Friday , Mar , 11 , 2011 C.Y. Ellis

Race and the Letter “K” in the NBA

As a fan of statistical generalisations, I was trawling through the NBA’s official player list this evening to see if I could make any broad, vaguely accurate statements about the league’s demographics, specifically regarding a correlation between player age and points per game. Just as I was about to give up and turn my full attention to the Heat-Lakers game on TV, however, I stumbled across an odd little alphabetical happenstance. Check this out:

Notice anything atypical about the players grouped together in the square indicated? Give up? The "K" section of the NBA’s player listings is, in short, a zone of minimal melanin. Here’s the breakdown:

Chris Kaman: Spectacularly white. So white his hair is almost white. So white he decided to be German.

Jason Kapono: Has some distant Hawaiian ancestry, but otherwise whitety white.

Jason Kidd: Half-white, and the least white player by ancestry in the whole "K" section. Still statistically considerably more white than the league at large.

Andrei Kirilenko: So white he’s often confused for Ivan Drago. So white he dyed his hair blond and nobody noticed.

Linas Kleiza: White. Not especially pale by Lithuanian standards, but white nonetheless.

Kyle Korver: So white you could slap a trucker cap on him and have him present the new season of Punk’d.

Kosta Koufos: White. Greek in ancestry but largely lacking in pigment. Looks practically identical to a Greek cousin of mine whose nickname roughly translates to "Whitey".

Nenad Krstic: White. Slightly swarthy at best. But basically white. 

So what we can infer from this? Frankly, nothing, and I apologise if at any stage you thought there was a point coming. Regardless, it’s a strange coincidence that all eight players whose surnames start with "K" are white in a league that is only about 18% white. To put that into context, the odds of randomly picking eight white NBA players in a row is roughly 0.0000002% or 1 in 5,000,000. That’s phenomenally unlikely by any standards. That is, of course, assuming my janky mathematics (my least favourite subject in school by some margin, for the record) held true. Here are my sums:

18/100*17/99*16/98*15/97*14/96*13/95*12/94*11/93 = 2.35146946 × 10-7

Let me know if, as I have a suspicion, I got my numbers wrong. Otherwise, feel free to suggest a tinfoil-clad conspiracy theory to explain this massive but fabulously unimportant coincidence in the comment section. And let’s refrain from pointing out how little need there was to write this article. I’m sick and sleepy and full of cheese. It was either this or dairy-induced delirium. Come to think of it, it may have been both.