It is intriguing to analyse where the NBA players were born. The answer was somehowobvious: large cities produce most of the league’s players.
Hence, we can say that a very large percentage of the players come from the cost line and a very few from the countryside (exception of Chicago).
Moreover,the strongest producers aren’t much of a surprise: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, with nods to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Detroit, New Orleans, the Bay Area and Seattle. Being the large populations of the country, its normal that generates more players per capita.
However, there are some areas that produces NBA players at a higher rate than expected historically.
With some surprise, Washington D.C. has an extraordinary record of producing NBA players. With 68 current and former players born in Washington, the District’s rate per million of current resident is around 125. This ranks 5 times the size of a normal district what could give as an explanation why Washington D. C. have this record.
Washington is only urban. Therefore, while other states have rural populations less likely to produce NBA players that in theory drag down their per-capita rates, D.C. does not.
There is another fact that could make us understand more, Washington is overwhelmingly black. The NBA is overwhelmingly black. This seems like the simplest explanation, and it’s backed up when you see what state follows D.C. on the list: Mississippi. D.C.’s population is 50 percent black.
As so, Mississippi leads the 50 states with a 37 percent black population. The U.S. Virgin Islands, which has produced three NBA players despite a tiny current population of 100,000 and follows Mississippi closely in per-capita NBA player production, is 76 percent black.
What stands out are Indiana and Kentucky. Those two states have reputations as basketball wonderlands but middle-of-the-pack black populations, meaning that culture plays a big role that influence the NBA´s landscape.
And in fact, that cultural argument reinforces the correlation between black populations and higher rates of NBA player production we see in D.C., Mississippi and the U.S. Virgin Islands: basketball is a game deeply embedded in certain diverse populations. It builds strongly local cultures, and that ultimately leads to success.
Some other relevant notes that can help us understand more:
– Vermont is the only U.S. state to never produce an NBA player. Neither Guam nor the Northern Mariana Islands have done so either.
– Alaska can only claim one NBA player, Mario Chalmers. Carlos Boozer was born in Germany and Trajan Langdon was born in California. Such is the limit of using birthplace data.
– In raw numbers, California (the most populous state) leads the way with 352. New York follows with 310.
– No, its strange how Montana has produced nine NBA players either. It has the smallest black population in the nation (4,000 black residents for 0.67 percent of the population as of the 2010 census) and no major basketball culture as far as anyone outside Montana can tell. (For the record, all nine of the NBA players born in Montana are white. Phil Jackson is the only one in the Hall of Fame.)