If you’re interested in the racial makeup of the NBA, you’ve probably been wondering how many African-American players, coaches, and general managers are in the league. The good news is that the numbers are improving, and the NBA is moving in the right direction. Here are the latest numbers and how they compare to the past. And if you’re still not convinced, take a look at this infographic.
Number of African-American players
The number of Black players in the NBA has grown to almost 75% of all active players. Before the 1950s, Black players were barred from the NBA. That changed on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The first Black players made their NBA debut during the 1950 season. The NBA continues to increase its percentage of Black players year after year, but the percentage is not as high as it could be.
While the number of black players has risen to record-breaking levels, it is still an underrepresented minority in the league. Many of the most prominent African-American players, including Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd, played on white teams and faced discrimination. Their success has been largely credited to their ability to play in a different way. They helped to break down barriers in professional sports and in mainstream society. And that’s not all.
In 1950, Earl Lloyd, an All-American at West Virginia State University, was selected by the Washington Capitals in the NBA draft. In 1951, two other African-American players were drafted to the NBA, including Chuck Cooper and Nat “Sweet water” Clifton. The Washington Capitals selected Harold Hunter in the same year, but the Washington Capitals didn’t start the season until November, making it impossible for him to make his NBA debut until the final week of the regular season.
Number of African-American coaches
While the NFL is renowned for its lack of diversity, the NBA is far from perfect. This year’s class of coaches includes five African-Americans, and the league is looking to improve that statistic as well. The league now has more Black coaches than ever before, including six in the offseason alone. The most recent hire is Darvin Ham, who will lead the Los Angeles Lakers. The league also has a history of hiring African-Americans, including Monty Williams, who was named NBA Coach of the Year this season.
Despite the racial diversity in the league, the NBA has a proud legacy of pioneering Black leadership. Bill Russell became the NBA’s first Black head coach in 1966, nine years before the NFL or MLB had their first Black head coach. While the league isn’t perfect, it continues to earn high marks on TIDES diversity report cards. It received an A-plus for its racial hiring practices in the most recent update.
The NBA has long sought to increase the proportion of Black coaches in its coaching ranks. While Black coaches comprise 23.3 percent of the total number of head coaches, they have shown better results than their White counterparts. Black coaches have the same number of playoff spots as non-Black coaches. And, in fact, there are more Black coaches per NBA team than White head coaches. So, how can the league make sure that its coaches reflect its players’ ethnicity?
Number of African-American general managers
Although the NBA ranks low in terms of diversity, more black executives are being given opportunities in the league. The Sacramento Kings recently hired Brandon D. Williams as assistant general manager, replacing Scott Perry, who recently left to become general manager of the New York Knicks. There are two African-American general managers in the NBA, Dell Demps and Steve Mills, and more than 75 percent of NBA players are black.
The NBA is also known as one of the most racially conscious leagues in the world, with many players and commissioner Adam Silver speaking out about racial inequality and diversity. It has consistently received high marks from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, and it hasn’t been affected and Rooney Rules. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a perfect league.
The league recently hired Oris Stuart as its chief people and inclusion officer, in part to implement policies that promote hiring minority and female candidates. As a result, three open GM positions were filled by Black men, including Troy Weaver in Dallas. Overall, the NBA has seven Black head coaches, one less than last year and half as many as in 2012-13. The numbers have to be higher. And while the hiring of social justice activists isn’t necessarily strategic, it does seem to make sense for the NBA.