Theresa Runstedtler on ‘Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA’

Larry is joined by professor and author Teresa Ranstedtler. discuss her new book Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood and the generation that saved the soul of the NBA. They begin their conversation by discussing how Dr. Ranstedler’s connection to the NBA through the Toronto Raptors dance team and the corporatization she witnessed in that organization inspired her to explore the core aspects of her book. They then explore the history of segregation in professional basketball, the relationship of racial context to the emerging style of play in the game, and pioneers such as Connie Hawkins, who pushed for equal pay for black players in the league (8:19). They then delve into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s influence on the ABA-NBA merger and the impact of racist media coverage on public perception of black players and overall sports revenue in the 70s (25:15). After the break, they look at the rise of Simon Gurdin, the NBA’s first black executive, and talk about the roadblocks that plague black coaches and executives in every major American sports league (38:27). Larry and Teresa end the pod with a discussion of how the 1974 Finals, the arrival of Larry Bird, and the inclusion of the slam dunk contest affected the competitiveness of the NBA (42:42).

Host: Larry Wilmore
Guest: Teresa Ranstaedtler
Associate Producer: Chris Sutton

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