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Black Men on the Blacktop: Basketball and the Politics of Race

A. Rafik Mohamed
Black Men on the Blacktop: Basketball and the Politics of Race
ISBN: 978-1-62637-666-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-678-6
ISBN: 978-1-62637-717-2
2017/189 pages/LC: 2017014172
"Demonstrates vividly how black men use their undesirable racial status to refashion urban sports spaces.... an insightful easy read that requires readers to critically think and engage with the everyday sociocultural operation and negotiation of race and racism from the perspective of black men."—Kenneth Sean Chaplin, Sociology of Sport Journal

"[An] exceptional analysis of the intersections of sport, racism, and everyday resistance in contemporary America.... rich and rewarding." —Douglas Hartmann, American Journal of Sociology

"In this fine exploration of the political, social, and cultural dynamics of pickup basketball, Mohamed blends his gifts as a scholar with keen observational skills and his passion and experience as a longtime pickup basketball player himself.... [A] compelling volume." —Choice

"A fascinating read.... Mohamed's Black Men on the Blacktop represents a critical contribution to the literature of sport sociology." —Bruce Lee Hazelwood, International Review for the Sociology of Sport

"An excellent study of the politics at play in everyday arenas."—Publishers Weekly

“A revealing and well-researched study about an important form of resistance to a white-dominant culture.” —Booklist

"This book is amazing.... an essential read. Mohamed brings the beauty, brilliance, power, and contradictions of street basketball into view, elucidating much that we can learn from ballers and the game they play."—David J. Leonard, University of California, Berkeley

"An intriguing, thoughtfully argued, and well-written work.... One of its key strengths is its ability to show us how the micro-world of pickup basketball is a refuge from, a response to, and a reflection of everyday life for many African American males."—Reuben A. May, Texas A&M University


What is it about basketball that makes it "the black man’s game"? And what about pickup basketball in particular: can it tell us something about the state of blackness in the United States?

Reflecting on these questions, Rafik Mohamed presents pickup games as a text of the political, social, and economic struggles of African American men. In the process, he tells a story about race in its peculiarly American context, and about how the politics of race—and resistance—are mediated through sports.


A. Rafik Mohamed is professor of sociology and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University San Bernardino. He is coauthor of Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class.


  • The Black Man's Game.
  • Sports and Basketball in Black American Culture.
  • Everyday Resistance and Black Man's Rules.
  • Playing It Cool, Pushing Back.
  • The Mandingo Syndrome.
  • Taking Soul to the Hole.