Basketball as the Embodiment of Blackness
in Contemporary Popular Culture
White men can't jump? They don't have to. They own the team.
- Paul Mooney, Comedian
The game of basketball has come to be an integral part of American and African American culture. Television commercials feature basketball players, basketball players were regular guests on the formerly popular Arsenio Hall Show and to this day are often seen on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman, and certain celebrity ballplayers such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O'Neal have evolved beyond the world of their sport to become popular American icons. Further, the moving documentary Hoop Dreams ( 1994), about the plight of two Chicago youth attempting to make a career out of their dream to become basketball superstars, documents the intense competition in the game and the important place that it occupies for so many people in this society.