Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season

Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season

by David Shields

He takes us via sports passion deep into the American racial divide.From the Hardcover edition.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Sports and Games
  • Rating: 3.52
  • Pages: 240
  • Publish Date: November 7th 2000 by Three Rivers Press
  • Isbn10: 0609806661
  • Isbn13: 9780609806661

What People Think about "Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season"

Here is the review I wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle when it came out: A Basketball Diary Most Foul Writer's examination of race and the NBA falls far short REVIEWED BY Steve Kettmann Sunday, December 26, 1999 BLACK PLANET Facing Race During an NBA Season By David Shields Crown; 223 pages; $23 No matter how admirable his novels and collection of stories might be, the David Shields we get to know in Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season,'' a diary-style account of a Seattle SuperSonics season, emerges as the worst sort of con man, one who cons himself into believing he's not conning us. Shields' worship of flashy, trash-talking guard Gary Payton provides good moments, but it feels as if he is killing time with interminable (5-year-old!) game recaps and other fluff before returning to his real subject. Later, Shields decides he's too good to sit next to a bowling-alley employee he has offered to sell one of his season tickets to (I'm a snob''), and instead of calling to offer the poor fellow a reasonable excuse, he pulls the lame move of faxing him the rejection -- and even admits it's lame, saying he's a coward to do it. As if to prove that he's past hope, Shields often discusses conjugal relations with his wife, Laurie, and describes a night in bed during which he has to fantasize about basketball players. Foes of Volvo liberalism could use the book to mock writers like Shields, who raise points to reveal their own higher consciousnesses without actually doing anything. Shields brings a neighbor to a Sonics game and is dismayed at his bizarre shucking-and-jiving routine'' that's offensive enough to prompt a black man one row down to leave. Most writers doing a book on a season would try to gain access by writing for interim publications to show their seriousness. He tells the team PR director that he needs to be credentialed more than the two games per month they're giving him so he can write his monthly'' articles for the Seattle Weekly, although he actually waits well into the season before writing anything. The result is a book nearly impossible to read and one that proves its point: Americans really must be inept at discussing race if a work as unrewarding as this can find its way into print.

Shields is obsessed with the sport of basketball, the racial implications of the overwhelmingly white audience, and specifically obsessed with Gary Payton. Shields' writing on his relationship with his wife & daughter was wonderful, as was his tete a tete with "ma cherie," the Sonics director of media relations Cheryl White (see her "Spoke" profile!

That central theme is how white fandom of the largely black NBA is a lens for national attitudes of racism. In a few key sentences, Shields calls out his neighbors for being so eager to contrast themselves with the racism of the American South.

David Shields is a liberal white man who has a lot of unacceptable thoughts about black people, particularly Gary Payton. It doesn't try to be definitive on the subject of race in the NBA (and in America) because it could never be: David Shields the white liberal will simply never know the sort of adversity faced by African Americans, and by black NBA players in particular. When Shields applies this understanding to even the most mundane aspects of NBA fandom, he discovers things about himself, and about white people in general, that are supremely upsetting and probably 100% correct.

And because it isn't as much of a scripted game as football, players can act more individually with their own style, especially in the time frame of this book of the 90s with isolation plays, big contracts and bigger egos. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a divide between the player and fan, black and white. It's not so much about the games themselves as what the players, coaches and fans say before and after. It's true that the 90s were a tough time in the league with young players getting paid too much too soon and forgetting that another point of being in the league is to win, to excel. On a side note, George Karl, the head coach of the Sonics, is for the most part painted as a guy that doesn't connect his players and gets blamed for the team losing in the first round of the playoffs at the end of the year (spoiler alert).

David Shields the author of the book and the main character enters the world of basketball as an media reporter. He is trying to learn what peoples opinions are about one thing. He could get a little boring sometimes nut most of the time it was interesting learning about all these peoples opinions and what they believe. The structure Shields uses in the book is very interesting he uses dates.

After that Shields gives us hundreds of examples of inter-racial interaction to further drill his point home. The problem is that this dividing scheme makes the sections of the book bleed together; chapters are not discernible from the previous or next ones. We the readers KNOW racial tensions still exist; we don't need Shields to bombard us with countless examples.

His other books include Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, winner of the PEN/Revson Award; and Dead Languages: A Novel, winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.