Why basketball makes one writer love and hate Twitter.
I am a relative newbie to the world of Twitter. I’m still in my first year of existence on the social media site that allows for opinions, linked stories, personal anecdotes and the like.
Make no mistake, I’m a big fan and enjoy the daily rituals that have spawned off simply opening an account and following a few of my favorite writers/athletes/news outlets/comedians/etc. There are times that I am obsessively attached to my timeline and can’t wait for the next series of tweets to pop up, but other instances when I don’t even checked my account for most of a day. Big picture, it has changed how I gather information on the internet, and it seems especially effective for the sports media world.
Obviously, my timeline is a bit sports-heavy and for the most part, basketball-centric. From the athletes who play (both college and pro) to the writers who dissect the on-court performance to the coaches who “draw up the dance,” most of those that I personally follow have basketball at the center of their lives. (I even follow a few WNBA players; may I suggest Tulsa Shock’s young star, Liz Cambage: @ecambage?)
The individuals who are involved in the college game are good people; good kids and for the most part keep it positive about the unique and somewhat crooked world of college athletics. There are some student-athletes who are insightful and more than just “off to the gym. #riseandgrind.” (I.e. Mizzou’s Kim English: @englishscope24.)
The journalists are great within themselves as a community because many of these guys are lifers whose paths have crossed on several occasions. While the Dick Vitales (@DickieV) and Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) of the NCAA landscape are pretty great for what they can also produce outside of the game they cover and love, there are plenty of other great minds out there that I’m mainly privy to because of Twitter. (I’m a big fan of the younger CBS grouping of Gary Parrish: @GaryParrishCBS, Jeff Goodman: @GoodmanCBS and Jon Rothstein: @JonRothstein.)
And then there are the coaches. In a world, where many “leaders of young men” have decided against the Twitterverse and have even banned the use of the platform, there are those who embrace it. Colorado State’s boisterous and unpredictably awesome Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) is not only active with summertime baseball tweets, but he actually tweets at halftime of his own games. And it’s not just canned, coach-speak stuff that you would expect, Miles can be insightful, critical and downright humorous. He dropped this gem just last week with his team trailing Wyoming in Laramie by 13 at half. “Their good defense is better than our crappy offense.” This stuff is gold. Humanizing characters on television always improves the experience.
But, the NBA circles truly take the cake for praise, criticism and outright ludicrous blasphemy. The NBA seems to bring out the true fanatics and critics to the online community that is Twitter. Just last night, L.A. Clipper forward Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin) performed an impressive athletic feat when he launched and flushed a dunk on OKC big man Kendrick Perkins. And it ignited a Twitter-riot.
“Best dunk ever!”; “It wasn’t even a dunk!”; “Blake’s game is wack!”
These were some of the instant responses to the late-night highlight. It is interesting, exciting and extremely aggravating at the same time. I love it. I hate it. The lines between expert and straight up fan of the game get blurred by both the anonymous people who grace my timeline through “re-tweets” but also by the journalists, themselves. They are biased to the teams/players they cover or because of their original takes on the players themselves. I myself am very guilty of this as I am prone to make Draft predictions on talent coming out of the college game. (For example, my more-than-public opinions on players like Blake, Roy Hibbert, Earl Clark and OKC’s Russell Westbrook: @russwest44.)
But, the NBA culture has become so highlight/snap-shot driven that many people (both expert and fan alike) miss the boat entirely with their criticism. This ignorance is so transparent on Twitter, where an idea can manifest itself and exponentially grow within nanoseconds. This was largely the case during last year’s NBA Playoffs when a nation was suddenly forced to watch a team that many had never even seen, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Most, if not all, had seen the highlights of Kevin Durant (@kdTrey5) and Westbrook, scoring, dunking and leading an exciting young team into the postseason. But it was obvious that most had no idea that they were a 50-win team and headed for the Western Conference Finals, because Westbrook was a huge part of their scoring attack, both in his own creativity and shot-attempt output.
“Why does he keep shooting?”; “Pass the ball to KD!”; “Westbrook sucks”; “Trade Westbrick!”
Westbrook wasn’t shooting any more than normal, he wasn’t forcing the issue more than the regular season, but Twitter told me that he was hurting his team! It also helped spread the thought that he and KD couldn’t co-exist on the same court and that there was an actual rift between the two players! (As if two or three star players EVER have been BFFs.) Hell, this campaign even moved the world to start spreading a rumor that the franchise was actively shopping their star guard during the lockout.
That is until Westbrook’s team got off to the best start in the League and his franchise did what it had always planned to and “maxed” him out to the tune of roughly five years and $80 million. While I don’t blame Twitter itself for this (more the lazy NBA fan who doesn’t actually watch games) the uninformed thoughts spread like wildfire. The site was made for this type of stuff. Again, I am torn about the effect that Twitter brings to the game I love so much.
On a personal note, I must weigh-in on that Blake dunk. I think much of what Blake did last night was mind-blowing and will be a feat he will surely duplicate several times over his career. But I contest that his full-court dribble, spin-move to one-handed, cuffed bang over then-Knick Danilo Gallinari (@gallinari8888) is his best on-court dunk to date.
Hell, I even tweeted about it.