Photo by Jeff Lewis / Icon SMI
African Americans Bask in Glory of Lakers Title Run
In a league dominated by Blacks, fans find best seat at home and in sports bars
It has been nearly 60 years since the National Basketball Association celebrated its first Black player, but today, 83 percent of its players are African American and nine of its coaches are men of color.
However, on the event of its NBA Finals, which begin today, June 4, many of their fans will be cheering for the Lakers at home or on big screens in sports bars.
In an economy where the dark cloud grows larger, the Lakers’ championship run has been a lightening bolt of good news and they are showing their support by donning flags on their cars and gathering with family and friends in a chorus of celebration.
Obtaining a ticket to one of the two home games at Staples Center on Thursday and Sunday are next to impossible, so many fans will be planning cookouts at home and at locales such as the Crenshaw Bar & Grill in west Los Angeles.
Located at 3888 Crenshaw Blvd. and nestled between the post office and social security building, the new upscale restaurant offers patrons a bevy of flat screen televisions and private full service rooms for viewing flush with a menu of Sushi, alcoholic beverages, sandwiches and appetizers.
Since opening on President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, the trendy establishment has become a popular spot for community residents to not just watch sporting events such as the NBA Finals, but also listen to recorded and live music.
The best music to the ears of many of these fans will be that of a Kobe Bryant dunk against Orlando’s ‘Superman’ Dwight Howard in the best of seven series that will determine if the Lakers can capture their first NBA title since fan favorite Shaquille O’Neal was traded away in 2004.
This will be the Lakers’ second consecutive appearance in the Finals and last year, they were humiliated by Boston in six games.
This team, comprised of Bryant, the league’s best player and 2008 MVP, is perhaps the deepest team in the league.
Young seven-foot center Andrew Bynum has returned from a late season knee injury and former Westchester High School star Trevor Ariza has emerged as a budding star on defense.
Sixth man Lamar Odom, nursing an ailing back injury suffered in the Western Conference semi-finals against Houston, figures prominently against Orlando and guards Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar will endure the ultimate challenge from a skilled Magic backcourt that features Rafer Alston and sharp shooter Rashard Lewis.
Both the Lakers and Magic will have at least nine Black players on their roster, matching the number of coaches representing a league that is more reflected of African Americans than any other in America.
They probably will not remember Earl Lloyd, who broke the color barrier and is the Jackie Robinson of their sport, or Harold Hunter, the pint sized point guard to was the first to sign an NBA contract.
Hunter made $4,000 for the season back then, not event pocket money for today’s players whose salaries have escalated to as much as $20 million per season.
And for their fans that have contributed to the massive growth and financial stability of the league, the best seat is one where you can feel involved even if you’re not in the arena where the game is being played.