The Changing Role of Race in the NBA: a Draft Ordering Approach

Date of Original Version



Working Paper

Abstract or Description

Does the selection of players in the annual National Basketball Association Draft exhibit racial discrimination? We construct an original data set spanning the 1950-1999 regular seasons in order to answer this question. Utilizing an unexplored player valuation system, and a much longer horizon, we avoid many of the difficulties encountered by earlier researchers who typically focused on salary in this uncompetitive market. On average, teams select equally-performing black players slightly later in the draft ordering than their white colleagues. Black players consistently perform above the level non-parametrically predicted by their draft ranks. This effect is most noticeable in the 1950s, and 1960s. There is renewed growth in this unequal treatment in the 1990s, and possible explanations for this resurgence are offered.