I started watching basketball as a child. As a 12-year-old girl growing up in suburban Arizona, I remember all too well the heated 1993 championship series the Phoenix Suns played against the Chicago Bulls, and the heartbreak I felt as Jon Paxson's 3-point shot led the Bulls to their first three-peat of the '90s. As a college student at the University of Arizona, I fell in love with the Arizona Wildcats and March Madness along with my classmates. The start of each new season still makes me giddy: now living in the Bay Area, watching the rise of the Golden State Warriors is probably my favorite pastime. It's hard not to become swept up in the pace of the game -- particularly the NBA, with all of the cult of personality and showboating and decadence it fosters.
And over these many years of enjoying games with friends and family, I recall one observation being regularly thrown around: the NBA is an "escape" for young black children from poor backgrounds.
Sometimes, this is true. Allen Iverson, who played in the NBA for 15 years (Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers) has a story of triumph over economic odds. Bleacher Report wrote in 2008 that, when he was a child, "Iverson's house would sometimes be engulfed in sewage after the sewage line blew under his house. His mother couldn't always work and the family would go without water, heating and lighting for days. When asked what he wanted to do after he left school, Iverson often referred to 'the Plan.' The plan was to make it through high school, go to college and earn a place in the NBA. He stuck to the plan and become one of the best basketball players ever."
But research published in the New York Times recently reveals that Iverson's story is not common at all. In fact, poor children have less of a shot of making it into the NBA -- and many professional sports -- than their wealthier competitors.
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