Monochromatic Basketball: A League of Their Own

To many fans, the National Basketball Association (NBA) features exciting games played by gifted athletes. But most of the players are just so darned, well, black. Now an Atlanta sports entrepreneur named Don “Moose” Lewis has a potential antidote: an all-white professional basketball league.

Lewis hopes to start something called the All-American Basketball Alliance (AABA), with teams based in a dozen cities in the Southeast. Players would have to be natural-born U.S. citizens with two Caucasian parents. More than 80% of NBA players are black, by contrast. Even if NBA phenoms like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade wanted and were contractually able to leave their respective teams for the AABA, they couldn’t make the grade. All are black.

White NBA superstars Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki — who have three Most Valuable Player awards between them — would be ineligible to compete in the proposed new league, too. Nash was born in South Africa, Nowitzki in Germany.

But it’s blacks, not foreign-born players, who Lewis really takes issue with, denying all the while that racism is the reason. He told the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle — whose hometown he hopes will host a team in his proposed league — that he’s looking to focus on fundamental basketball rather than the “street-ball” played by “people of color.” He mentioned the recent indefinite suspension of Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas after bringing handguns into the team’s locker room as an example of what causes fan disapproval of how current professional sports leagues are run.

“Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he said in the newspaper interview. “That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.”

Lewis’ attempt at starting a white basketball league likely will be welcomed by Caste Football. That online entity was established “to see that white athletes are respected for their abilities, and that they receive the same opportunities to succeed as non-white athletes.” Caste Football’s website consists of news about white college and professional athletes and makes the astonishing claim that white players, “no matter how talented,” are directed into certain positions, resulting in few or no whites playing cornerback, tailback, wide receiver and safety in the NFL. Given the constant, intense pressure on college and NFL coaches to win, it’s hard to see why they would eschew talented white players who can help them do so and keep their jobs. The website offers no explanation.

For his part, Lewis’ background suggests that he might be motivated at least as much by profit as race in proposing his whites-only basketball league. He is an Atlanta businessman who has dabbled in other sports ventures, including professional wrestling and boxing. Nor is this his first stab at starting a professional basketball league. In 2001, he formed the American Basketball Alliance, which he hoped would have eight teams in the Southeast — but no racial hoops for players to jump through. In at least one way, Lewis promised an odd form equality for black and white players. He wanted both groups to wear retro 1970s-style uniforms, and said the league would “pay the white guys extra for [wearing] crew cuts, and the blacks guys extra for [wearing] afros.”

The league soon foundered, however, and in 2002 Lewis renamed it the Global Basketball Alliance, promising that fans would witness a “professional basketball event.” In a press release at the time, Lewis said, “Mix in the best of the Harlem Globetrotters, the XFL and its cheerleaders and professional wrestling — and you have the red hot GBA! The GBA offers beautiful and shapely cheerleaders for dad, handsome basketball players for mom, tee shirts and giveaways for the children, the hippest music for the young adults and exciting memories for all who attend.” That venture too was short-lived.