“Dante Cunningham noticed when he reported for work in Minnesota this fall that his new Timberwolves team is unlike any for which he has ever played. “Day One, we were all in the elevator and I kind of looked up,” he said about a crowded ride with many of his new teammates, “and I was just like, ‘Where is everybody?’ Everybody, in this case, being black teammates.
Come opening night on Friday, Cunningham will be one of five black players on a 15-man Wolves team that has reversed the National Basketball Association’s historical racial percentages with a roster that is the league’s whitest since the Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s.
“How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?” asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council. “I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.” That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves’ fan base, which is overwhelmingly white.
“Patently false,” said David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations. He and other Timberwolves executives instead call it a coincidence of circumstance and a purposeful plan to scour the globe for the best players they can possibly obtain. They will start the season with players from Russia, Montenegro, Spain and Puerto Rico, a total of five international players among a group that also includes five white American-born players. Included is injured All-Star Kevin Love, the game’s greatest American-born white player — a vanishing species in the league — since John Stockton starred for Utah in the 1990s.”