Letter from a black man: It’s time for a new NBA habit (Black Lives Matter)

Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images /

The Milwaukee Bucks ignited a chain reaction of postponed games in the NBA after boycotting their slate with the Orlando Magic Wednesday in response to police brutality. Here’s my take on what’s necessary going forward.

I am a human being.

I have a brain that supports approximately 86 billion neurons, connected by trillions of synapses. A rich and lively blood courses through my veins. I have eyes that act as my gateway to the world, providing that said brain with vivid images of a colorful and vibrant nature. I have life-sustaining lungs that take in oxygen, filter it, and dispel unnecessary materials by the second. And a heart — the bass drum of my existence, undergoing successive compulsions and contractions within my core, providing a constant reminder that I am indeed alive.

And oh yeah, I’m black.

But that’s not what defines me, and while my blackness is an integral part of my existence and self-determination, it is not all that I am. Yet, time and time again, it’s the first thing that I’m judged upon in daily interactions.

And unfortunately, because much of society has connoted my skin color with dozens of negative ideologies that date back to my people’s days as non-indigenous slaves, that leaves me at a tremendous disadvantage.

I am a human being.

You too are human. You have a wildly powerful brain, visionary eyes, generative lungs, a pulsating heart. Of course, you’re human. I mean, you’re reading this, right? So then you know what it’s like to be me.

Well, you should, at least. Unfortunately, those who don’t share the melanin that my skin magnificently oozes can’t fully fathom my circumstance. And that’s a travesty of epic human proportions. Cause we’re not all that different when you really get down to it.

But in this life, having a black outer coating poses monumental differences in reality when contradicted with others. They rear their ugly heads in so many different ways: greater possibilities for a substantial education vs. a lackluster one, adequate healthcare vs. the absence of said privilege, a job vs. unemployment, etc. And far too often, because of one divvying factor alone, skin color is the difference between life and death.

Life and death.

What the Milwaukee Bucks did Wednesday was monumental, setting off a firestorm of suspended professional sporting events, both in the NBA and WNBA, spilling over into MLB and the NHL, and canceled practices by NFL teams, in concatenation as other teams colluded with their led sentiment. The team, sparked by players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and George Hill, shocked the sports landscape when they failed to emerge from their locker room for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference matchup with the Orlando Magic in protest to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

And if on-court “Black Lives Matter” decals, varying t-shirts, press conference calls to action and a bevy of other demonstrations from NBA players weren’t enough to incite palpable change, maybe this will finally be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The majority of the National Basketball Association is black. While we marvel at their jaw-dropping feats of athletic insanity, from dagger 30-foot 3-pointers to exhilarating whirlwind dunks, we must too remember that each of these men are human beings. With brains, eyes, lungs and beating hearts. Just like all of us.

But we take them for granted, and because of that, the basketball world has come to a complete standstill for the second time. This time though, it stopped because of another, much more translucent enduring pandemic: racial injustice. And we must work ardently with desperation to find its antidote.

So here’s my call to you. I am just as eager as any of my constituents who love the game for a return to normalcy. As I pen this piece for Hoops Habit, I can’t help but think of the recent abundance with which we consumers have had to break our basketball habit, cold turkey.

The players’ latest actions are vehement messages that hoops is not a habit – it’s a luxury. One we must appreciate and endear with full reverence.

We do that by showing our gratitude to not only the lives that are spent playing this game, but to all black lives. We do that by supporting causes that will enact change to improve the condition of black life in America. We do that by speaking out, talking and listening to friends, signing petitions. We do that by voting.

And most importantly, we at Hoops Habit and everywhere else, do that by creating a new habit to live by each and every day: judging ourselves and others not by the color of their skin, but the creed of their humanity.

The strike that the collective group of NBA athletes took Wednesday powerfully accentuated the idea that life itself, and the freedom to be alive, is what comes first to them. Not basketball. It’s no different in the writing world, or any other one for that matter.

I am a human being. We are all human beings. It’s about time we start treating each other as such.

Next. Bucks' protest is what this NBA restart is about. dark