Examining the ambiguous yet ubiquitous term

David LeonardBy David Leonard, professor and chair, Dept. of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies

In our era of analytics, statistics provide a new window into the game.

We have statistics for just about everything: player efficiency ratings, Expected Possession Value-Added, win shares, usage rates … but basketball IQ?

In a moment where numbers supposedly never lie and the beauty of the game can be boiled down to a formula, the emphasis on basketball IQ is of little surprise.

If only there was a test for basketball IQ….

To have a high basketball IQ is to play the game “the right way.” Those with a high basketball IQ are able to “see the court” as if they were Neo in The Matrix — able to outsmart their opponents and use their intelligence to elevate the play of their teammates. They understand a “good shot,” proper defensive positioning, and the “fundamentals” of the game.

The focus on intelligence dates to the 1960s. In the face of integration, questions about intelligence were enough to justify the continued exclusion of black athletes and their segregation into certain positions.The power and persistence of these racial narratives rests in America’s own racial history. Edwards asserted that in “sync with mainstream stereotypes and clichés,” the idea of basketball IQ “not only achieves currency but enduring legitimacy.”

Find out more

The Undefeated