The San Antonio Spurs are now 10-0 in the NBA playoffs, as they go for their fifth NBA title since 1999 in their Tim Duncan Era. Even before this season, the Spurs` veteran Big 3 of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili had the three highest career winning percentages among active NBA players.
Duncan is from the Virgin Islands, and was intent on becoming an Olympic swimmer until a 1989 hurricane wrecked the only training swimming pool on St. Croix. (Competitive swimming is the exact opposite of basketball in typical personality type.) So, being huge, he then took up basketball at St. Dunstan`s Episcopal High School, then off to Wake Forest. By his sophomore year he was college defensive player of the year and clearly an NBA lottery pick. But he`d promised his dying mother he`d get his college degree, so he played for free for two more years.
The Onion has a running gag about Duncan`s responsible, staid un-NBAness.
Matthew Yglesias has a good rant in Slate, The Most Ignored Dynasty in Sports, about how the fact that nobody outside of central Texas cares about how quietly excellent the Spurs have been for, roughly, ever shows that, despite what we might claim to admire, Americans actually like show-offs, hoopla, and drama queens. (Parker appears to have been trying to generate a whoop-tee-do via his tumultuous marriage to Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria, but that comes up more in the entertainment than sports gossip columns.)
Yglesias points out:
It’s the popularity of the [Oklahoma City] Thunder, the Spurs’ opponents in the Western Conference Finals, that proves San Antonio’s lack of sex appeal isn’t a consequence of geography.
One thing that`s going on is that San Antonio`s longtime Big 3 are, more or less, foreigners. The NBA is a leading expression of African-American culture, and none of these guys quite fit into NBA fans` desire for stereotypical African-Americans basketball players. Duncan is a bourgeois West Indian, Parker was raised in Europe, and Ginobili is some kind of white guy from the other side of the world.
Moreover, San Antonio has relatively few blacks and many of them are there because of military connections, so it`s low on, as they say, vibrancy. It`s a Mexican and military town, and that`s not very interesting to NBA fans.
One interesting nature-nurture question about West Indians that I don`t know enough to have a useful opinion upon: Is it easier for West Indians to act white because they come from black islands? Did the Duncans successfully raise Tim to act respectable, to act middle class because it`s not a race thing there, it`s a class thing?
The Wayan Brothers` old TV show In Living Color had a long running parody showing what African Americans think of West Indians, Hey Mon Hedley, about a hard-working family from the Caribbean who look down upon African-Americans as shiftless.
Every February since 1999, I`ve been volunteering to go to the West Indies to research this important question, but nobody has taken me up yet on paying for my trip.