American on their roster, and an additional 10 teams had only one. At the latter point in time, fewer than 10% of NBA players were American-born whites (43 out of a possible 450).
Bill Russell in 1966 became the first non-white and African-American head coach in the NBA. In the late 1980s, teams began hiring black coaches in large numbers. At the start of the 2015–16 season, there were seven black head coaches in the league, down 50 percent from three years earlier, and the fewest in 16 years.At the conclusion of the 2016-17 season there were eight African American head coaches.
Robert Johnson of the Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets) was the first black majority team owner in the NBA in 2004–05. He was succeeded as Bobcats owner in 2010–11 by another African American, Michael Jordan. In 2013–14, Jordan and Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, who is Indian, marked the first time in the history of major pro sports leagues in the U.S. that there were two non-white majority owners in a league.
- Baseball color line
- List of foreign NBA players
- List of foreign NBA coaches
- Race and ethnicity in the NHL
- Race and ethnicity in the United States
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This is the second year the center issued its 'Racial Report Card.'
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- NBA Racial & Gender Report Card archive at tidesport.org