At the time I'm finishing this, we've just celebrated July 4th and, as the human race does with every other day of the year, some people wanted to make the day about racism by mentioning slavery and racist ancestors. True, some of the founding fathers did own slaves -and I'm not going to bash those who wanted others to remember that - but the thing I took away from social media on Independence Day was simple: racism isn't going away yet.
Recently, we did a similar article where we looked at the 'Top 15 Most Racist Statements Made In Sports In The 21st Century' and laid down some basic ground rules. As we look at the NBA's ugly history with racism, those rules still apply and they're fairly simple. Because some of these takes and comments are disgusting – but there’s a message behind them whether it be racist, full-on ignorance, etc – I’m going to run the comments unedited with the exception of racial slurs. Any slurs – the n word, for example – will be censored as n*****. Fair?
I also want to point out that, because everyone has a different background, these comments are interchangeable on the 'most racist' scale. Personally, I believe what you’ll see at number one to be the worst of them all - though I didn't necessarily take offense from it - but you can easily think another is. They’re all awful, let’s just leave it at that.
Ready to feel awful (again) that you share a race with these people?
15 Shaq vs. Yao
Six years after his retirement, it's easy to remember Shaquille O'Neal as the fun-loving, dominant center from his prime, but it's easy to forget his (relatively tame by this list's standards) racist comments about then-Rockets center Yao Ming. When talking about Yao in 2003, O'Neal said, "Tell Yao Ming, 'Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.'"
Many were outraged at O'Neal's insensitive comments, as well as him playing to the Asian language stereotypes, but his fellow future Hall of Famer took it in stride - and even educated Shaq Diesel on cultural boundaries.
"I believe Shaquille O'Neal was joking with what he said, but I think a lot of Asian people don't understand this kind of joke. I think there are a lot of difficulties in two different cultures understanding each other, especially countries of very large populations, China and the United States. The world is getting smaller and has a greater understanding of cultures."
14 Isiah Thomas vs. Larry Bird
When we've discussed Isiah Thomas' disappointing executive career with the New York Knicks before, we've also reminded readers that during his playing days, Thomas was one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. However, there was a time where Thomas may or may not have made an ignorant comment. That comment, you ask? When asked about Boston's Larry Bird, Thomas argued that if the Celtics legend was black, he ''would be just another good guy."
Again, this is a fairly tame comment, though it did upset many and bring upon the racial double standard argument of what would have happened if Bird said that about Thomas. Isiah did apologize, saying ''My mistake was in joking in a manner and with someone who did not fully understand that I was joking. I'm really hurting about this.'' But, this was still pretty bad, all things considered.
13 Jason Whitlock and racism
This is one of the 'incidents' from that first list, so if you missed it, here's Fox Sports 1's Jason Whitlock on racism! During the 2017 NBA postseason, the outside of LeBron James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized as someone sprayed the n word on the walls. Many condemned the act, but as we explained in the first article, Jason Whitlock took a different approach.
“I get when I was a young person people called me a bad name — the n-word, whatever — it hurt my feelings. But did it stop me from rising? Hell no! Did it stop LeBron James? And LeBron’s comment about ‘no matter how rich you are, no matter how famous you are, it’s tough being black in America. That is a lie. It’s not tough being Oprah Winfrey. It’s not tough being LeBron James. It’s not tough being Jason Whitlock.”
Again, I'll make the same point I did then: me – as a white male – calling a black janitor the n word is bad, but calling Jason Whitlock that is alright because he’s rich? Neat.
12 Bleacher Report Tackles Kevin Garnett
What happened with Bleacher Report and Kevin Garnett, you ask? Well before Bleacher Report became the media powerhouse it is today, it was more or less a blog that anyone could write and anyone could post whatever they wanted without any real editing or consequence. In May 2009, a blogger named Robert Seagal-Misovic penned a piece on Garnett accusing him of being racist towards opponents and teammates without any real evidence or logic. Take this, for example.
"Minnesota and Boston may be among the first two NBA franchises which come to mind when discussing Caucasian fan bases or locations. Ironically they also happen to be the only two teams Garnett has ever played for. For his sake, perhaps a trade to Atlanta is in order."
What does Garnett being drafted by one team and traded to another have to do with anything?
"But if you're asking Zaza Pachulia, Jose Calderon, Marco Belinelli, Matt Bonner, Rick Rickert, Andrew Bogut, Wally Szczcerbiak or Rasho Nestervic, you'd probably discover that Garnett takes an issue with white players."
From there, Seagal-Misovic goes on to mention incidents where Garnett became heated with white players...but also mentions the ones with black players. If this happened today, there'd be outrage - and seeing as Seagal-Misovic hasn't penned an article for Bleacher Report since 2012, maybe the bosses realized that.
11 Jason Williams vs. The Fans
Before entering Ice Cube's BIG3 league, Jason Williams was "White Chocolate" in the NBA, dazzling and impressing fans before injuries took their toll. While with the Sacramento Kings in 2001, Williams made headlines not for his crossovers, but for an incident with a fan during a Kings-Warriors game.
"I will shoot all you Asian mother******," Williams told Warriors season-ticket holder Michael Ching. "Do you remember the Vietnam War? I'll kill y'all just like that."
Williams also threw homophobic slurs at Ching, who began the interaction by telling the-then third year guard, "get used to sitting on the bench." Though some might argue that Ching deserved some brushback for heckling Williams, there was no need for 'White Chocolate' to bring race into it.
"He needs to be held accountable," Ching said. "If he's not going to apologize, people need to know that, too. That's more important than any fine or suspension by the NBA."
10 Jason Whitlock vs. Jeremy Lin
Another fine moment from Jason Whitlock's career of intolerance - is it possible that Whitlock was behind the Death Camp of Tolerance? - came in the midst of Linsanity in early 2012. After Lin led the Knicks to a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Whitlock tweeted, “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”
Nothing says 'Jason Whitlock' more than paying tribute to an ugly stereotype...well, that and asking why Whitlock was thinking about Jeremy Lin's penis. Whitlock did apologize, however, saying, “I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I’m truly sorry.” If there's any consolation for the fedora-wearing hot take artist, it's that there was an even worse moment about Lin that makes this list. Let me introduce...
9 The ESPN Headline Flub
This is a special case on this list because the man who made the comment, ESPN editor Anthony Federico, really wasn't going for anything racist; in fact, when he used 'Chink in the Armor' to headline the Knicks' first loss during Linsanity - one that saw the Asian-American point guard turn the ball over nine times - it was moreso about a team being halted during a hot streak. But, shortly after realizing just what he had done, Fedrico was extremely remorseful.
"This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," Federico told the Daily News. "I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy."
Fedrico was fired after a suspension, but interestingly, Max Bretos - who had been doing a SportsCenter segment on ESPNews - used the same term and was suspended for 30 days. Fair?
8 Danny Ferry and Luol Deng
Yes, this one is on here even if Ferry isn't the one who wrote the scouting report where this came from. During the summer of 2014, the Atlanta Hawks front office was discussing then-free agent Luol Deng and if he'd potentially be a good fit on a rising Eastern Conference team. During the meeting, Ferry read from a scouting report that contained the following description of Deng:
"He's a good guy on the cover but he's an African. he has a little two-step him = says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing you. Con isn't bad, but it's there. African-like, store-front looks great but there's a black, market section in the back. Chicago thought he was good for their culture, but an outlier."
Even if you're not the one that wrote that, censorship may have been the best idea there. An investigation showed that Ferry was not racist - and honestly, I don't think he was trying to be - but he remains blackballed from general manager jobs...until the Knicks add him, that is.
7 Larry Johnson and the 'rebellious slaves'
And speaking of the Knicks, how about Larry Johnson infamously comparing the 1999 team to a group of 'rebellious slaves.' These comments, as one would imagine, drew heavy controversy with ESPN's Bill Walton calling Johnson a disgrace. After reporters asked Johnson about Spurs point guard Avery Johnson, Larry remarked, "Ave, man, we're from the same plantation. You tell Bill Walton that. We from Massa Johnson's plantation.
In Johnson's defense, though, he did make valid points about the black male in America."
''Yeah, [America and civil rights have] made beautiful strides, but what percentage of black people has made that stride when I go back to my neighborhood and see the same thing? I'm the only one who came out of my neighborhood. All of them dead, on drugs, selling drugs. Am I supposed to be honored and happy just by my success? Yes, I am. But I can't deny the fact of what's happened to us over years and years, and we're still at the bottom of the totem pole. I can't turn my head to that. That's my point.''
6 Draymond Green vs. James Dolan
Again, the Knicks are tied to slavery, but this was Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green making the comments rather than one of James Dolan's players. In fact, it was in reference to Dolan that Green, following the February 2017 ejection and arrest of former Knicks star Charles Oakley at Madison Square Garden, said the following on his "Dray Day" podcast:
"You doing it for me, it's all good. You doing it against me -- you speaking out against my organization -- it's not good anymore? That's a slave mentality. A slave master mentality. That's ridiculous. It was all fine and dandy when he was laying people out, taking fines and all this stuff for your organization. But now, all of a sudden, when he says something that he feels, it's a problem."
I'm...not touching that one.
5 Bill Russell's 'watermelon smile'
Was it a different time in 1981 with regards to racial relations? Sure. Does that excuse Rick Barry, when calling a game with Bill Russell and discussing a picture of the Hall of Famer from 1956, saying the man had a 'watermelon grin' on his face. Watch that video and tell me the anger, sadness, and frustration in Russell's eyes when he realizes what Barry said isn't clear.
Barry would apologize, but come on. If Barry was born in 1944 and grew up during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, wouldn't he have realized somewhere or somehow that watermelons are used as a racial tie to black men? What was going to follow? The funny hat Russell was wearing would fit in great at KFC? His sunglasses would be perfect for a party with Kool Aid? Come on, Rick.
4 Donald Sterling vs. Elgin Baylor
Donald Sterling has done many thing wrong - and trust me, we're not done with him yet - but what he did to Elgin Baylor during the latter's 22 years as Clippers general manager was just terrible. From underpaying Baylor and freezing his contract at $350,000 a year while paying white coaches (namely Mike Dunleavy) over $20 million, Sterling did the Lakers legend wrong; but what Baylor alleged in his 2008 lawsuit aginst Sterling for wrongful termination, as the L.A. Times explained, is something you need to see.
"In the original lawsuit, Baylor said that Sterling had a 'vision of a Southern plantation-type structure' for the Clippers and accused the owner of a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” during long-ago contract negotiations with Danny Manning. The lawsuit also quoted Sterling as telling Manning's agent, “I’m offering you a lot of money for a poor black kid."
Baylor alleged Sterling said he wanted the Clippers to be “composed of ‘poor black boys from the South’ and a white head coach.”
How was Sterling allowed to keep his position as owner, again?
3 Donald Sterling's final days
Can I ask again how Donald Sterling, for all of the bad things he did, was allowed to keep his ownership of the Clippers for as long as he did? You and I both remember the comments that ousted him from ownership, but let's revisit them once more.
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? … You can sleep with them [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that…and not to bring them to my games.”
Like I asked in the first article, why would Sterling complain about bringing black people to games if that would help boost income? Why is he such a racist? Is there anyone that misses him and preferred him to Steve Balmer?
2 'Basketball Slave'
Now, we are cheating a bit because Johnson is best known for his time with the Harlem Globetrotters, but I'd like to direct you a fascinating book: A. Mark Johnson's 2010 autobiography Basketball Slave: The Andy Johnson Harlem Globetrotter Story. This book tells stories from the original Globetrotters, discusses the Louisiana native and how he was known as a 'basketball slave' and exploited by teams because he was black.
To an extent, we're not surprised that he was known as a 'basketball slave' during the Civil Rights Movement but at the same time...really? This would have been nearly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and we're still referring to people as slaves. Why? We may look at the Globetrotters as purely entertainment now - and true, they always have been - but I recommend that book to get some backstory on their tragic upbringings in basketball.
1 Rasheed Wallace and the dress code
I have nothing to say. I'll let Rasheed Wallace state his opinions about the NBA's dress code policy without interference.
“I ain’t no dumb-ass n***** out here. I’m not like a while bunch of these young boys out here who get caught up and captivated into the league. No. I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what the business is all about. I know the Commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league. In my opinion, they just want to draft n***** who are dumb and dumber – straight out of high school. That’s why they’re drafting all these high school cats, because they come into the league and they don’t know no better. They don’t know no better and they don’t know the real business and they don’t see behind the charade. They look at black athletes like we’re dumb-ass n*****. It’s as if we’re going to shut up, sign for the money and do what they tell us.”
Yeah, nothing is beating that. Wallace had a case to state his opinion about the NBA dress code - which, I personally do view as an attack on black culture - but that is something special.
Which of these comments do you feel was the most racist? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!