Understand the superiority of American athletes in basketball

The observation of success, and even the dominance of some countries in certain sports disciplines, continues to generate controversy on a planetary scale. In order to explain the factors behind this dominance, arguments linking athletic success to physiological predisposition, talent, nationality, and even climatic conditions, to name a few, will emerge over time and attract the attention of the professional athletic community. If we consider sport to be a highly complex social phenomenon, then the understanding of sporting success cannot be elucidated on the basis of these simplistic arguments that separate sport from culture, public policy, economics, and the process of socialization. Therefore, it seems that the use of social sciences and humanities is necessary to understand this reality. This article aims at a brief analysis of the dominance of American athletes in basketball based on social considerations and structural and structural elements of basketball regulation in the United States.

NBA and NCAA complement each other

From a global point of view, Americans’ dominance of basketball is not a mere coincidence. Economic, cultural, political, and structural factors converge to achieve this outcome. In fact, the United States has the most popular and attractive Basketball League (National Basketball Association) in the world. It is college basketball that fuels this league, which plays an essential role in providing it with resources through “ Dravet” (supplement) annual. This draft is the most successful basketball player recruitment system in the world, it provides players with various NBA franchises who would later become mega stars, such as Michael Jordan (1984 draft), Kobe Bryant (1996 draft) , LeBron James (2003 draft), Stephen Curry (2009 draft) to name a few.

It is important to understand the structural role of the draft in promoting a certain balance in the NBA. As noted above, this annual event brings together thirty (30) NBA franchises who will each have to make two Selections (selected) in two rounds from among the best young players on the planet registered in the draft. But, which franchise would he choose first? This is where it becomes interesting as it is not an auction market that facilitates competition between different franchisees. Certainly, the first or last selection in the draft is based on a drawing (lottery) that uses an algorithm that favors the lowest-ranked franchises over the past season. This means that the more games the franchise has lost over the past season, the more likely it is to get one of the first. Anthology (choice) Awesome. This draft system is in a way the basis of the NBA’s allure because it allows the various franchises to be competitive. Unlike in some other markets where competitors rejoice at weakening each other, the balance between competitors in the sport is important, because the landscape in which leagues sell out is produced only when opponents are facing each other. The more competitive the competitors, the more attractive the product.

As for college basketball, it is administered by the National Athletics Association (NCAA) which is responsible for organizing a three-division competition. The United States has the most attractive basketball stadium in the world and has a lot of media coverage. This shows that from a structural point of view, the NBA is built on solid foundations that will last for a long time and will ensure the long-term dominance of Americans in basketball.

What explains the great interest of Americans in basketball? ?

Beginning with the structural factors listed above, social theories can facilitate understanding of young Americans’ interest in basketball. Let us cite, for example, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who believed that “individuals are not free,” that is, the practices and behavior of an individual are shaped by objective structures independent of the consciousness and will of the individual himself (genetic structuralism). This point is further illustrated by the concept of “habitus” which highlights the patterns of cognition and behavior that are transmitted to the individual through the family and the educational system. Indeed, for Bourdieu, one’s work is greatly influenced by the heritage to which his family circle and his social learning are transmitted. This means that in a social system, most individuals only reproduce thoughts and actions that do not belong to them at first (social reproduction).

Based on these theoretical elements, we will see that the process of American socialization is crucial to the dominance of Americans in basketball. Firstly, from the first moments of his social formation, the child is exposed to a very wide broadcast of basketball on the largest American television channels. Since then, the NBA champions have become heroes that a child will want to imitate at all costs. It is also necessary to understand the role of the family that, from the age of 5-6 years, systematically subject its children to basketball. Moreover, it is a very enjoyable sport that promotes the psychological development of children through games.

Then there is the American education system, which encourages and encourages, from elementary school to university, the practice of sports in general and basketball in particular through the mechanisms of the encounter between ” High school (high schools) as well as between universities. These sporting events attract many viewers and are broadcasted live by American television giants. Another mechanism of the educational system to encourage exercise is ” Sports Scholarship Program In fact, every year American universities award a large number of scholarships to young people on the basis of their talent in sports. In addition to all this, there are also very large financial resources invested in college basketball, infrastructure, training centers and technical supervision of the college sports system in the states United States to come into force.

We have just seen that the system is structured to influence young people during the process of family and educational socialization. Taking into account these structural and structural factors, we can expect that the massive participation of young American college students in the practice of basketball will continue for a very long time and this nation will continue to produce the best athletes in the world, because it is the result of historical, political, economic, educational and structural factors that have developed with the passage of time. the time.

But nevertheless, we note that some of the players who have reached the top of the NBA, for the most part, come from poor (ghetto) backgrounds; This is especially the case for Mega stars Allen Iverson and LeBron James to only mention these two. We remember LeBron James’ announcement in an interview after winning his second NBA title: I’m LeBron James. From Akron, Ohio. from within the city. I’m not supposed to be here (I’m LeBron James. From Akron, Ohio. Downtown. I’m not supposed to be here [traduction libre]). It is important to qualify this aspect, because there is no consensus among analysts about a possible relationship between the popular social origin of athletes and the probability of getting into the NBA. For example, an article published in The New York Times on November 2, 2013 presents data showing that the more people who come from a wealthy social background, the more likely they are to wait for the NBA.


source: Seth Stephens Davidowitz / The New York Times

However, social considerations, which we have already presented in an article on the determinants of performance in the Olympics here, can be brought up in analyzing the origin of some NBA stars. Therefore, the space for Bourdieu’s social attitudes taken by sociologist Christian Bocello to explain the choice of exercise to individuals. In fact, this space highlights the formation of society through distinct and hierarchical groups according to four major capitals: economic capital, cultural capital, social capital, and finally symbolic capital. To explain the choice of sports practitioners, with the help of empirical studies, Pociello will prove that people’s choice of sports practices is closely related to the capital at their disposal. These studies have shown that athletes from underprivileged backgrounds are moving down the space where we find popular sports (basketball, soccer, judo, athletics) that prioritize use of the body and physical ability in their place towards those who need a complete machine for their practices and, therefore, primarily attract People from richer backgrounds. Here it is about understanding that people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who see sport as a means of social advancement and do not have the means to pay for expensive equipment, will have a penchant for a sport that is less expensive to practice.

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source : Christian Bosselo

Par conséquent, l’origin populaire de certains athlètes qui sont aujourd’hui au plus haut sommet de la NBA dont LeBron James, 4 fois champions de la NBA, constitue un élément non négligeable dans notre effort d’expliquer la suprématieric deséain athl Basketball. It is no longer a question of associating the performance of these athletes with simple physiological states, even a gift. There are many geographical, demographic, and macroeconomic considerations that come into play. In fact, the USA covers an area of ​​9,629,047 square kilometers and has a population of 329.5 million. In 2018, the per capita GDP of the United States was $62,641. It is quickly understood that the larger the country in terms of area and population, the more athletes it has, and the higher the GDP / per capita, the more income families pay for the sports practices of their children. Likewise, the higher the GDP, the more resources the state has to prepare these athletes (say Jolk et al, 1956).

In conclusion, Americans will continue to dominate the basketball market for decades to come. Their superiority in basketball can in no way be reduced to physiological factors alone, not to mention the belief that they have advantages linked to physical preparations. As we just explained, the athletic dominance of American athletes in basketball results from social, familial, cultural, structural, geographic, demographic, and macroeconomic components. Besides the physical and technical capabilities of athletes, there is a whole host of external factors that affect this performance.

It is important to clarify that this article does not claim to be exhaustive of the factors that led to the dominance of American athletes in basketball. It is simply an analysis that mobilizes theoretical knowledge with the aim of highlighting the gray areas on the subject. The article is open to criticism and may be used for other, more in-depth analyzes on this topic.

Luxon Senatos,

Founder of the Center for Research and Innovation in Sports

Holds a master’s degree in sports management,

Student completing master’s degree in public administration

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