So, you want to know about Black Thanksgiving?
That’s what sports writer Mike Wilbon calls NBA All-Star Weekend.
Other folks have Tweetups. Black people have All-Star Weekend, or ASW. It’s a national holiday, sort of.
ASW is the only time of the year that people call me. I don’t say that to be maudlin, ’cause most of the time, I don’t want people to call me. (Dirty little secret: I don’t really like talking on the phone.) But they come out of the woodwork this time of year, because NBA players are royalty in Black America, and everyone wants to be near them. The old saying is that ballers want to be rappers, and rappers want to be ballers. That’s really, really true.
Basketball is a culture. It isn’t for everyone, though the game is loved by people of all colors. There is a rhythm to it, just as if McCoy Tyner was dribbling a ball instead of playing piano.
“Considering that the culture of basketball in a predominantly black league like the NBA is so strongly connected to African American culture, the NBA All-Star weekend has turned into a celebration of African American culture by extension,” says Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
“Baseball’s Negro League All-Star Game was once the biggest national black social event of the year.” Boyd of USC said. “It seems that the NBA All-Star Game serves a similar purpose now, but on a much bigger platform.”
Warts and all, it celebrates the extended community–the incredible athletic, improvisational ability of the NBA’s best players; the incredible economic power of those stars, the sway they hold over the media and corporate America, a reality that would not have been thinkable 40 years ago.