Under the Boards: The Cultural Revolution in Basketball

Under the Boards: The Cultural Revolution in Basketball

Under the Boards: The Cultural Revolution in Basketball

Under the Boards: The Cultural Revolution in Basketball

Synopsis

The true story of basketball lives as much off the court as on the hardwood; it is about politics and race and cultural clashes as heated as a final-four buzzer-beater. This story unfolds in all its gritty and colorful detail in Under the Boards. From the birth of the Larry Bird legend to the ascendancy of a hip-hop-infused NBA to the backlash against bling and the contemporary American game, Jeffrey Lane traces the emergence of a new culture of basketball, complete with competing values, attitudes, aesthetics, and racial and economic tensions. The revolution Lane describes resonates in the way Latrell Sprewell's assault on his coach forever changed NBA power relations; in legendary coach Bob Knight's entanglement in high school basketball history; in the dramatic shift in attitude toward European players; in the impact of the deaths of two rappers on rookie Allen Iverson's career; and in conflicting cultural models rooted in ideals of black masculinity and white nostalgia. In these moments Lane's book documents a profound change in basketball and in American culture over the last thirty years.

Excerpt

Best-selling mystery novelist Lisa Scottoline's 2005 Devil's Corner begins with a black male teenager, his hair in cornrows, holding a Glock handgun to the head of the main character, a female lawyer. The teen offender, a product of the Philadelphia ghetto, wears Iversons (Reebok-produced sneakers named after the ballplayer Allen Iverson), baggy jeans, and “a red satin Sixers jacket.” Scottoline probably selected this look for her character because it would likely bring forth a familiar mental picture of a street thug in her readers' minds.

This stock image of a hoodlum fits with, and even helps explain, the depraved act being perpetrated. By aligning the teen's physical appearance with controversial Sixers star guard Allen Iverson, the author seals the connection between the character and criminality: the invented gun-wielding delinquent and Iverson, who has been arrested multiple times — including at least once on a gun charge — share the same hairstyle, sneakers, jeans' style, and team apparel and allegiance.

Precisely because many people reflexively associate both hip-hop fashion and Allen Iverson with unlawfulness, the National Basketball Association (NBA) no longer permits its players to dress in the way described above. Prior to the implementation of an off-court dress code for the 2005–06 season, the league's mostly young and black athletes usually dressed in one of two ways . . .

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