Hyped for big scoring numbers at BYU, Jimmer Fredette was the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA draft. But after five seasons with the Kings, Bulls, Pelicans and Knicks, he fizzled out of the league.
Longtime Nets scout Khalid Green, as transcribed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post:
“I never got caught up in that hype. Hype, he was slow, and they were pushing [Fredette] too hard,” Green said on the “Bill Rhoden On Sports” podcast.“I actually had a conversation. One of the scouts at the time was like, ‘Well, if he was a black guy you’d really like him.’ This was in a meeting and I was kind of new at the time, but I was like, ‘No, I wouldn’t have liked him because he can’t guard.’ He’s not going to be able to guard and he’s not going to be able to get his shot off, and he wasn’t athletic. And I knew what it was. I knew it was a Great White Hope-type of situation.
“That’s where the intrinsic bias comes in, because they a lot of times people want that guy to succeed to make a statement on behalf of the whole race.”
When Rhoden — a longtime sports columnist at the New York Times — likened that to white supremacy, Green replied, “Absolutely.”
I wouldn’t call the situation “white supremacy.” If anything, it’s a perception of white inferiority driving people to view exceptional white athletes through a hopeful lens.
But racial bias definitely affects NBA draft prospects. It shows up in player comparisons. Prospects are often compared to established players with similar skin tones, no matter how different their playing styles. It shows up in language. White players are disproportionately “smart” and “gritty” while black players are disproportionately “athletic” and “naturally talented.” Even when crossing stereotypical lines, the language notices the irregularity. My favorite: White players tend to be “sneaky athletic.”
If he were black, Fredette would have been quickly labeled a “streetball player.” He hogged the ball, played passive defense and refused to fit into a team concept. But that’s an image we more readily associate with black players, so Fredette is treated as a more complex case.
There are numerous reasons any player gets drafted too high. Fredette’s case wasn’t solely about race. But it’d be wrong to ignore race in the story of his career.