Is Fredette only Mormon in the NBA?

The long-delayed NBA pre-season starts Friday, much to the delight of the nation, and, of course, the Jimmer Fandom (Jimmermaniacs?). And as I reviewed the information I’ve clipped about Mormons in basketball, I faced a surprising conclusion: Jimmer is the only Mormon currently playing in the NBA. Could that be right? If it isn’t, I’d love to know. And if it is, perhaps that is a reason for Jimmer to be named Mormon of the Year?

If it is correct, then its kind of surprising. Ten years ago there were five Mormons playing in the NBA: Shawn Bradley, Travis Knight, Mark Madsen, Scot Pollard and Mark Pope. In contrast, other sports seem to have either a stable or an increasing number of Mormons. Baseball has had about 9 or 10 active players for the past decade, Football has had dozens of Mormons playing each year (34 this season) during that time and even relatively small and foreign sports, such as Rugby, have more active Mormon players than basketball does now! The only major sport that may have fewer Mormons playing professionally than basketball is soccer, as far as I can tell.

Why is this so? I suspect the answer lies in several facts. Perhaps most importantly, the size of basketball teams is relatively small—15 at most—compared with baseball (40 max) and football (75). [The total number of teams in the NBA, MLB and NFL is nearly identical. (The NFL has two more than the others)]. Meanwhile, Basketball has substantially increased in popularity compared to the others, making competition for the few spots on NBA teams hypercompetitive in comparison. And, perhaps most importantly, the traditional college teams for Mormon players (BYU, Utah, USU, etc.) simply haven’t recently produced NBA caliber players (at least not at the current standards until Jimmer) from what I can see. [I should note that I don’t really follow basketball, so other opinions on this point may be more valid. Please feel free to set me straight.]

Despite all of this, I should mention that there are other Mormons playing professional basketball — just not in the NBA. In my notes I’ve found three:

  • Chris Burgess—Currently with the Trefl basektball club of Sopot, Poland, Burgess has made an almost decade-long career hopping between various teams in leagues around the world.
  • Lee Cummard—Playing in Japan on the Kyoto Hammaryz after playing for the NBA Development League’s Utah Flash and a summer at Alba Berlin in 2010.
  • Jonathan Tavernari—A Brazilian, Tavernari joined the Brazilian National Team in 2009 after leaving BYU and landed a position on the Italian team Pallacanestro Biella.

There is also some reason to hope for future Mormon NBA players, given the hype surrounding some college and high school Mormons, such as:

  •  Brandon Davies—Back on BYU’s team after his highly publicized suspension earlier this year during the NCAA tournament, Davies is likely the most promising player on BYU’s team this year. But whether he is good enough to pass the NBA draft.
  • Graham Hatch—After leading the Witchita State Shockers to the NIT championship and being named Division 1-AAA scholar athlete last year, Hatch seems as likely as anyone to get picked up as a non-draft player in the NBA Development League.
  • Stilman White—While just a freshman at UNC, the hype around Stilman White is already near NBA levels. But given his plans to serve an LDS mission, White’s NBA potential is still years away.
  • Jabari Parker—If White’s potential is years away, then Parker’s potential is really a long way off, since he is still a junior in high school. But he is a much-talked-about junior who was recently awarded USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year.

So, if Jimmer is the only Mormon in the NBA, perhaps he won’t be alone too long. And given the popularity of basketball, its not hard to see how getting there is the kind of thing that could make him the Mormon of the Year.


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48 comments for “Is Fredette only Mormon in the NBA?

  1. USU standout Jaycee Carroll has had a good pro basketball career in Europe. This past summer he signed with Real Madrid Baloncesto. He usually plays in NBA summer leagues, but hasn’t made it to any NBA training camps.

  2. We probably want to deemphasize Shawn Bradley’s NBA career. I heard he’s on a fireside circuit. I can’t imagine why.

  3. Queno! Shame on you. Read this and repent.

    But yeah, I racked my brains and all I could think of was Rafael Araujo, who plays in his native Argentina now. So I think Kent is right that Jimmer is it.

  4. I’m shocked that DNA has not been suggested as a factor. While I hate to reinforce racial stereotypes, NBA => Men that can jump; White Men => “Can’t Jump”; LDS => mostly white men; LDS => mostly men that can’t jump; NBA = Mostly not LDS

    “Basketball has substantially increased in popularity compared to the others” <– I dispute this fact b/c I think the NFL has seen the biggest increase in comparison to other major sports. What are you comparing the NBA to? Major League Starcraft? Do we have any LDS professional video gamers?

  5. I’m kinda serious. Tell me one NBA city where he’s not considered a laughing stock. Shouldn’t we only tout Mormons who *succeed*?

    Yeah, I’ve read that link (I have it saved, actually). No matter what stats you toss up, you won’t get any NBA fan base to think he didn’t simply steal money…

  6. Queuno, you may be right on what the perception is of Shawn Bradley. The point remains, however, that in reality he was a much better contributor than most people realize.

  7. Lance Allred spent last year playing for the NBDL’s Idaho Stampede and now plays pro ball in New Zealand. He’s the only one I can think of that has even come within a sniff of the NBA until Fredette was drafted.

  8. Queuno (5) “Shouldn’t we only tout Mormons who *succeed*?”

    Who is “touting” Bradley? I gave a list of ALL Mormons, good or bad, who were playing in the NBA 10 years ago. There is no attempt to “tout” anyone, nor any attempt to select who has succeeded or failed.

    While I don’t really care much about how good a player is, I do think there are several ways you could look at this issue. One one hand, surely just making the NBA (or NFL or MLB or MLS or NHL or PGA, etc.) is a kind of success–at least enough to recognize those who did make it. On another hand, standards of achievement are important, and it is often great to have high standards. While I’m not very familiar with Bradley’s career, I have heard, as you suggest, that he wasn’t very good. I’m happy to concede the point. [BTW, the emphasis on height, sometimes at the expense of skill, is surely one of basketball’s greatest failings as a game, as Bradley’s case likely demonstrates.]

    BUT, I believe I made the criteria in the post very clear — I’m talking primarily about Mormons who have made the NBA and secondarily about Mormons who have/are playing professional basketball elsewhere (or college players who seem like possible prospects for the NBA). Given that criteria, it doesn’t much matter if they were good, bad or a rank embarrassment!

    But I suppose its nice to hear your opinion. [GRIN]

  9. I think you’re right, Kent, about Jimmer being it. I follow pro basketball and I can’t think of any others.

  10. Is ” Fredette only Mormon” in the NBA? Does that imply that he’s not Mormon when he’s out shopping, or doing his laundry, or going to church?

  11. Am I suppose to copy the math problem or solve it?

    Anyway, ceej@y actually has a bit of a point. White men average at a shorter height than Black men. Thus, it wouldn’t be hard to think that a Black guy can jump higher than a White guy making him better at basketball. And since the majority of LDS members in the US are white…

    But overall I’d like to believe the reason Fredette is the only NBA player has more to do with bad haircuts and wanting to be married (speaking of which does Fredette get any crap for not being married with kids already?) than race.

  12. ceej@y has it right. Actually, you don’t even need to bring DNA into it, if for some reason the idea that black people jump higher bothers you. For whatever reason, most NBA players are black, and most Mormons are not. Very telling that of the four up and coming Mormon players Kent mentions, two are black. Bit of a statistical overrepresentation, no?

  13. @3, Bryan H. – Araujo was never Mormon, thank God (for the slander of reputation he saved the rest of us). He abandoned his family and is currently HIDING in his native Brasil.

  14. While I’m not very familiar with Bradley’s career, I have heard, as you suggest, that he wasn’t very good.

    Bradley’s CAREER wasn’t good. That doesn’t mean Bradley wasn’t… as you pointed out, he was good enough to get into the NBA

  15. What’s with the irritating top bar? If you are counting votes, I positively despise it. It is a wart that should be excised at the earliest opportunity.

  16. Mark D. (18) that’s off topic, but since I’m sure others have the same complaint, it is part of the latest versions of Word Press (the software we use). You can turn it off by simply putting your cursor under the middle of the bar and clicking on the “hide” button that appears.

  17. Three points:

    A. Blacks are not taller than whites. Check out the CDC statistics. Or rather ride public transportation in a large urban center. Whatever trivial differences do not supersede the enormous overlap between the heights of individuals from either population. Blacks are an older more heterogeneous population with more intermixing from different races. A statistical curve for blacks of height versus number of individuals would be slightly flatter with thicker tails than a corresponding curve for whites. A few more blacks are taller and a few more are shorter. If you look at one tribe in Africa (Masai) they might be way taller but some small populations of whites in Europe (Lithuania) are also taller. Immigration patterns into the US could account for many differences. Since performance in the NBA requires a set of unusual genetic traits including height, quickness, strength, jumping ability, coordination, endurance, etc., a population with more variation is going to be over represented.

    The problem with this prejudicial thinking is that every black kid in lily white places like Utah is going to receive extra scrutiny from the basketball coach, even if he isn’t any better. This belief sets him up, for failure. Don’t do it.

    B. Shawn Bradley gave up a promising career in the dairy barn for basketball. You call a $40 million signing contract a failure? He played for 12 years in the NBA and that reflects the belief of owners/coaches that he was worth something. He was the victim of false expectations. Our false expections; that is what everyone laughs at. He obviously had the height, but equally obviously not the strength to dominate in the NBA. He should get credit for doing his best with what he had.

    He made strategic errors in his development. Taking two years off for the mission didn’t help his career and playing for dumbass coaches at BYU was a huge mistake. Not playing in college longer an even bigger one. I would have recommended he go to college for 4 years somewhere like Kentucky, Duke, Yukon, etc., where he would have gotten better coaching and been able to play daily against teammates more like he was going to see in the NBA. Time will tell if Jimmer makes it for 12 years in the NBA.

    As far as the fireside circuit, Bradley is competing with my relative Rod and his lessons on geography, along with a host of other characters. Not to mention the usual local snoozers. I can’t see how Bradley is doing any more or less damage. It is all merely background noise for the main fireside event, which is meeting and flirting with girls.

    C. Why does every building owned by the church of Correlated-Day Saints have a basketball court? My ward is down to zero active Aaronic Priesthood, the other ward in the building has about 3 or 4 and all but one of them do not want to play basketball. Old men are the only ones who will show up to church 2 hours early on Sunday morning to break their arthritic backs stacking and unstacking the blasted chairs in the gym. The Elders, mostly too busy to home teach, leave wives and small children home to play late night basketball from time to time. But their lower extremity injuries on our carpeted floor probably make the payments on 2 or maybe 3 Mercedes automobiles owned by local gentile (probably Jewish) doctors.

    The spiritual damage from the inevitable conflict is even greater. Do you have any idea what it is like for a competitive basketball player (like I was) to lose 30 inches on your vertical jump, 50% of your endurance, 75% of your speed, and 90% of your shooting accuracy? To be spanked and humiliated by some young fat Utard sheep herder fresh off a mission? A sure formula for frustration and conflict.

    Soccer is becoming the international sport. Already half of the church lives in countries where soccer rules and American kids are adopting it as the sport of choice. Children of new immigrants are a favorite missionary target and they love soccer. It can be played by a wider age span and is conducive to both sexes participating. Even those over 60 could play if they were to be allowed to use their hands. The biggest problem with soccer for me is that the scoring is so low that it is too boring. As a know-nothing soccer coach of 10-11 year old girls at the local Methodist church a few years ago, I made some adjustments to the game. The goal became about 50 feet wide, with the addition of 2 goalies. Two balls were put into play simultaneously on the field during practice games. This turned lethargic big kid soccer into an extremely fascinating and cerebral game. I think something on the church front lawn like soccer on steroids would be far better than basketball, the sport I loved most as a youth.

  18. There may be some in the NBA who just don’t realize they are Mormon. You never know. To answer this question definitively would require a Join Query between the member records table and the NBA roster.

  19. I remember a friend from Connecticut telling me that he’d got his undergraduate degree from Yukon and I was surprised, since I didn’t know that he had any Canadian connections and had no idea that there was even a university up there that was worth going to. But then the light came on.

    But they’ve got a helluva curling team.

  20. I wonder if there is something going on with genetics. Let’s imagine that the pool of possible Mormon players in the NBA is dominated by the descendants of Mormon immigrants in the 19th century. Ideally a population that produces lots of good athletes would have fat genetic tails, as elite athletes are at least in part genetic weirdoes. I wonder if there might be some story that you can tell about the relatively lack of genetic diversity among pioneer stock Mormons, such that you get a high bell curve with thin, short tails. Of course, you would still need to explain why there is a disparity between the NBA and the NFL. One answer, however, is that basketball allows for less specialization than football, so to get a really good player they need to be a genetic weirdo on multiple axes.

  21. WillF (22), given that access to that data isn’t available, asking like this, in a public forum, is the best way I know to find the information. Often inactive members have family and friends who know their history and are willing to “out” them.

    I’ve also learned of others when they mention their Mormon background to journalists.

    Its never perfect, but I think I eventually get most players.

  22. The best possible outcome would be zero Mormons in the NBA and a secular attitude shift away from having every LDS male over the age of 20 playing like “I coulda bin a contenda” every time they step on the church basketball court.

  23. Adam, don’t be snobbish. I suspect you would often agree with the Daily News, despite their preference for pithy, punny headlines in which they often drop articles to save space.

  24. Perhaps I’m snobbish, but I read it the same way Mark B. did and assumed it must have been an error on your part. My question about stylistic choice was meant to gently direct your attention to your typo.

    So if I’m snobbish, at least it comes to me naturally.

  25. Adam, I’d already had my attention directed to it several times.

    I was trying to be concise, and thought I could drop the article in this case, as I’ve seen newspapers do, and didn’t realize it had that much of an effect on the meaning. Yes its an error — in trying to make a stylistic choice. [Kind of like using the term nekulturny is snobbish.]

  26. …but we do have pros elsewhere:
    JC Carrol, Madrid
    Lee Cummard, Japan
    Casey Jacobsen, Germany
    Trent Plaisted, Ukraine
    Adrian Sturt, Austrailia

    …and please don’t forget the ladies:
    Ambrosia Anderson, Maccabi Ashdod
    Kristen Rasmussen, Romainia
    Erin Thorn, France
    Morgan Warburton, Spain

    ken at

  27. “Blacks are not taller than whites. Check out the CDC statistics. […] Blacks are an older more heterogeneous population with more intermixing from different races. A statistical curve for blacks of height versus number of individuals would be slightly flatter with thicker tails than a corresponding curve for whites. […] Since performance in the NBA requires a set of unusual genetic traits including height, quickness, strength, jumping ability, coordination, endurance, etc., a population with more variation is going to be over represented.

    The problem with this prejudicial thinking is that every black kid in lily white places like Utah is going to receive extra scrutiny from the basketball coach, even if he isn’t any better.”

    You are correct about higher variance in various metrics among blacks, but your alleged “problem” doesn’t follow. A short, slow black kid is not going to get extra attention from a coach because the coach is under the mistaken impression that blacks are taller on average. A tall, fast black kid is going to get more attention because he’s tall and fast, and if there’s more variance among blacks in height and speed, then there are going to be more tall, athletic black males than the “average” would predict.

    Looking at the NBA or pretty much any level of basketball, it’s hard to argue that very many blacks have suffered due to outsized expectations from coaches who overestimated their ability based on skin color.

  28. Kent, the problem with dropping the article is that your title is now an insult to J. Fredette. As written, the title suggests that Jimmer is only a Mormon on the basketball court, but not in other areas of his life. Kind of like a Sunday-only Mormon, but in reverse. I don’t know exactly how he’d manage that – chugging beers at home, but handing out pass-along cards during games? – but it’s still an unseemly thing to suggest about someone. Maybe climb off your high horse and fix the title? Please?

  29. Kent, I’ll concede the point that you’ve listed legitimate NBA players. But at some point, the discussion needs to get into quality of play. Do we really want to celebrate guys who did something notable in college (in Bradley’s case, um, breathe) and got an NBA team to sign them. Surely the goal here is to celebrate accomplishment.

    Bradley’s problem, at least in Dallas, was a notorious lack of work and training ethic and little interest in basketball beyond the contracts he signed, given to him by starry-eyed execs who wouldn’t see past the height.

    (Mark Cuban once said that there were only two people he thought who outright stole money from him with the Mavericks. One was Bradley.)

    Again, he meets your criteria, but I really think it’s overly broad.

  30. queuno (40), that’s your discussion, not mine. Since I don’t follow basketball, I’m really not interested in quality of play. Those of you who are interested in quality of play can go right ahead–on some other post or forum.

    You wrote: “Do we really want to celebrate guys who did something notable in college…”

    That is, I think, exactly where the issue is. WHO SAID WE WERE CELEBRATING ANYONE???

  31. Good point, Kent. But aren’t these lists as some sort of attempt at tribal celebration — “look at these Mormons, just like us!”

  32. Spencer Nelson (USU)Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain)

    Britton Johnsen (UofU) Argentina

    Gary Wilkinson (USU) New Zealand

    Chris Burgess (Duke, UofU) Poland

    Trent Whiting (BYU)Italy

    Jonathan Tavernari (BYU) Italy

    All of these guys have played all over the world.

  33. MC:

    You are right that most basketball coaches can tell height at a glance. But the really valuable perimeter that height only partially aproximates is how high can you fly. Or vertical jumping ability. This is a bit more subtle to evaluate. If a flat-footed 6’5″ guy has a 12 inch vertical jump deficient in comparison to the 6’2″ kangaroo being guarded, the team has a big problem, a 9 inch problem in this case. It would be similar to the discrepancy between 6’9″ and a 6’0″ players with equal spring in their legs. This kind of a 12 inch jumping discrepancy between typical teenage boys in a gym class would not be unusual at all.

    The problem isn’t when the coach puts the tall, high-flying, fast black kid (maybe on track for the NBA or at least college) on the team and he scores points and plays well. The more common problem is when the coach takes the average black kid who can’t jump or play any better than anyone else and puts him on the team in a key role, thinking he has a huge edge in jumping, quickness, and coordination and then wonders why the sheep herders beat them by 30 points.

    Performance in sports at a high school level has a huge psychological component. If the coach thinks a particular kid is good, for whatever reason, the rest of the team might agree and not really challenge him during practice. But you can bet the other team won’t fall for it in competition. False expectations hurts the black kid when the rest of the school blames him for the loss and it deprives the kid who might have been on the team if they went strictly on merit.

    In my limited experience this is a huge problem in regions of the US where black kids are uncommon. Some with better memories than mine can probably remember many examples of Utah colleges recruiting black basketball players with over-rated abilities and wondering why they didn’t perform as well as expected. I don’t want to mention any names. Usually the players got blamed and called lazy or stupid or whatever. Never the biased coaching/recruiting.

    Wowbagger: Agreed totally, that was me 20 years ago. Except I really could have been. I was a church ball legend in my own mind. Scored 40 points in some games. Age takes care of it. Just a matter of time before young sheep herders humiliate and whip you.

  34. Good start on other Mormons playing professional basketball but Spencer Nelson from USU has been playing in Europe, Gary Wilkinson has been playing in Korea and Europe and Tai Wesley has a contract to play in Holland next season.

  35. I laughed at your comment wowbagger(30). So true! There are non-myopic groups that have a good perspective (I encountered several while up in Beaverton OR for Christmas), but there are also way too many bball groups that play pickup church ball like that. And the new Jordans and used but still nice cars they probably still can’t afford are their own decision they are free to make. =)

  36. I am surprised that no one ever brought up Travis Hanson who was drafted early in the 2nd round and played two years for them before he got a very lucrative offer to play overseas and bounced around a little but eventually was asked to play on the Russian Natl. team for the FIBA world championships two years ago. I know he did not play this year and have assumed that he retired. Beyond the Mormon talk B.Y.U. in a school itself is starting to have someone drafted almost every 2 to 3 years. Considering that only 60 get drafted and probably 10 to 15 are foreign athletes that is pretty impressive. Bradley had a long carrer, he never was very good(but part of that was because he was the #2 pick and always got compared to the pick instead of contribution). In the last 8 or 9 years B.Y.U has had Hanson drafted early 2nd round and then once again a lottery pick for Araujo(bust), like Bradley(Bradley did play for over a decade though), middle of the 2nd round Plaisted and now Jimmer(mid lottery pick). Rough year for Jimmer(wrong team). I am not suprised though because he was basically asked not to play defense and with the lockout and only two weeks of practice that included only 2 preseason games and then two weeks into the season a new coach with a different view on Fredette. He is averaging 8 points a game with around 15 minutes or less of game time. SO that based on that his #’s are not bad(just not Naismith and Wooded award winner #’s) The previously drafted lottery picks from B.Y.U have been a bust but Jimmer will change that. I don’t see MVP but maybe sixth man of the year would be an award I could see him getting. He struggled way bad at the start of the season with his 3’s especially and he has now got that up to 39% which is preety good. People have also forgot to list Mark Madson or I missed it. He jumped around the league for a half a dozen of years. Notably with the lakers and Timberwolves. He also won an award on ESPN one year for best bench player to congratulate the players when a timeout was called. Always first one there and giving chestbumbs.

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