There are Many Different Whites
Steve Nash, Nikola Jokic, and the oversimplified race fight over MVP voting
My new gimmick for starting a post is, “If you’re a non-sports fan …”
Why? Because so much about NBA media is inscrutable to the uninitiated. For instance, non-sports fan, did you know that the NBA Most Valuable Player award is often a racial proxy war? Is it an exaggeration to say “often”? If so, maybe only slightly. The race war over MVP isn’t an annual tradition just yet, but we might be getting there, as Eastern Europeans continue their gains among the superstar set. It’s leading to an MVP race/race conversation that smooths out so many obvious divisions, while attempting to portray the classic rifts.
In recent memory, Steve Nash (White, Canadian) won the MVP back-to-back while inspiring allegations of racial bias aimed at the mostly White sports writer set. His former teammate Dirk Nowitzki (White, German) was just referenced by ESPN NBA TV analyst Kendrick Perkins as having possibly, unfairly won the award due to race (we’ll get into Perk’s comments). Michael Eric Dyson wrote about how pundits, including a professor, theorized that Steph Curry’s lighter skin gave him a significant MVP voting edge over competitors.
In the 2017 battle between all Black candidates Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, former sports writer Greg Howard tweeted that White voters preferred quiet Kawhi for MVP because they balked at endorsing Russell Westbrook’s swagger. At least that’s what I think he said. He’s since nuked his Twitter account and left the profession, as far as I can see. The point is, even when none of the candidates are White, light-skinned, or foreign, the MVP conversation can still become a fight over race.
Which brings us to the modern day, wherein the aforementioned Kendrick Perkins lobbed a not-so-subtle broadside at support for the Nuggets ultra-skilled center Nikola Jokic, as the Serbian savant goes for a 3rd straight MVP.