How Twitter Made the NBA the Most Relatable League

Professional athletes love social media. They take to the different platforms to interact with each other, their fans, their haters, teammates and everything in between. Since my rekindled relationship with Twitter last summer I did notice however, that the Twitter for the Big Four sports leagues in the United States is vastly different. The MLB is extremely strict with what content is put out on Twitter, the NFL tends to be very professional and well kept, NHL is quieter but the fans are ruthless, and the NBA has by far the most interaction. Fans who follow stars of the NBA can feel like they almost know the players personally. We can tune into the beefs, the free agencies, the highlights, and the trolling. I believe that due to the NBA Twitter, and its laissez-faire approach, it has helped the league grow not only within the United States, but internationally as well.

 

Free Agency

When a big-time player is up for free agency, fans and players take to Twitter to encourage the free agent to come play for their city/team. Most sports media outlets tend to love the Twitter emoji wars when a big name starts to visit new cities to see where he wants to take his talents the next year. This past summer was a fantastic example and very relatable to the Boston area when star small forward Gordon Hayward was up for free agency after finishing his contract with the Utah Jazz. When it was reported that Hayward would be visiting the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Utah Jazz (in that order), his teammate, center, Rudy Gobert started the emoji mayhem.

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This encouragement to stay with the jazz by telling Gordon that Miami is trash and that the Celts were poop got other players to start getting involved to coax the brilliant athlete to bolster their lineup. Isiah Thomas, the then Celtics beloved point guard, and Miami Heat breakout center Hassan Whiteside jumped in to tell Gordon they wanted him.

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These “cryptic” tweets by the players to interact with each other gives fans that feeling of involvement. It gets any NBA fan excited to see if this encouragement will turn to beef and carry into the season and how the players will treat each other on the court. Although the interactions between players is great, the fans go over the top to try to sway the free agents to come to their beloved city. For example, with LeBron James’ free agency coming up this summer, fans have bought billboards to encourage the self proclaimed “King” to sign with their team and hopefully win a ring. Although these are real billboards, once they are put on Twitter, all sports outlets catch wind of it and discuss the matter immediately.

Beef

If you’re an NBA fan, it isn’t news that Kevin Durant is bad at social media. When he signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, Twitter exploded. “He abandoned OKC”, “He couldn’t win a championship by himself, he’s not that great”, “Welcome Kevin!” were all among the various responses. This obviously created tensions between Durant and old teammate Russell Westbrook. With Russ and the Thunder down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, Twitter has questioned how good Russell Westbrook really is. One comment on Instagram about Russ’s talents was liked by Kevin Durant (he is so bad at social media it blows my mind).

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It’s crazy to think that these multimillion dollar athletes are liking Instagram comments and then getting torn apart on Twitter for it. Finally, once again with Kevin Durant, earlier this season was caught using a “burner account” to interact with fans by essentially telling them to shut up when putting down his talents. He accidentally used his main account to reply to a fan and was caught in the act due to the use of third person.

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At the time, this only intensified the bitter ending between him and the OKC franchise. These interactions show that fans can literally reach out to the players and get responses, only furthering the argument that the NBA Twitter makes the league that much more interesting and fun to watch/interact with.

Fun

Now enough about the beef and free agencies. Let’s get to the real reason that fans love NBA Twitter. The fun trolling and interactions that players have with each other on the platform. The best example of this is the young and extremely active social media stars of the Los Angeles Lakers. The young stars troll each other constantly, and show fans that they are normal people just like the rest of us. One of the most recent tweets from Lonzo Ball waking up his girlfriend at 3:14 AM to let her and Twitter know that he won his first game of Fortnite.

Lonzo’s teammate Josh Hart trolled him soon after claiming to be a proud father after Lonzo finally won his first game.

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He then claimed to be the king of Fortnite and was then trolled by his other teammate who is notorious for his relentless teasing on Twitter, Kyle Kuzma.

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And then finally, Kuz’s teasing of Hart again when Hart took to Twitter to ask for zero communication because he was listening to the new J Cole album and didn’t want to be distracted.

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This playful back and forth between teammates makes the Lakers a lovable team that fans want to watch and get to know personally. It creates a family image of the organization full of teasing about age, style, music choice and anything under the sun.

 

**Full disclosure, I meant to post this blog yesterday but super happy I didn’t because of this next part**

Meek Mill

For those who pay attention to the sports/music world, Meek Mill, infamous Philadelphia rapper has been talked about a lot with the #FreeMeek movement. He was the artist that the Philadelphia Eagles ran out to for the Super Bowl. Even Robert Kraft recently came out and said he’s a huge fan of the rapper and hope he gets freed. Well, today, Meek Mill will be leaving prison. You’d think that his friends and family are going to pick him up right? Nope. The co-owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and Kevin Hart are going to pick him up. NBA Twitter has been a part of #FreeMeek for a while now, and it is highly anticipated that he will be attending tonight’s playoff game against the Miami Heat.

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Personally, I can’t wait to see how the crowd and the rest of Twitter reacts to the news of the now freed rapper.

Popularity

As I mentioned before, I think that the NBA Twitter is the best league/fans for the platform. With interactions amongst reporters, players, fans, front office and everything in between, the league has gained a significant following. Unlike other leagues, the NBA allows anyone to post highlights of games without any repercussions. It is said that the NBA has taken over as America’s most popular sport. It seems to be the future sport for young fans due to the face paced tempo, high scoring, and little contact/injury sport. Twitter has made the NBA the most relatable league, embrace debate. Let me know what you think in the comments!

-MC

9 comments

  1. NeroC1337 · ·

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the fun experience I have on Twitter. Thanks to this class, and another class I am taking right now, which “forced” me to be more active on Twitter. I also feel public figures are more authentic, more real and closer to everyone else on Twitter, in comparison to their presence on many other social media. When I look at their tweets, I don’t immediately think they are famous people, but everyday people like us. I don’t whether it is the culture that users have built on Twitter, or because of many functions and features that Twitter has, and other social media platforms do not. Cuz I think Twitter is getting it better than any other social platforms right now, in terms of the level of interactions. (Maybe just because I have been indulging in Twitter this semester for the sake of this class)

  2. RayCaglianone · ·

    I’m glad you included a Kevin Durant section, I still think that whole burner account story is one of the most ridiculous sports stories of the last couple years. I’ve always wondered how much teams give guidance to the their players about what to post on Twitter. If there isn’t already, I think it would be a good idea to have a social media orientation for NBA rookies, kind of similar to what @1bobbystroup was saying in his presentation on social media and the military. The twitter horror stories are plenty, and you can only say you got “hacked” so many times before people start rolling their eyes (looking at you, KD). On a more positive note, as a big NBA fan I definitely feel that social media is a huge part of the fun, making superstars seem downright relatable and allowing the perfect space for jokes. With the playoffs in full swing, I’m looking forward to what NBA Twitter cooks up next.

  3. thebobbystroup · ·

    I think it’s awesome that they allow anyone to post highlights. That goes a long way in getting free social media exposure. Furthermore, basketball is probably the sport most likely to have crazy highlights: the amount of shots and turnovers made are so high compared to touchdowns in football or runs in baseball.

    @raycaglianone makes a good point. Hopefully NBA players are receiving some sort of guidance about using discretion in their social media accounts. I’m sure part of the fun (for the bystanders) is that there is not much of a filter process, but it could lead to some pretty damaging statements (and potentially lead to legal consequences in the case of libel) if there aren’t any boundaries set.

  4. Keenan Neff · ·

    Really enjoy this post. Being a Philadelphia fan, I think that there is no question that Joel Embiid is one of the most entertaining people on social media. He is always taking shots at other players after a big win, and any NBA fan remembers when he first got into the league and tried to throw a Hail Mary at Rihanna. As a fan, I think that the way that the NBA allows its’ players to be free on social media is very entertaining. My dad was actually at the game last night in Philly. He also actually sat next to Meek Mill, the owner, and Kevin Hart. The way the crowd welcomed back Philly was unreal he said. Having a lot of the NBA players rally around Meek Mill and the #FreeMeek movement is what makes the NBA special. I hope that the NBA continues to allow its’ players to be able to voice their opinions, but if things get out of hand I would understand why the NBA would begin to put some restrictions on social media accounts.

  5. danmiller315 · ·

    I agree 100% with @raycaglianone on Durant. The idea that one of the best basketball player in the world having multiple Twitter accounts and personally takes time to respond to Twitter trolls to protect his personal brand is absolutely bananas.

    The main reason that I think the NBA has adapted to Twitter and social media as a whole so well is because of the presence of pop culture/celebrities in the league. Think about who you often see sitting courtside at NBA games: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kevin Hart, Justin Bieber, etc. Basketball has always been the hip and flashy sport (throwback to the Showtime Lakers in the 1980’s). It is almost as if the NBA and Twitter were a perfect marriage for each other. “Twitter beef” is the modern day equivalent to trash talking you friend after hitting a three pointer in his face on the blacktop after school. While other sports aren’t quite at the NBA’s level, I think that they are getting there in terms of letting their players have their own voice on social media. As long as they do so in a playful way that does not reflect their team in a poor light, I think that we will continue to see it grow in other sports.

  6. Nice post! I think NBA does better on SM because of the fewer number of people on each team and the “brand” each can build over time. It sort of becomes a nice WWE, getting the behind the scenes trash-talking.

  7. jjaeh0ng · ·

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading all these social media posts from athletes, particularly one with Gobert, IT, and Whiteside. It always fun to watch what these superstars comes up with on their social media accounts, as they arise issues and sometimes controversies. Following favorite players, fans are making indirect interactions with them through social media. In addition to actual games, players provide fans with off the court entertainments for fans in such ways, making the league as a whole more relatable (just like your title says so!).

  8. DingnanZhou · ·

    Great post! Social media has made great impact in our lives including athletes as well s athletic business. I’m a true believer on the statement, “words travels faster on twitter.” Doesn’t every fan want to see more daily posts from their favorite athletes? I remember when I watch a NBA game, there are promotions that encourages audience to make posts on twitter. Not only prizes are granted, more interactions are made as well. Social media platforms like twitter have made great contributions boosting sports business!

  9. realjakejordon · ·

    Taking it back a little with this post but really liked it and wanted to comment. I loved all the examples you threw in here. Though not one of the best players in the league, Kuzma is well known, and that’s because the NBA is doing everything the MLB isn’t! I’ve said this before, but it really frustrates me that baseball players don’t do this kind of stuff. They’re big personalities, arguably funnier than NBA players when it comes to shenanigans in the clubhouse, and we never hear about them. I wonder if the tradition of MLB teams prevents their players from being allowed to tweet. Something I’m going to look into… great post though, Mike.

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