Wendell Maxey, your NBA writer over at HoopsWorld, conducted this interview with former Blazer Alaa Abdelnaby who is now putting his Duke degree to work as a radio analyst.
The Abdelnaby interview struck a chord as I was recently reading Against The World by Kerry Eggers and Dwight Jaynes (a must read for younger Blazers fans-- I suspect those in the 30+ crowd read this long ago) and I came across this strange passage regarding Abdelnaby and the current NBA Executive of the Year, Danny Ainge.
"We knew Danny was Mormon [Kevin Duckworth said]. I drilled Danny about everything I ddin't know, why there were no black Mormons and that kind of thing. When you're with all black guys, you don't learn aout other cultures. Danny was great. It was like Danny Ainge, the brother.
And during the Finals, when Spike Lee sent along some Malcolm X hats and t-shirts to the Blazers to help promote his new movie, the players made sure Ainge got one. "Danny was part of the team, too," Duck said.
"We called him token, in a light-hearted sense," said Abdelnaby. "I called him 'Ritz' for cracker and he called me 'Mandingo.' I've played with a lot of white people, and I don't know too many other people who could have handled it as well as Danny. That's probably the thing I most respect him for. There was never an inkling of anything from him of racism, of being uncomfortable... I don't think I could have handled it as well as Danny. We would talk black-white relationships. Part of the reason Danny and I got along so well is he was naive to what was going on as a black person. He never even saw the color."
Abdelnaby was of Egyptian heritage, but carried himself much like the team's blacks. "No question, he's more black than white," Ainge laughed. "I used to joke with him that I wasn't the only white guy on the team, that it was me and Alaa. He hated that."
Amazing that this passage is from -- Portland 1991. Even more amazing that Ainge has been able to succeed as a player, coach and executive given this perception of him.
Although the Blazers locker room shouldn't be confused with an ACLU meeting house, it is very, very, very hard to imagine this kind of conversation and that type of "nickname" (racial slur) being shared so openly with media members today.
Or am I the one who is being naive?
-- Ben (email@example.com)