The Michigan Daily Friday, June 5, 1987 Hoge 12
Pistons' remarks scrutinized
This situation is all black and
white, and that's the problem.
After the Detroit Pistons fell to
the Boston Celtics in the seventh
game of the NBA conference finals,
rookie Dennis Rodman, who is
Black, commented on the playing
ability of Larry Bird, who is white.
Said Rodman, "(Bird) ain't God,
he ain't the best player in the NBA.
Not to me...."
Asked why Bird was named the
NBA's Most Valuable Player the
three previous seasons, Rodman
answered, "He's white.... That's the
only reason he gets it.... I don't
care. Go right ahead and tell him."
If Rodman had been the only
player to say this, it may have been
shrugged off quickly. He is only a
rookie, and rookies are known to
make mistakes. In front of more
media members and more fans
(those watching television included)
than he ever before played in front
of, he had just lost the biggest
game of his life. He was hurting,
and he made a mistake. To err is
But Rodman wasn't the only
Piston to say this. Isiah Thomas,
who is Black and the same age as
Rodman, but much more a veteran
of the NBA than Rodman, also
commented on Bird.
"When Bird makes a great play,
it's due to his thinking and his
hard-work habits," said Thomas.
"It's all planned out by him. It's
not the case for Blacks. All we do
is run and jump. We never practice
or give a thought to how we play.
"You hear it on television. You
see it in the papers. I remember
watching the NCAA finals.... I
listened to Billy Packer, who I like,
and who I think likes me, and he
said, when Indiana was sending in
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(Dean) Garrett and (Keith) Smart,
'Well, here come the athletes into
"The word athletes. I think that
that's an unconscious statement
concerning race. I don't like it....
"Magic (Johnson) and Michael
Jordan and me, for example, we're
playing only on God-given talents,
like we're animals, lions and tigers,
who run around wild in a jungle,
while Larry's success is due to his
intelligence and hard work.
"Blacks have been fighting that
stereotype about playing on pure
instinct for so long, and basically it
still exists - regardless of whether
people believe it or not."
Rodman's and Thomas' words
by themselves are ugly, sure, and
have caused much controversy
throughout the country. That
doesn't mean the words are wrong,
though. High school literature
teachers stress that characters should
be judged by their actions. Okay.
Bird, Rodman and Thomas all are
characters. Let's give it atry.
Rodman said Bird wasn't a
legitimate MVP, winning the award
only because he is white. Bird's
actions show otherwise. When
Boston was reeling after two
Pistons wins tied the series, the
Celtics turned to Bird. He made the
steal that won game five. He also
averaged 36 points a game in the
final three games, scoring almost
every time Boston absolutely
needed a point.
On top of that, in the three
previous seasons Bird has won the
official MVP award, his peers
agreed that he deserved the award
two of the times. Most of his peers
are Black. Rodman is wrong; Bird
wasn't named MVP because he is
Thomas' comments deserve
closer scrutiny. He insists that
journalists constantly give white
players credit for thinking through
situations on the court, making the
best decision, and then carrying it
out. The same journalists portray
Black players as merely reacting to
situations like some animal,
according to Thomas.
Several instances during Celtics'
playoff games come to mind.
In the series with the Pistons,
the announcers, all white, kept
referring to Pistons' rookies
Rodman and John Salley as the
runners. They are both quick,
especially so for big men. But
would the announcers refer to two
similarly quick big white men as
With time running out in the
fifth game against the Pistons, Bird
stole the ball, and according to the
announcers, had "amazing presence
of mind" to pass to Dennis Johnson
for the winning basket instead of
himself shooting the ball while off 4
balance and falling out of bounds.
The same kind of comments
seemed to continue Tuesday night
in the championship series, after
Rodman's and Thomas' comments
had caused a furor, and after
announcers should have given some
thought as to whether they were
guilty as charged by Thomas.
Bird seemed to commit an error
by taking the ball to the hoop by
himself in a one-on-four situation.
Normally a player is expected to
pull up and wait until some
teammates make it to the offensive
end of the court. Bird chose not to,
but made the basket anyway.
The announcers stressed that Bird
had made a thinking play, not
wanting to wait and waste time off
the clock while his team was so far '
behind the Lakers on the
scoreboard. Would the announcers
have given similar credit to a Black
player in the same situation, or
would they call it a dumb play even
if the basket was made?
On top of that, CBS announcers
Hubie Brown and Billy
Cunningham both shrugged off the
substance of what Thomas said,
saying only that they couldn't 4
understand how a "nice young man"
like Thomas could say such things
about a player as good as Bird.
Brown and Cunningham paid no
attention to Thomas' belief that
announcers perpetuate the
stereotype that white players think
while Black players merely react.
Guilty as charged.
It's interesting that after all the
charges and countercharges have
been leveled, Rodman and Thomas
are the only two players taking the
heat. Though they were the first to
raise the issue, their comments
were hardly the worst.
After hearing Rodman's words
on Bird, Celtic Kevin McHale
suggested that somebody should
hang Rodman from the ceiling of
the Silverdome. Uh huh. And
maybe McHale would look better in
Klan white than Celtic green.
Somebody forgot to tell him that to
forgive is divine.
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