Louis Amundson and Teammates Laugh at Stereotypes
There's an ongoing joke on the Suns between the white Amundson and several teammates, namely Jared Dudley and Jarron Collins, who are both black. It comes from when the athletic Amundson was hoping to get drafted in 2006, and the 6-foot-9 forward noticed he only was being compared to other white guys.
"There's always white guy comparisons,'' said Amundson, who ended up not getting picked out of UNLV but made the NBA as a free agent and is now in his fourth season. "Any white player, there's always going to be a white comparison. I think that's still the case.''
Amundson heard comparisons to David Lee and to Chris Andersen, which weren't all that bad since those are fellow athletic players. He got one to Keith Van Horn, which couldn't be considered an insult even though Amundson, who doesn't have much of an outside shot, isn't that similar to the former NBA sharpshooter who once was good enough to get a maximum contract.
But when Amundson heard a scout compare him to Cherokee Parks, that was a bit extreme. Parks was a lumbering big man in the NBA from 1995-2004, and played nothing like Amundson, who provides instant energy off Phoenix's bench.
"The running joke for Lou, when he was coming out, was that the only players people would compare him to were white players,'' Collins said. "It's kind of a funny running joke that he was compared to Cherokee Parks when he comes out even though he plays nothing like him.''
So, when sitting on the bench during games, Dudley and Collins make a point of comparing Amundson to white guys.
"They don't compare him to black guys even though he's very athletic,'' Dudley said. "It's always somebody like Cherokee Parks. So whenever we see somebody similar (or actually dissimilar) to Lou, we always give (Amundson) that nickname. Cherokee Parks is one (even if he is retired). Tyler Hansbrough of Indiana (also more lumbering than Amundson) is another. It's never a black player, though. ... I give him 'Birdman,'" in reference to Denver's Andersen, who's actually very athletic and a good comparison.
Next up for the Suns is the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, which begin Monday. So it soon will be seen if Dudley and Collins are calling Amundson "Luke Walton'' after the Lakers' white forward.
"It's observational humor, kind of like Seinfeld,'' said the not-exactly-athletic center Collins, who said he's never been compared to a white player. "(There's) great chemistry on this team. We can talk to each other about different subjects and have fun in it, and it's still in a way that's not insulting. It just makes for good chemistry and good fun.''
All of this fun was happening as Phoenix players last week wore "Los Suns'' jerseys as the team protested the new Arizona immigration law SB1070. Critics claim the law will encourage police to racially profile.
In the light of the Arizona law, which Amundson said he's against, he was asked if what's he's experienced could be considered a form of racial stereotyping on the court.
"Exactly, yeah,'' said Amundson, who in his second season with the Suns averaged 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.92 blocks in an average of 14.8 minutes. "There's always going to be stereotypes. It's part of life. I think as long as you're not making a big deal out of it, making laws with stereotyping, I think you're OK. You can joke around with it.''
When asked for some other white guys to which he has been compared, Amundson joked, "There's so few of them. It's hard to think of, and then especially athletic white guys is even less common.''
After he first came into the NBA, Amundson said he initially was "able to surprise some people with my leaping ability and stuff like that.'' But he now says his athletic skills have become well known around the league.
So, with all of this in mind, to which NBA player does Amundson compare himself?
"As far as style of play, maybe like a smaller Joakim Noah,'' Amundson said. "I would probably say Joakim would be a good comparison.''
The Chicago center is of French, Swedish and Cameroonian descent. So any stereotypical comparisons of Noah before he was drafted in 2007 were a bit hard to find.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson