Black America’s 3 Favorite Sports Teams
Tonight will be Kobe Bryant’s final game for the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s fitting, because the Lakers are pretty high on this list you’re about to read. The Lakers are Black America’s favorite basketball team. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Black folks have teams that they love, and the explanations why are multitude. The number of Black people in a team’s city, the number of legendary Black players who’ve played for that team, or, if the team is just plain cool plays a part in its popularity in African American social circles. Below are the teams that will make your grandmother cuss, out of love or frustration.
1. The Dallas Cowboys
Flashy? Check. Sex appeal? Check. Controversial? Check. I’m not describing the latest hot rapper, I’m talking about the Dallas Cowboys. And these are a few of the reasons why they’ve captured the hearts of the Black community for the last few decades. Ever since the Landry era, the Cowboys have been arguably the most popular team in the NFL due to winning with flashy, outspoken players and bold, ultra-athletic playing on the football field. In the 1970s, the team even had a questionable cousin who couldn’t put the drugs down (Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson), and still managed to perform in three Super Bowls.
The Cowboys of the 1990s are arguably Hip-hop’s first football team. That squad’s average age was 26 years old, and they captured the imagination of young Black America like no other team since. In the early 90s, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were megastars in Black households. In fact, back then, those guys were just as popular as Snoop Dogg and Tupac with young Black men. Add in the way the Cowboys played in the 90s, fast and flamboyant, and there was no way Black America wasn’t going to be drawn to them. Not to mention that they were coached by Jimmy Johnson, who between his legendary coaching stints at the University of Miami and the Cowboys, developed enough Black superstars to rival Berry Gordy.
When the Cowboys don’t win, Black people care. When they do win, Black folks lose their minds. If they even get to the playoffs this year, sales of Hennessy will skyrocket.
2. The Pittsburg Steelers.
They’re loved by Black people as well, but for different reasons than the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers are the team of the working man/woman. The lunch pail set. Construction workers. Nurses. Barbers. Mechanics. Dudes in the streets who have hands.
The Steelers are all grit, and no flash. Well, sometimes. But, mainly, the Steelers are the team of The Grind. Tough. Hard. Unforgiving. If another team wants to beat the Steelers, cool. The other team will pay dearly for their win, though. Teams don’t really beat the Steelers…they survive them.
Doesn’t that totally mirror the Black community? Toughness? Being hard? No easy wins at your expense? Winning by knocking a few teeth out of your opponents if need be? Yup. Since the 70s, Black America has been riding with the Black and Gold. And, it didn’t hurt that the guy who may have had the best nickname in NFL history was, and is, the team’s best known player: “Mean” Joe Greene.
Besides, those black and yellow uniforms are dope as sh**. Ask Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg.
3. The Los Angeles Lakers.
All you have to say is “Showtime.” You could say more than that, but, once you utter that word, most Black people know what you’re talking about. The Showtime Lakers of the 80s were The Jacksons, New Edition, and the OVO Crew with a basketball. Led by “Magic” Earvin Johnson, they re-wrote the rules of basketball play and superstardom.
And landed a huge place in the heart of Black America.
I can’t forget that the Lakers had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain on the team before Magic was drafted (Chamberlain won a ring with the Lakers in 1972). But Black people fell in love with the “Lake Show” of the 1980s. Magic was the spark for a fast break brand of basketball that was perfect for the brash and loud decade, and also for young Black kids to watch. Magic, with the help of head coach Jack McKinney, bought the playground to the NBA, which made it must see television for Black households (at least among their kids). Behind the back passes, no-look passes, and even Kareem’s skyhook showed the brilliance of Black athletic genius, and looked amazing on television.
The gameplay was incredible, but what also makes the Lakers Black America’s favorite basketball team were the legendary players that played for the team. I’m talking about players so famous that in Black circles, all you have to do is mention their first names. Magic. Kareem. Shaq. Kobe. Sh**, even the old coaches of the Lakers can be mentioned by their first names at a Black cookout: Pat (Riley) and Phil (Jackson).
The team did have a dip in popularity in the late 1990s. But, when they were resurrected by the Kobe trade and Shaq’s free agency signing, Black America went crazy. And this was before Shaq and Kobe actually played a game together. Yeah, the mania was partly due to the two guys in the middle of it, but it was also due to the fact that the Lakers were back.
The NBA will miss Kobe. Sports fans will miss Kobe. Laker fans will really miss Kobe. And rightfully so. Who knows if the Lakers will ever get another Black Mamba? I’ll tell you this…when, and if the Lakers ever scale back to the top of the mountain, they won’t have to worry about finding new fans. Because their Black ones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.