More on Jews and Basketball

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Last week, my brother called me up shocked to read that in the first NBA game on November 1, 1946, between the New York Knickerbockers and Toronto Huskies, every member of the Knicks’ starting lineup was Jewish. I kind of brushed him off, reminding him that blacks were not allowed in the league back then. But even so, the more I think about that fact, the more significant it is.

On my last post, I talked about my disagreement with the freedarko.com blogger that when Los Angeles Lakers guard, Jordan Farmar steps on the court, he is not thought of as a Jewish player because he does not look/play Jewish.

I got quite the surprise this morning when I opened up freedarko.com, and he had responded to my post. Not only that, he had 46 comments! Hilariously, he refered me to me as a “blog with a larger readership than me.” Thanks for the compliment, but I don’t get 46 comments (and counting) on my posts, nor do I have a book with a forward by Gilbert Arenas.

I really recommend checking out what he has to say (from what I can tell, he is Jewish too) as well as the great comments. Basically his argument goes as follows. While not questioning Farmar’s Judaism, when he watches Farmar on the court, he does not automatically think of Farmar as a Jewish player because of his style.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. Jews don’t need to be judged as Jews. They should be judged on their talents alone and not compared to others of “their type.”mitch_richmond.jpg

But sports are a funny thing. A lot of kids grow up (myself included) hoping to be the next Michael Jordan. I once broke the chandelier in my house pretending to be Mitch Richmond draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But sadly, and not to stereotype, but Jews just aren’t made to be athletes.

One comment in the freedarko thread put it best, referencing a book called “Haikus for Jews.” It goes:

Seven foot Jews

Slam Dunking in the NBA

My alarm clock rings

My point is that regardless of how Farmar plays on the court, there are a lot of Jewish kids out there who should look up to him, not only for his talents but because he is Jewish. When I was 12, and I came to the realization that I probably was never going to be able to dunk, it was somewhat heartbreaking. But Farmar gives every little Jewish boy hope. And for that reason alone, his Judaism defines every play he makes.

Posted on December 15, 2008

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7 thoughts on “More on Jews and Basketball

  1. rooferchick

    My brother and sister are both Jewish , and they both played high-level basketball , and for the record , both can still dunk. I am in my 30′s and i am a hockey-playing construction worker who makes those goy boys look like pansies on the jobsite. Just because you are a wimp , don’t lump the rest of us into your self-depricating stereotypes. BTW Jordan is a wicked baller. just because he’s a tough player doesn’t make him any less Jewish

  2. Jeremy Moses Post author

    your family might be the exception to the rule. i basically only know Jews and I don’t know anyone who can dunk. I know kids who are amazing hockey players and baseball players so its not like Jews aren’t athletic. Why is it though that Farmar is the only Jew in the League? Is it because of the smaller pool of players? I’d like to check out how many Jews play in the NBDL to maybe get a better picture.

  3. The Doctor

    Look in the history books. Early 20th century is full of Jewish boxers, basketball players, baseball players, etc.

    The stereotype of the Jew as a glasses-wearing intellectual incapable of athletics, which is stressed in sitcoms, stand-up shtick, and even some posts on MyJewishLearning.com is unfortunate, and no more pleasant to hear than stereotypes about africans being geneticallly more gifted at athletics or women being less capable at mathematics…

  4. The Doctor

    I suspect that it has to do with upward mobility. My father, who played football in college and was Golden Gloves boxing, said that many of his Jewish friends, growing up in a poor part of DC, got into athletics as a way of staying off the streets. Nowadays, there’s a higher level of affluence in the Jewish community in general and there may be less impetus to get involved in youth sports. I wonder what would happen if you looked at the socioeconomic background of pro and semipro atheletes; do many of them have the same story as my father? And how many Jews these days have that story?

  5. Jeremy Moses Post author

    So Doc, what’s the reason then that Jews don’t go into sports as much anymore? Forget basketball for a second, where white players in general have become less common. But look at football. How come there are only a handful of Jewish players?

    As for the “stereotypes,” my Jewish friends aren’t unathletic. They just simply aren’t tall. While we all have that one tall Jewish friend (why is it that I can consider my 6’0 brother to be tall), for the most part, Jews are shorter. That’s just genetics. Nothing to be ashamed of, but it holds us back from being good basketball players.

  6. Jeremy Moses Post author

    This is a bit of a different question though. This might sound backwards, but whats so wrong with self-deprecation? People give me crap about it all the time saying that it causes Jewish stereotypes, which can lead to anti-Semitism…yada yada.

    The way I see it, there is nothing wrong with making fun of yourself. The world is so PC these days, and everyone is worried about offending someone. It’s to the point, that I can’t even make fun of myself? I’m not condoning spreading ethnic stereotypes, don’t get me wrong. But I just don’t see the harm in making fun of the fact that Jews just aren’t good at sports.

    Yell at me if you must (I secretly have never hated a post that the doctor writes).

  7. Ezekah

    MJL just had an article about Jewish boxing recently. There is a correlation between immigrant status and boxing. It seems to be a common profession for first generation immigrants. The Jewish in the 1920-30’s were no exception.

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