LeBron James’ fan support has fluctuated differently among white and black fans

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LeBron James is the most popular player in the NBA.

That’s what ESPN’s research says. But adoration for LeBron – the percentage of fans who consider him their favorite player – has ebbed and flowed differently by demographics.

LeBron’s popularity took a big dip among both black and white fans when he left Cleveland. But in his second year with the Heat, LeBron re-gained some popularity among black fans while continuing to lose ground among white fans.

By 2012-13, he had already surpassed his final Cleveland popularity mark among black fans. Though white fan support increased from 2011-12 to 2012-13, LeBron still lagged well behind where he left off with the Cavaliers.

Here are the percentage of fans who named LeBron their favorite player by season. Seasons are marked by the year they finished (e.g., 2010 represents the 2009-10 season).

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A similar phenomenon exists between avid and casual fans.

A smaller percentage of casual fans considered LeBron their favorite player in 2012-13 than did in 2009-10, but – after taking a two-year dip among both groups – a slightly higher percentage of avid fans called LeBron their favorite in 2012-13 than did in 2009-10.

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The racial and NBA-interest splits might not be completely independent. It’s possible blacks are disproportionately represented among avid fans and/or vice versa, just as it’s possible whites are disproportionately represented among casual fans and/or vice versa.

But whatever is driving the swings in support for LeBron is real. These are pronounced differences in his popularity by demographic.

In 2010, LeBron said he believed race was a factor in backlash to The Decision. The evidence indicates he was right.

LeBron: ‘My legacy will speak for itself’

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.