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J.J. Redick will be entering his 11th season in the NBA this week and for the first time he has noticed he is part of a small — and shrinking — club as a white American NBA player.

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The NBA certainly has its long list of European players. But the Los Angeles Clippers starting guard says he recently noticed that there are not a lot of white Americans in the NBA anymore. As the team opens their season on Wednesday, Redick says it will be the first time in his NBA career that he will be the lone white American on his team in an African-American dominated league.

“This is the first year where I’m like, ‘You know what, there are not a lot of white guys in the NBA,’ ” Redick told The Undefeated. “I was looking at the free agent list of guys still out there. I saw Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich. Those guys have all been in the league since I’ve been in the league.

“I was messing with Doc Rivers about it. The best white guy is probably Kevin Love. It’s interesting. Someone who has way more time on their hands, it would be an interesting idea to kind of figure out what is happening.”

Well, The Undefeated actually had the time to try to answer Redick’s question and explore why there are so few white Americans in the NBA.

According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the NBA was 74.3 percent black during the 2015-16 season and 81.7 percent were people of color. The study said that the NBA was 18.3 percent white last season, which was 5 percent less than the season before. The league was also a record 22.3 percent international last season.

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Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (center) shoots in front of Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee (left) and guard C.J. McCollum (right) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series on April 23, in Portland, Oregon.

AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

That 18.3 percent of whites in the NBA from TIDES also includes non-Americans such as Europeans, Canadians and Australians of white descent. Entering the 2015-16 season, the NBA had 42 white American-born players. The NBA had its inaugural season 70 years ago with a league full of white players. As of Sunday, there were 43 white Americans on 30 NBA teams with the season starting Tuesday. Eight teams didn’t have a white American player entering last season, while seven teams don’t have one now.

“There is always a distinction between the white European and the white American,” Redick said. “It’s not just a racial thing. It’s a cultural thing that is sort of different. I grew up playing for Boo Williams. I grew up battle rapping in dorm rooms and hotel rooms in AAU . For me, this is kind of normal.”

Redick was one of five white American NBA players — and one former white American NBA player — who agreed to discuss what it is like to be a white American player in the league. Redick, Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott, Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, Washington Wizards forward-center Jason Smith and former NBA guard Jimmer Fredette of the Shanghai Sharks took part. Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward were also invited to participate and respectfully declined to talk about what is certainly a tough subject.


“We play basketball because we play basketball. We don’t see color when we’re playing basketball. It’s about competing, camaraderie and having the ultimate goal of winning a championship.” — Chandler Parsons

What is it like to be a white American in the NBA?

Jason Smith: There are not too many of us. You have to have that ambition and work ethic to try to prove to people that you are good enough. It’s really an honor because there are only 450 of us in this NBA. To be one of those 450 is an honor to me.

Doug McDermott: When they see a Dirk , they’ll go, ‘Well, that’s a white player.’ But, they’re not American guys … Just from an outsider perspective, I bet a lot of NBA fans when they see a white guy, they’re always probably from Spain, or you know Germany, or France. But there’s very few of us. We’re proud of it.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (No. 33) dunks the ball during the second half of a game with the Philadelphia 76ers in New Orleans on Feb. 19.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Ryan Anderson: You don’t really label yourself as just a white guy, you know what I mean? If you can play …

Chandler Parsons: We play basketball because we play basketball. We don’t see color when we’re playing basketball. It’s about competing, camaraderie and having the ultimate goal of winning a championship. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing with a bunch of Europeans, black guys, Asian guys, Latin guys. It doesn’t matter, because you guys are all there to do one thing, and that’s playing basketball.

Jimmer Fredette: I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have been able to play basketball in the NBA. It’s an honor to be able to play the game I love for my profession and I hope I can give every white American kid out there hope that they can make it to the NBA no matter what race they are or where they are from.

Who is the best white American NBA player?

Anderson: Kevin Love is supertalented. I grew up playing against Kevin Love quite a bit in college and everything. But, there is no harder-working white American basketball player than J.J. Redick.

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Kevin Love (No. 0) of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on Oct. 31, 2014, in Chicago.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Parsons: Me, of course.

Smith: Ryan Anderson. I played with him in New Orleans. I would have to go with him or Gordon Hayward. There are not very many of us, but there are some good ones out there.

Redick: Is it Kevin Love? Who am I missing? It’s probably Kevin Love. Who’s a starter?

Has anyone ever said anything to you racially on the basketball floor?

Redick: I remember Rodney Stuckey, who I am fine with, we were in Detroit and he said something to me. I can’t even remember what it was, but the way he said it and the way his tone was, ‘white something,’ I lost it. I remember we both got a double technical. I can’t remember specifically what it was. It was a long time ago. We were all good. For the most part, it doesn’t come all that often.

Anderson: There might be a few, like, ‘white guys can’t jump’ jokes. I’m a shooter. I’m not the most fast, athletic, running player. So, there’s a lot of just little jokes like that. But at the same time, if you can play, there is no race. There is no color in basketball and that’s the beauty of it.

Parsons: Being white in the NBA, there are a lot of stereotypes. It’s almost like a joking thing among guys in the league about the stereotypes, whether it’s music or food or the way we dress. It’s just stereotypes that are kind of like an ongoing thing that goes on in the NBA …

There’s stuff where people call me, ‘white boy,’ or things like that. Same thing with stereotypes. Obviously, I’m a shooter because I’m white or I’m slow and less athletic because I’m white. But not hate. When I dunk on somebody, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, Chandler Parsons is deceptively athletic.’ Why wouldn’t I just be athletic?”

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Fredette: The only thing I can think of is in AAU when you would see a team with all black players and then one or two white kids, the joke would be that the ‘white boys’ would always be the shooters. That was me on my AAU team, so I was always spotted as the shooter by other teams.

McDermott: A couple guys have joked have been like, ‘Oh, token white guy.’ That’s just the way it is, you know. They assume I’m just floor space, but I feel like I’m showing them that I can do a lot. You know I’ve played with a lot of good players here , and they’ve all been obviously very respectful …

You got to gain a little more respect. I think I first started to get that a little more, I would say, when we joined the Big East from Missouri Valley because, you’re playing a lot more predominantly black teams. You kind of hear in some of the warm-ups, like, ‘Who is this white boy?’ all that stuff. It’s just awesome when you can get through that. And, I think that gave me a lot of confidence, going up against bigger athletic guys before coming in to the NBA.

A lot of African-Americans that have found success in the league have come up from tough backgrounds or long odds to become NBA players. Was that the same the case for you?

Smith: I definitely came from small-town America: Greeley, Colorado. Not too many people know where I came from. My hometown had 1,500 people, if that. I graduated high school with 67 people. I went to Colorado State, which is not a basketball-oriented school, either. I’m really blessed to be where I am today …

The only time I played against African-Americans is the Big Time AAU tournament in Las Vegas. There were a couple AAU tournaments down near Denver. For me growing up, it was a bunch of farm kids.

Fredette: Coming from a small town in upstate New York had its challenges to get noticed. For me, I wasn’t very heavily recruited. BYU was the biggest school that offered me a scholarship, actually. I just didn’t have anyone watching my high school games. I played AAU against the best with the Albany City Rocks, but going into the game college coaches had no idea who I was and mostly were there to watch other players.

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Chicago Bulls’ Doug McDermott (No. 3) drives past New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (No. 7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game March 24 in New York.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

McDermott: The crazy part about it is, I’m from Iowa. And if you think about the white Americans that played in the NBA, a lot of them, they’ve come from Iowa. So, Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Kyle Korver, myself. Harrison was one of the only black guys on my high school team. So, it’s crazy how it all works out. The white Americans in the NBA, a lot of them come from Iowa.

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Has it been hard for you to discuss the racial tension with your African-American teammates and how to react as a team to the playing of the national anthem?

Redick: My mother’s side is Swedish. My dad’s side is Irish. They were sold an American dream. They came here voluntarily. African-Americans were the only people that didn’t come here voluntarily. They were forced here. And so culture, it’s just different and been different. For white America, and I include myself because I’m white, it’s interesting to me how we can pick and choose the parts of black culture that are acceptable and not acceptable. It’s interesting to me as a whole that’s what we choose to do.