If you ever needed a case study on colorism, and its embrace by mainstream America, look no further than the differing views of Steph Curry vs. Lebron James. Both are exceptional players no doubt, but White America treats them very differently. Curry is the fair-haired (or more accurately fair-skinned) favorite child, while LeBron is villainized and unduly criticized.
America was quick to embrace Curry, awarding him two NBA MVP’s, despite the fact that LeBron has undoubtedly been the best player in the NBA – every year – for at least the last ten year. Indeed, Curry has never even been the best player on his own team in any of his NBA Finals appearances (hence two Finals MVPS for Kevin Durant and one for Andre Iguodala). It’s reminiscent of how the NBA reached to award White Steve Nash an MVP over Shaquille O’Neal in 2004-05, and again over LeBron James in 2005-06. Now Steve Nash was a baller, a very good player, but was never the player that Shaq or LeBron were. But America likes it’s heroes to look a certain way, and Steve Nash fit that model then just like Curry does now.
For further proof, look at how their on-court celebrations are received. LeBron pounds his chest, screams or otherwise celebrates and he gets knocked for being a diva, a braggart and a prima donna. Yet Curry does all of those things too – and is celebrated for it. In fact Curry has literally dove and slid on the floor superman style after a play and nary a word was said. Let LeBron have done that and White America would have killed him. I say White America, because among most of Black America the Curry vs. LeBron comparison is not even a debate.
And ask yourself why Steph and Ayesha are deemed the “first family” of basketball and celebrated so much more? Is it because of their long lasting relationship? No. Curry and Ayesha met in college while LeBron and Savannah were high school sweethearts and have known each other longer. Is it because they have a more loving marriage? No signs of that – you have not heard one peep about infidelity or mistreatment coming out of the James household and by all accounts he adores his wife. Is Steph a better father? No evidence of that as LeBron dotes on his children on and off the court – even seeking to get his baby girl some candy during a game. So what is the differentiator, why the disparate reception and treatment other than both Steph and Ayesha being “light” and both LeBron and Savannah being decidedly brown skinned? True question — what else is there?
LeBron took less than max money on two different teams. Curry took the full max as soon as he could – even though it meant other teammates would have to go. LeBron funded and opened a school in Akron for 400 kids. But Curry will get more shine on ESPN and otherwise for playing in semi-pro golf events (now playing in the “Ellie Mae Golf Classic” for the second straight year). Why is America so quick to embrace one, and villianize the other? How can that be? What is it based upon? It certainly isn’t based upon rational decision-making or any objective facts.
Now none of this is Curry’s fault. He did not ask for his skin color. His father Dell is lighter skinned – as is his mother (although, on that note, the skewing of our athletes and entertainers towards light skinned Black, Latino and White women is a whole ‘nother topic for a whole ‘nother day). I don’t blame Curry for having the benefits that come from being more familiar, more comfortable, more acceptable. But I do blame society and the construct that favors white over black, and its parallel of favoring “light over dark.”