August 20, 2008

Now we know

For years, I've been idly wondering what happened to all the tall white Americans, the kind who used to play basketball. There are lots of tall white Europeans doing well in the NBA these days, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, but few white Americans at the All Star Game level. Granted, there are more white Europeans than white Americans, but still ...

Watching the Olympics, however, it's clear that other sports are absorbing tall, athletic white guys: the two kinds of volleyball, swimming, water polo, soccer goalies, baseball pitchers, and so forth.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

Sideways said...

With the exception of pitchers and (possibly, I couldn't say) goalies, these are all basically dead-end sports. It's an interesting question: you're a 6'4" 16 year old guy with a few more inches in you, skilled at baseball, volleyball, and swimming. You have a 1 in 20 chance of making a minor league baseball team, a 1 in 300 chance of having a major league career, a 1 in 10 chance of making it to Olympic level volleyball if you keep working at it until you're 25, and a slightly lower chance of making it into swimming if you're equally skilled (swimming being more competitive than volleyball, if less demanding of extreme height)

The lesser sports have lower returns financially, but are much easier to get a college education out of. I have a couple of 6'3" female cousins, for example. One is in the top 10% for athleticism, the other is, at best, top third. One is getting basketball scholarships, the other is getting volleyball scholarships.

I have no idea how many tall guys are funneled into volleyball at the expense of bigger sports. From my very limited experience, it's a small number.

Tariq Nelson said...

Some of the best Tight Ends in the NFL are pretty tall, white and athletic

Jason Whitten, Heath Miller, Todd Heap and Jeremy Shockey are all 6' 5"

Kevin Boss (Shockey's replacement) is 6' 6"

Dallas Clark and Anthony Fasano are 6' 4"

Chris Cooley is 6' 3"

Many of the above players are pro bowlers

Then you have white receivers that have found a nitch with their height such as Matt Jones (6' 6") and Drew Bennett (6' 5")

Unless by tall you mean like 6' 8" and above

Anonymous said...

Don't forget boxing and MMA, two more sports dominated by whites!

Usually Lurking said...

Tariq, great point. One more I can add to that list is Anthony Becht; a good and under-used tight-end. I believe he is about 6'5".

MQ said...

Basketball is showing the limits of racial determinism and the importance of cultural factors in complex activities (like games). Genetically white players are more successful than ever before -- but they are all from Europe or South America, where they can develop without having to compete for limited training slots with black Americans. White Europeans can´t jump as high as black Americans (generally), but they developed a game and a style that allowed them to beat the best black Americans over the 2002-2006 period. Now black Americans have absorbed the lesson, changed their game, and appear ready to take back international dominance.

Mark said...

The lesser sports have lower returns financially, but are much easier to get a college education out of.

Not if you're a guy. Title IX has destroyed all but the big name sports for men.

albertosaurus said...

I remember Wilt Chamberlain saying that in his free time he played the sport he really loved - vollyball.

Vollyball may very well be intrinsiaclly more pleasurable for the players but basketball is better for the viewer.

What you see in a good basketball game is a simulation of a hunting pack manuvering against the prey. A team coming up the floor stimulates all sorts of atavistic impulses.

In contrast a vollyball match looks like two pens of domesticated animals separated by a net.

Anonymous said...

Swimming is not an option unless you have been training since you were very young. You can't decide to become a swimmer when you are 16 and already know you are going to be tall.

Anonymous said...

Steve, swimming is a poor comparison to basketball. The ideal body type for swimming, abart from the long arms, would be a negative in basketball. Take Phelps, he's 6'4" with the torso of a 6'8" man and the legs of a 6' one. A large, top heavy body with short (i.e., short acceleration paths), spindly legs would not be ideal for anything involving running and jumping. I'll bet that Phelps does not have great footspeed or hops.

I think one of the main factors in a lack of white basketball stars from the US versus Europe is that whites in the US are discouraged during childhood from believing they can compete with blacks. One cause behind this is that blacks mature faster skeletally and physically. (See Tanner and Evelyth or Bogin for a good summary). Blacks reach their full adult size and physical development sooner than whites. Therefore, during elementary through early high school, blacks have an insurmountable size and athletecism advantage on average. As adults, blacks are still more explosive and can jump higher than whites on average, but whites do close some of the gap in athletecism and all of the gap in stature during late high school/college age. By this time, many whites have been discouraged from pursuing sports because they were uncompetive at age 13 or 14. Some of them might find out that if they tried again at age 19 or 20, the results would be different. With respect to basketball, I think the great advantage white players in Europe have is that they can develope their skills against whites with a similar level of maturity during childhood and aren't forced to compete against blacks until they have caught up to them maturity-wise in their early 20s. (I read an article a few years ago discussing a similar factor in the Polynesian take-over in rugby in New Zealand.) Note that I am not arguing that whites would ever achieve proportionate levels of success in Basketball or rugby with blacks or polynesians, but they could do better if they didn't get crushed at such a young age against more physically developed ethnic groups. And hey, white guys may not have hops, but they can be very tall and coordinated, as evidenced by Bird, McHale, Nowitzki and Gasol.

As an aside, Usain Bolt's performances in the 100m and 200m are truly astonishing and his success should be analysed. I'm sure he's juiced and has great muscle fiber composition and great anaerobic enzyme activity levels, but so are/do his competitors and he dusted them. Looking closely at him, his advantage seems to be mainly biomechanical. Note that when he runs next to his competitors, who are mostly in the 5'9" to 6'2" range, he doesn't appear to be any longer than them from the top of his head to his knees. His height advantage is almost entirely in his long shin bones. In this respect, he is the Anti-Phelps: He has the torso and thigh's of a 6' man and the shins of a 7 footer. Sprinters generally have relatively short torsos (just dead weight) and long legs, with long shinbones, but not femurs. They have large glutes, quads and hams, but thin calves. This concentration of mass around the hip joints and relatively short femurs keeps the center of gravity of their legs close to the pivot point, keeping the torque down so that they can pivot their levers (legs) at a high speed, while still gaining the advantage of having a long stride (given the same rotational speed at the pivot point, the speed at the end of the lever - i.e., foot - will be faster the longer the lever is). Bolt takes this to a whole new level. Also, he is such a freak that I do not expect to see a whole cohort of giant sprinters taking over the sport. Most tall people, even those of West African descent, don't have body proportions anywhere near as freaky as Bolt and there just aren't that many people who have the muscle and tendon physiology to be great sprinters and the odds of them being exceptionally tall with exceptionally long distal segments is vanishingly small.

-Philly Guy

Anonymous said...

" Don't forget boxing and MMA, two more sports dominated by whites!"

K, I know you are being sarcastic about boxing, but whitey arguably dominates at MMA. That may change, but, well, let's check one metric, UFC champions past and present:

Heavyweight championship (265 lb, 120 kg)

Mark Coleman: Jason Kidd/Doug Christie mullato, has to be a good 75% white, probably more.

Mo Smith: Black

Randy Couture: White

Bas Ruten: White

Kevin Randleman: Black

Couture

Josh Barnett: White

Ricco Rodriguez: White

Tim Sylvia: White

Frank Mir: White

Andre Arlovski: White

Sylvia

Couture

AR Nogueira: S.America Indian

Light heavyweight championship (205 lb, 93 kg)

10 of 14 champs white. More of the same for rest of the divisions, summarized:

LHW: 7 of 9 champs white

MW: 4 of 5 champs white

WW: 7 of 9 champs white

LW: 2 of 3 champs white

Open Weight: 2 of 2 champs white

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UFC_champions

Total: 32 of 42 champs white, not too shabby.

Currently 2 of 5 champs are white. It is said that every MMA camp in America is overflowing with ex Division I wrestlers, the sizable majority being white.

The 1st and 3rd best pound for pound fighters, Fedor Emilianenko and Georges St. Pierre, are white. MMA is a pretty global sport, it should be noted.

Truth said...

"I think one of the main factors in a lack of white basketball stars from the US versus Europe is that whites in the US are discouraged during childhood from believing they can compete with blacks."

Is this also your explanation for the relatively low proportion of black doctors, lawyers, engineers...?

DYork said...

it's clear that other sports are absorbing tall, athletic white guys: the two kinds of volleyball, swimming, water polo, soccer goalies, baseball pitchers, and so forth.

The issue isn't height it's leg speed and quickness.

The sports you mention require no running speed or agility comparable to basketball or football.

White men have a major anatomical disadvantage versus black males for leg length in proportion to body, thigh and buttocks muscle mass and overall fast twitch muscle content especially on a larger frame.

The more a sport or position in a sport requires speed, agility and large body frame the less likely White men will be able to compete with black males.

albertosaurus said...I remember Wilt Chamberlain saying that in his free time he played the sport he really loved - vollyball.

No, Wilt's favorite sport was having sex with White women. He preferred volleyball because it put him around larger numbers of White beach bunnies as opposed to the black females he didn't want.

Peter said...

It is said that every MMA camp in America is overflowing with ex Division I wrestlers, the sizable majority being white.

That's right. A strong wrestling background is probably the best foundation for picking up the other skills required to compete in MMA.

MMA also is attracting suburban young people who see it as the next "extreme" sport, an alternative to such things as skateboarding and BMX. It should go without saying that most of these young people are white.

Anonymous said...

"K, I know you are being sarcastic about boxing"

Huh? Whitey held 16 of the 20 belts from middleweight to heavyweight at the end of 2007. That dominance has dropped a bit this year (14 out of 20) due to retirements and moves in weight classes. But I do see a day (maybe 2009) when all 20 belts from 160 to heavy are around white waists.

Anonymous said...

lol....mark coleman is not a mulatto

Peter said...

Huh? Whitey held 16 of the 20 belts from middleweight to heavyweight at the end of 2007. That dominance has dropped a bit this year (14 out of 20) due to retirements and moves in weight classes. But I do see a day (maybe 2009) when all 20 belts from 160 to heavy are around white waists.

Actually, while there are 20 major boxing titles from heavyweight to middleweight (five weight classes x four sanctioning bodies) there are only 15 titleholders right now, as some titles are vacant and some fighters hold titles from two sanctioning bodies.

Of the 15 current titleholders, eight are white, three are black, and four are sort-of white (Ruslan Chagaev, a Muslim of mixed Russian and Uzbek ancestry; Firat Arslan, a Turk living in Germany; Hugo Garay, an Argentine; and Arthur Abraham, an Armenian).

Anonymous said...

Truth said:
"Is this also your explanation for the relatively low proportion of black doctors, lawyers, engineers...?"

Uh, last I checked whites did much better than blacks on measures of g from the earliest age that there is reliable tests for through adulthood, so we're not talking about physical gaps that become smaller as a slower maturing group catches up to a faster maturing one. If anything, the data presented in the Flynn-Murray debate a while ago seems to indicate that, if anything, blacks lose ground to whites on g as they go from childhood to adulthood. This may also be related to maturation rate. Nice try though ;-)

jody said...

i don't know where steve gets the idea that tall white american men don't play basketball anymore, because they still do.

swimmers are getting taller, it doesn't have much to do with basketball players switching to swimming, although that could be good, as the ideal body type for those two sports is similar.

if you want to see somebody swim 50 meters in 20 seconds, a 7 foot tall swimmer could do it. tim duncan was a swimmer before his pool was destroyed by a hurricane and he switched to basketball.

i think amaury leveaux, the french swimmer who took silver at 50 meters, was the tallest swimmer in beijing at 6-9. matt grevers was the tallest american at 6-8.

most of the top swimmers now make half a million dollars a year or more with all their contracts, so it's definitely not a dead end sport, although you still have to be among the best.

jody said...

white champions in boxing:
open klitschko IBF, klitschko WBO
200 none
175 diaconu WBC, erdei WBO
168 calzaghe WBA, bute IBF, calzaghe WBO
160 pavlik WBC, pavlik WBO

the "are they white?" gang (none of them are part black though):
200 arslan WBA
175 garay WBA
160 sturm WBA
160 abraham IBF

black champions:
open WBC peter
200 cunningham IBF
175 tarver IBF
168 none
160 none

vacant belts:
open WBA - ruslan chagaev was stripped for being a wimp, literally
200 WBC, WBO - vacated by excellent black boxer david haye
168 WBC - vacated by joe calzaghe

nigerian samuel peter is the only black champion in the open and there are currently few black contenders aside from david haye. wladimir klitschko was paid 8 million euros, about 12 million dollars, for his latest defense against black american tony thompson. a lot of the white contenders in the open are 6-4 and taller, with 7 foot russian nikolai valuev set to box for the vacant WBA belt.

tall white men also do well in kickboxing, with 6-11 290 pound semmy schilt of the netherlands having won the last 3 K-1 grand prix's. each grand prix win is worth about half a million dollars.

no real need to go into MMA, as tall white men mainly dominate it. defending a UFC belt at either 265 pounds or 205 pounds is worth about half a million dollars to one million dollars per match.

Anonymous said...

14 of the 20 boxing titles from middleweight to heavyweight are currently held by white boxers:

Heavyweight - 3
Wladimir Klitschko (IBF, WBO)
Ruslan Chagaev (WBA)

Cruiserweight - 1
Winner of Kraj-Fragomeni (both white) for vacant WBC belt

Light Heavyweight - 3
Zsoldt Erdei (WBO)
Adrian Diaconu (WBC)
Hugo Garay (WBA) - white Argentine

Super Middleweight - 3
Joe Calzaghe (WBO)
Mikkel Kessler (WBA)
Lucian Bute (IBF)

Middleweight - 4
Kelly Pavlik (WBO, WBC)
Felix Sturm (WBA) - Bosnian
Arthur Abraham (IBF) - Armenian

Carl Froch will likely take the vacant WBC super middleweight belt.

Vitaly Klitshcko will likely KO Sam Peter for the WBC heavyweight belt.

Tomasz Adamek will likley defeat Steve Cunningham for the IBF cruiserweight belt.

Enzo Maccarenelli will likley defeat Jonathan Banks for the WBO cruiserweight belt.

That will add up to 18 of the 20 belts from 160 to heavyweight around white waists at the end of 2008.

I'd say that's pretty dominant.

Oh, and don't forget that there are some very good white fighters at the lighter weights as well (Hatton, Malinaggi, Katsidis, Arthur, Kotelnik ...etc).

As for who is and isn't white, here is the rule: Looks white is white.

Anonymous said...

sturm is white(bosnian) and david haye is a mulato(not black).

most of the blacks still at the elite levels of boxing are towards the end of their careers. boxing is going to get whiter in the coming years. also there is huge surge in young men in eastern europe training in boxing that has not hit the professional ranks yet.

it might take the average self hating idiot white american another 10 years to realize that boxing is no longer a black dominated sport.

Anonymous said...

anonymous #1 here, thanks for the boxing info, though I still have a hard time digesting it. I believe my own eyes above all else.

To answer Steve's question, given the hyper hostility blacks today have toward whites - Jena 6 are being praised as heros, folks - I think a young white man entering high school, who is tall and athletic, has good reason to think twice about whether he wants to spend the next eight years hanging out with black guys, even if there is the promise of a scholarship. That, and the "white cornerback" phenomenon, where major colleges are in some instances averse to recruiting whites.

A treat: Sweet Pea Whitaker and The Art of Defensive Boxing

LSD on LDS said...

I don't think Mark Coleman is black. He does have a lot of testosterone though.

BTW ... the best fighter in MMA is a white guy from Russia. He's basically unbeatable.

Hey steve, what are you thoughts on weightlifting. That is a sport NOT even close to being dominated by blacks but requires a lot of explosiveness. Too much technique? Not cool enough? Too much discipline required?

sisyphus said...

I think one of the main factors in a lack of white basketball stars from the US versus Europe is that whites in the US are discouraged during childhood from believing they can compete with blacks.

About eight months ago I saw a 12-13 year olds' basketball game between an all-black team and a white team with maybe one (small) black kid and an Asian. The black team was very obviously phyically dominant, and I assumed that the whites would get killed. I was kind of scared for them.

Didn't turn out that way at all. The white kids were (much) better coached, knew how to pass and run plays and could shoot fairly well. The black kids were better at rebounding and fast breaking, typical individual playmaking, etc., but once they got behind they were rattled and couldn't really do much.

The white team also had a much better fitness level and it turned into a complete rout by the 4th quarter. All in all, a nice case study that I found very instructive, and a (positive, to my point of view) counterexample to your very valid point.

Truth said...

"A treat: Sweet Pea Whitaker and The Art of Defensive Boxing."

It was a treat alright, a treat for RamireZ. All 15 rounds were exactly like that and Ramirez won the decision. Probably the worst decision in boxing history.

Zylo said...

"Hey steve, what are you thoughts on weightlifting. That is a sport NOT even close to being dominated by blacks but requires a lot of explosiveness. Too much technique? Not cool enough? Too much discipline required?"

I believe that blacks do not dominate weight lifting by choice. In my experience, blacks athletes are stronger than white athletes and possess a greater facility for strength gain. While there are more white than black powerlifters, I believe this is driven by cultural reasons and limited options (whites not having the same degree of mobility so reduced opportunities in football).

As for commitment to training, I believe there are millions upon millions of black men and women with the required committment to succeed in weight lifting. Bodybuilding is dominated by black men and it requires a massive degree of training and commitment.

Anonymous said...

Isd on Ids said:
"Hey steve, what are you thoughts on weightlifting. That is a sport NOT even close to being dominated by blacks but requires a lot of explosiveness. Too much technique? Not cool enough? Too much discipline required?"

Not, Steve, but I'll try to field this one. First of all, there's not much money in Olympic weightlifting. I remember watching a world championship back in the late 90s and they said that if one is the best in their weight class, they can make about $30 to $35k a year. This is not very appealing to your average African American compared to sports that are popular here, but is not a bad living in most E. European countries. There's more money in powerlifting, but not much compared to popular American sports. Emmit Smith, for example, was a great weightlifter and probably could have gone to the Olympics, but I think he made the right career move by being a running back instead. I think there is clearly a social aspect to the lack of blacks in weightlifting.

As to the physiological aspects, yes blacks tend to have more muscle around their hips and thighs and more fast twitch fibers, which would help in weightlifting, but they also have long limbs, which is a great disadvantage. Longer limbs allow for longer acceleration paths and greater velocities at the end of the lever, which are great for running, jumping, and throwing, but also produce more torque, which means they have to exert force to move the same amount of weight. Blacks' also have disadvantageous limb segment proportions for weightlifting. They tend to have elongaged distal segments (i.e., forearms) and when they clean a weight, their forearms are often too long for the bar to comfortably rest on their chest. This means that they have to readjust their grip after their first part of the clean and jerk movement. Notice how this was a problem for the Nigerian woman in this Olympic's Women's superheavyweight final. This was also a problem for the former U.S. top heavyweight, African American Mark Henry.
-Philly Guy

Anonymous said...

Sisyphus said:
"All in all, a nice case study that I found very instructive, and a (positive, to my point of view) counterexample to your very valid point."

Not really. It just demonstrates that white teams can prevail through better coaching, training and fundamentals. Blacks, even when they have large physical advantages, usually don't do too well without good (usually white) coaching and instruction to focus that raw physical talent.

Your story reminds me of one of my father's experiences. In the 1960s, he was, at 5'9" and 195 lbs., a starting lineman for a Philadelphia area Suburban I champion football team, that was virtually all white. Every year they would play, and decisively beat, another local team that was nearly all black. The linemen on my father's team were generally in the 190 to 210 lb. range and the black team were all 230+ (remember, this is back in the 60s). At the other positions, the blacks also had a good 15 or 20 lb. weight advantage and much more team speed. However, they would always lose because they had no one who could kick and they did not execute plays well, constantly missing their assignments. That said, my father said that their physical size and speed was very hard to deal with and that after the game, even though his team had won by over 20 points, they felt like they had the crap kicked out of them by the larger, more athletic black opponents. He opined that if the black team had had decent coaching and had made ONLY 2 or 3 times as many mistakes, they would have routed his team.

When I was talking about white kids getting discourage, I was speaking more in the vein of their being physically pushed around and overwhelmed by more mature black children, not that black youth teams don't often perform because of incompentent (often black) coaching. Look at 6'9" Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Phillip Dalhausser. He said he gave up basketball in high school because of the physical contact.
-Philly Guy

Peter said...

While there are more white than black powerlifters, I believe this is driven by cultural reasons and limited options (whites not having the same degree of mobility so reduced opportunities in football).

Keep in mind that both Olympic-style weightlifting and powerlifting have weight classes, and it's only in the highest weight classes where competition from the NFL is a realistic consideration.

In powerlifting, at least, many competitors don't get started until comparatively advanced ages, 25 or 30 or even older. That's of course long after the NFL might be an option.

Peter said...

the "are they white?" gang (none of them are part black though):
200 arslan WBA
175 garay WBA
160 sturm WBA
160 abraham IBF


Your mention of Arslan makes me think about the ways racial identity differs from country to country. As a Turk, Arslan might be considered white in America. He lives in Germany, however, where Turks are an unpopular group and almost certainly are considered nonwhite. So if we, in America, are deciding whether he is white or not, do we use our standard (white) or his home country's standard (nonwhite)? An opposite situation would occur, for example, with a person who lives outside the United States and is one-sixteenth black. In America, he is black, in every other country in the world, he is white. Which standard do we use?

Anonymous said...

You guys are dreaming if you think white guys dominate MMA for any reason other than it's a fringe sport only recently coming into its own, and that it isn't very common for black kids to do wrestling/judo/sambo from an early age.

If MMA ever gets big you'll see the same thing happening as happened in football and basketball. Just imagine more where Kevin Jackson, Kevin Randelman, Rampage, etc. came from.

Anonymous said...

Peter said:
"Your mention of Arslan makes me think about the ways racial identity differs from country to country. As a Turk, Arslan might be considered white in America. He lives in Germany, however, where Turks are an unpopular group and almost certainly are considered nonwhite. So if we, in America, are deciding whether he is white or not, do we use our standard (white) or his home country's standard (nonwhite)?"

As an American who has lived several years in Germany, I can tell you that if you asked a German whether Turks were white/Caucasian (d.h. gehoeren die Tuerken zu der weissen Grossrasse?), the answer would be a resounding JA! Seriously, if you're going to count Greeks as white, Turks are too. Many of them have mixed or even blue eyes and brown hair is not uncommon. I have known more than one Turk who had blond hair and blue eyes (admittedly, this is uncommon). Now, less politically correct Germans might call Turks "Kanacke," which is a pejorative for extra-European Caucasiods (and sometimes jokingly applied to the French too!). The actual origin of the word is, unrelatedly enough, from the Polynesian word for person.

Turks may be none to popular in Germany (but hey, the Irish and Italians were not that popular with NW European Protestants in the US once upon a time), but the dividing social identity between Turks and Germans is not white/non-white, but Muslim/non-Muslim (you can hardly call the Germans Christian anymore) or Deutsch/Auslander (foreigner).

Anonymous said...

"You guys are dreaming if you think white guys dominate MMA for any reason other than it's a fringe sport only recently coming into its own, and that it isn't very common for black kids to do wrestling/judo/sambo from an early age."

But white dominance of MMA is getting more pronounced, not less. There are numerous black MMA fighters and some (Rampage, Silva) are among the best. Some (like Kongo) are so-so. Many get submitted or KO'd by superior white and Asian fighters.

Remember, wrestling and BJJ are the foundations of MMA. Whites have always dominated these sports. And it is easier for white kids to get involved in these sports as opposed to say, boxing. Almost all the boxing gyms in the U.S. are in innner cities. So that has kept white Americans out of the game for a long time. Though, as noted, white Europeans dominate boxing.

LDS on LSD said...

I'd be very surprised to see blacks dominate MMA. There are no top level black heavyweights today. I admit that Silva and Jackson are very good fighters -- and I enjoy watching both. But there is a high level of technique in the sport that is more important than just raw athleticism. Brock Lesnar is a great example, he will destroy most people he faces but I believe he is still going to have a lot of problems with a high level submission player. It's like baseball in the sense that it is more technical or skillful than basketball or football.

Anonymous said...

As to the physiological aspects, yes blacks tend to have more muscle around their hips and thighs and more fast twitch fibers, which would help in weightlifting, but they also have long limbs, which is a great disadvantage.

Interestingly, the US team this year included a black man named Kendrick Farris who, at approximately 187 pounds, totalled 798 pounds overhead in the two lifts. He has a weightlifter's characteristically low, thick waist and heavy legs, and is obviously way undersized for the position his body type would play in football.

(Steve-o, this thread is going a long way toward balancing all the girly running posts with some talk about a real man's sport. You're welcome.)

--Senor Doug