Mason Plumlee, a 6’11” forward from Duke, will likely be picked in the mid-to-late first round of the NBA Draft tonight, which is to say, scouts think he’s good, but not THAT good.
Plumlee is unquestionably an amazing athlete. He’s as strong as an ox and jumps like a genetically-engineered Jumping Ox.
Normally a 6’11” leaper who played for one of the best teams in the country would be considered a candidate to be one of the top two or three picks in the draft. But even after four years of college play, Plumlee isn’t very skilled in basketball fundamentals. He can barely shoot; the website Draft Express notes that he only made two jump shots all of last season. Two! And he doesn’t dribble well or have the footwork and coordination to score on his own. This, below, is not what NBA teams want to happen when they give the ball to a big man and ask him to score.
Now, historically, black players (in all sports) have often been described as “athletic but raw” while white players are described as “heady” or “gritty.” It’s a well-known embarrassment that black football players were long discouraged from playing quarterback because white coaches thought they lacked the intelligence to play a position that requires a good memory and the ability to make quick decisions.
These stereotypes have become less prevalent as time has passed and more and more black athletes (and coaches) have demonstrated that they are as smart, crafty, and gritty as their white peers. But perhaps what is truly needed to end America’s scourge of subtly racist scouting reports is a class of white players so simultaneously explosive and clumsy that no one will ever even consider saying that they make up for “limited athleticism” with refined skills.
It is in this respect that Mason Plumlee is a civil rights hero. Every time he dribbles and shoots as if he were wearing fluffy, oversized mittens, he makes America a better place. A country where a white basketball player can throw down spectacular dunks while shooting an appalling 44% from the free throw line, as Plumlee did in his sophomore year at Duke, is the land that Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about. Mason Plumlee is the Jackie Robinson of white basketball players who can’t really play basketball.