In graduate school at Howard University there was a teacher, Dr. Leon Jones, that preached a singular message of life that never left anyone that took his class: “Always keep your eye on the big picture.”
Damn the prize, damn a dream, it’s always the “picture,” that frozen moment we perpetually live in, that we must pay the closest attention. Especially in moments like this, where history is being discussed.
Cue: Elephant. Cue: Room. Hue: Various shades of blackness.
While sports columnists and bloggers are struggling trying to predict the outcome of the NBA Finals and the Skip Bayless’ of the world believe that this NBA Finals battle between the Cavs and the Warriors will be epic and Oakland and Cleveland mayors are hedging bets (one to a food bank, the other declining for superstitious reasons) and and the people at Funny or Die are exposing a contract LBJ and Steph Curry signed to let one another score a bunch of points and Sports Illustrated is asking in a “sneaker war” which team would win and NBA.com/Stats is breaking down everything from who’s going to win the battle of the “rim protectors” to every damn meaningful (or meaningless) statistical advantage Curry might have over Kyrie Irving, there’s an almost internally and inherently and racially private held concern surrounding this Finals that may be more important than the results of the Finals itself.
Can a light-skinned brotha lead an NBA team to the promised land?
Real talk; Power and Empire talk, not Cornell West and Tavis Smiley talk; this is what is really at the center of discussion and discord in barber shops that pay landlords in cash and bars that sell BBQ in the back. Big picture talk.
In the history of the NBA there has been a void of light-skinned brothers reigning supreme. Unless one would consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar light-skinned, then the last melanin-deficient, pigment-challenged black man to lead a team to an NBA title was…. yeah, now you see where this is going.
The struggle is official. Tongue-n-cheek but serious as casting Emma Stone as part-Asian. Over the years in the NBA there’s only been a hand full with superstar griot. Mike Bibby, maybe. And no shade on John Starks or Allan Houston, but the rest of the Knicks took them out of the light-skinned category. There was only so much Jason Kidd could do, only so much of a load he could carry all by himself. Calling Tim Duncan light-skinned back in the early 2000’s came off as a desperate attempt Sign of inadequacy. Which proves outside of Kidd in the last 25 years, basically, the last great light hope in the NBA was Doug Christie.
Cue: Laugh track.
But this time there’s two. Like double-mint gum, gvngstvxboo and JH13 and the Olsen twins, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the leaders of a movement that can save the unfulfilled history of light-skinned success in the NBA the same way Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are doing for non-arrested players in the NFL.
Light-skin unite! Steph and Klay can become saviors. Not only the faces of a franchise or the faces of an entire league, but the representatives of something much greater. Viva la claro Negro!
Because “them yellow complexeds” over the years have developed an inferiority complex when it comes to this. Like they "soft" or something. Like they can't, won't come through. Fear the darkness. This being their only taste of un-entitlement in America. Which is why there is so much riding on this series for them. The external question lingers: Can the "children" of Sally Hemings show up and show out?
Decades of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain dominance, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor uplifting a race, Shaq, Kobe and Iverson becoming generational royalty, LeBron held up as a God. Be like Mike? They “genetically” can’t.
Which is why everything rides on what the GSW do in these Finals so that a large oft-overlooked portion of African-Americans can finally stake a claim in yet another color-obsessed conversation in sports.
But just their luck that Draymond Green will wind up winning Finals MVP.