Ron Artest, a 6-foot 7-inch 260-lb. basketball player on the Los Angeles Lakers, was given a flagrant foul when he walloped relatively diminutive 6-foot 175-lb. Dallas Maverick guard J.J. Barea with only 24.4 seconds remaining in the Lakers dismal second straight playoff loss. Artest, an African American, said afterwards, "I have no reaction." With an annual wage of $6,322,300, his one-game suspension will cost him $57,000.
According to the 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, the average wage for an African American male age 25-54 was $655 a week and it would take eighty-seven weeks to earn the amount Artest was fined for the one-game suspension.
The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fell
As the Lakers were about to be eliminated two games later and with only nine minutes to go, Lakers forward Lamar Odom deliberately ran hard into Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki and was ejected for a flagrant foul. The National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended the Lakers 7-foot, 280-lb. center Andrew Bynum for the first five games of next season and fined $25,000 for his fourth quarter flagrant foul on Barea. Bynum will forfeit $677,272 in salary and apologized for the incident two days later, saying it didn't reflect his upbringing or the Lakers' organization.
These incidents garnered harsh criticism from former Laker star and Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson who said that the Lakers "embarrassed the organization" and called the fouls on Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum "classless."
The Color of the Money
Those who attend an NBA game pay on the average $48 for a non-premium ticket, with the lowest priced ticket being $23 in Memphis, and the highest being $95 to watch the Lakers. Jack Nicholson pays $5350 for his courtside seat for each Laker game, which helps defray Kobe Bryant's league high salary of $24.8 million and the team's combined salary of $91.6 million -- also the NBA's highest.
When the Pistons moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Detroit in 1957, I would buy a $1 seat high in the balcony at the Olympia Stadium to watch professional basketball.
As ticket prices rose skyward through the years, some fans didn't think it was worth it to overpay to watch grown men running around in their underwear, trying to toss a rubber sphere into a round wire hoop.
The Oklahoma City Thunder is fighting to be in the Western Conference Finals against Dallas and was featured in a two-page, full-color photographic spread in the May 16, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. Their African American guard James Harden was captured leaping in the air in front of the packed stands of Thunder fans. Of the two-hundred-and-twenty-three faces who can be identified in the photograph, only two are African American. The percentage of African‐American players in the NBA remained constant from the previous year at 77 percent.
Green is Golden
The average net worth of an NBA team is $369 million, and last year the nearby Golden State Warriors were sold for $450 million.
A "cheap" seat to one of their games costs $38 and even with their mediocre 36-46 won lost record this season, they drew 766,398 fans. If a photograph were taken of people in their stands, I wouldn't be in the picture with the 18,692 fans that usually attend.
To the new owners and all NBA owners, the color found in the stands is immaterial; what's important is that the revenue remains golden.