Twitter – The NBA’s Courthouse

With the rise of social media, and Twitter specifically, professional athletes are getting caught; no longer can they brush off questionable plays as accidents. The most recent example of this happened the other night when the Oklahoma City Thunder played the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, in one of the newest and most heated rivalries in the NBA today. For those of you who aren’t too well versed in the NBA, I’ll take a moment to explain the situation.

The play in question happened in the third quarter of the game, in which the Warriors were already winning by a decent amount. Russell Westbrook (the best player on the Thunder and one of the best players in the league) went for a layup, and got hit in mid air. At the end of the play, Zaza Pachulia (the 7-foot center for the Warriors and a historically dirty player) fell directly on Westbrook’s leg. We have no way of knowing if the play was intended to hurt Westbrook or not, but it sure seems like it was. Pachulia was not hit on the play and did not trip over anyone from what we could tell from the replays. It looked like he looked down, spotted Westbrook on the ground, picked a spot to land, and fell.

Immediately, Twitter exploded. People all over the country watching the game were calling for him to be suspended for yet another dirty play intended to injure the star played on the opposing team. One Twitter user even put together a thread highlighting nine other plays or instances where Pachulia seemed to try to purposefully injure an opposing player. Paul George (teammate and fellow All-Star) said after the game, “I’m gonna take the Russ approach to this. Did you see it? You know Zaza, you know his history, and you know nobody pushed him. He aimed where he was going to fall. That’s Zaza making a Zaza play. He’s on the end of hurting a lot of guys.” Even Kyrie Irving (an All-Star on a different team and one of the best players in the league) was calling for the league to look into the play and make the right call on an intentionally dirty play. He was active on an Instagram post that showed what happened, saying, “The league has to take a look at this man, this s— is ridiculous!!”

In a season where a disproportionate amount of star players have had season ending injuries before even the midway point, the league needs to crack down when it can. Whereas most of the major injuries have been (unfortunately) non-contact injuries, there needs to be a system put into place to protect the health and safety of players from cheap plays and intentional injuries such as the play with Westbrook and Pachulia last night. The replay system has been continuously evolving and improving over the past years, and it is now time for league officials to crack down.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Golden State Warriors have been involved in a string of dirty plays by one player. During the 2016-2017 season, Warriors All-Star Draymond Green was seen to kick players on the other team seven (7) times. The first couple times, there were some people calling for discipline, while the vast majority was a bit more lenient because in almost all of the instances happened during a play with contact, where it would not be crazy to think that maybe the play was an accident. But by the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh times, people were beginning to catch on. Players began to take to Twitter to voice concerns over the actions of Green. Videos would circulate, zooming in and using slow motion features, and everyone on Twitter could see exactly what happened.

Twitter has become an evening ground for athletes in this situation, especially for NBA athletes because of the high level of involvement in Twitter that the NBA has. Green can argue that his kicks aren’t intentional. Pachulia can say, “No comment. That’s childish. Come on. I’m not responding to that.” But it all comes out in the wash when everyone sees every slow motion reply from every angle. There’s no hiding dirty play any more, thankfully. Twitter has become the courthouse of the NBA: the innumerable jurors are the users, the defendant is the player who committed the dirty play, the plaintiff is the player on the receiving end of the dirty play, the countless pieces of evidence are the replays, and the judge is the league office. The evidence has been supplied, and now it is up to the league office to make sure that this intentionally dirty play does not go unpunished.


  1. katherinekorol · ·

    I like the analogy used in your post because I think its really accurate. I feel like before Twitter, or any other social media for that matter, players could get away with more because the videos of certain plays weren’t posted everywhere. I’m sure that the officials could review tapes during the game, but after that the discussion is pretty much over. Now, players have the eyes of the whole world on them, rather than just the officials. Everyone has the opportunity to chime in and state their opinion on what happened. Should be interesting to see if the consensus of foul play is ever acted upon!

  2. It’s interesting how sports have had to change rules to accommodate for the rise of social media. This aspect especially has made positive and negative changes. In this case, the NBA might benefit from this kind of connection with their viewers. The question is whether or not they will take viewer’s opinions into consideration.
    I know the PGA has had multiple ruling calls from their viewers. Lexi Thompson incurred a four shot penalty due to a ruling that a viewer called in between rounds. These four strokes lead her to lose the tournament. Eventually, the PGA decided to decline all viewer’s call ins, due to the fact that not all players can constantly be shown on television for every move they make.
    In the point of view for the officials of the NBA, they could accept these opinions on Twitter, but they could also argue that not all plays can be seen from every angle. Not all actions are as apparent as this one. It will be really interesting to see how the NBA further deals with this rise in social media “rulings.”

  3. kennedy__bc · ·

    I was watching this game live with a few Golden State fans and even they yelled out in amazement with how blatant this attempt at injuring another player was. You are always going to have dirty players in the league and these types of events are inevitable, however I believe there needs to be a better in game system to review these plays. I don’t think it’s viable for the NBA and other organizations to use Twitter as a platform for decision making due to the fact that there could be a large amount of bias between users on the actual intent of the issue. If the NBA had better measures in place to review such plays during the game Twitter wouldn’t be needed at all. At this point it is up to the league to discuss the changes that need to made in order to help control this what seems to be growing epidemic of dirty players and plays.

  4. realjakejordon · ·

    Awesome courthouse analogy! I think the interesting thing about this whole situation is that it has pretty much forced players hands into adopting social media. If you’re not going to be there to defend yourself, no ones going to.

    I think this goes beyond dirty plays in the NBA, too. Look at all the issues with the “catch rule” over the past couple seasons in the NFL. I wasn’t even watching most of those games, and all of the sudden twitter gives me a 5 second clip and allows me to form an opinion. Everyone is connected all the time in the sports world, so league offices better get things right quickly, or they are certainly going to hear about it!

  5. danmiller315 · ·

    Social media has made watching sports a completely different experience over the past few years. I think that the NBA has been the leader of the charge, whether it be with the league being one of the first to authorize the use of in-game clips, or with the amount of players that use various platforms to engage with other players and fans.

    As fun as it has been for fans, it has become a burden for the players in a sense, where their every action and word gets scrutinized in real time by people they don’t even know. Some players handle it better than others, but as the years have gone on they have gotten exposed to it at the high school and collegiate level. Because of this, by the time they get to the professional ranks, they are not as overwhelmed by the magnitude of the attention that they receive on a given night.

    I thought the courthouse analogy was excellent. I would be interested to see how the league offices are using Twitter (if at all) to help gauge public opinion before handing down sanctions to players and teams. I think it would be naive to believe that in today’s climate the league offices don’t use it to simply affirm their convictions before they choose to make them public.

  6. HenryChenChen · ·

    I like your analogy, I watched that replay and it reminds me what Zaza did to kawhi leonard in last season’s playoffs. After many dirty plays that Zaza did on different All-star players, a lot people, including many NBA players made an judgment that he is an dirty player. I think twitter and other social media exposes some facts that we use to ignored, and many people now can make comment and spread those information over the internet.
    It also reminds me that a reporter whose name is Laura Ingraham tell lebron James to ” shut up and dribble” because Lebron made too much comment on politics. This thing went viral on internet and many people are on lebron’s side to support him through instagrams, interviews and twitter.

  7. Nice post. The NBA has definitely made better use of Twitter than the other major sports. Interesting to see this angle on it, however.

  8. RayCaglianone · ·

    Really interesting blog post to read as an NBA fan, Twitter has definitely made it easier to be the judge, jury, and executioner (so to speak) of an NBA player’s reputation! One thought I’ve had is how differently we’d look upon past players if we had the instant access and constant judgment of social media. For example, we look at Michael Jordan as a relentless competitor, and of course he was – it’s why he the greatest. But I do wonder if he had been under the microscope 24/7, with that competitive fire often turning to outright hostility, if he would have encountered the widespread hate that a current superstar like Lebron does. Or who knows, maybe Wilt Chamberlain had a knack for kicking like Draymond and we just don’t know! I definitely think that NBA players have cut down on dirty play, which makes examples like Zaza all the more dramatic for NBA fans and NBA Twitter.

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