Dante Cunningham noticed when he reported for work in Minnesota this fall that his new Timberwolves team is unlike any for which he has ever played.
"Day One, we were all in the elevator and I kind of looked up," he said about a crowded ride with many of his new teammates, "and I was just like, 'Where is everybody?' "
Everybody, in this case, being black teammates. Come opening night on Friday, Cunningham will be one of five black players on a 15-man Wolves team that has reversed the National Basketball Association's historical racial percentages with a roster that is the league's whitest since the Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s.
Raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at Villanova, Cunningham played his first four professional seasons for three different teams in a league where American-born black players constituted 78 percent of roster spots last season and have been at least 75 percent since 1991-92.
Twin Cities black leaders have noticed, suggesting the franchise strategically has rolled back the calendar by decades in a league that long has been at the forefront of diversity among America's professional sports leagues.
"How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?" asked Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul's African American leadership council. "I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance."
That strategy, Terrell and others in the black community believe, is to sell tickets to the Wolves' fan base, which is overwhelmingly white.
When everyone's healthy, the Wolves will start Love alongside Europeans Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and American Brandon Roy, a three-time former All-Star who in attempting a retirement comeback on degenerative knees is their only black starter.
Terrell calls it "scary" that the Wolves would assemble a roster almost 70 percent white in a sport so dominated by blacks. For Edwards, the numbers trouble him by the "historical view," what he calls a "nullification of diversity and a reversal of history."