Social Media and the NBA

by September 14, 2009

by Bryan Crawfordcarrot

I think we can all agree that the world we live in is small. I think we can also agree that the social media phenomenon has made it even smaller. Twitter, Facebook and uStream have managed to shrink the world 140 characters, one friend request and one lifecast at a time (What up Myles!).

Even more than the general public, celebs and professional athletes, have taken an extreme liking to the newest and trendiest way to communicate. They enjoy being able to directly connect with their fans and the freedom it gives them to speak their minds without censorship or filter from the media. The NBA’s athletes are no exception. But for some of its players, being unfiltered and uncensored has become very damaging personally and professionally.

Imagine for a second how dangerous it would be to smoke a cigarette without a filter. How many years would that shave off your life? Even the heaviest of smokers wouldn’t dream of doing something like that. Given some of the recent social media mishaps we’ve seen, how many guys have shaved years off their careers or worse still, millions from their bank accounts?

On the most extreme end of the negative side of the social networking spectrum we have Stephon Marbury. He has seemingly committed career suicide with his StarburyTV webisodes on uStream. We’ve all seen him cry uncontrollably for no apparent reason; eat Vaseline, smoke weed… Pretend to be a Chippendale and dance to Barbie Girl on his bed. It seems that any hopes of him possibly being added to another NBA roster have officially come to an end. It’s a shame considering he’s only 32 years old with a lot of basketball still left in him. It’s an even bigger shame that he doesn’t appear to care.

Those who know him best say that what we’ve seen on uStream is just Steph being Steph, but this is a classic example of when keeping it real goes terribly wrong. Watching him almost feels like an invasion of privacy, but it’s not the same as a peeping Tom peering through someone’s window. No, Steph’s invited the whole world in to see who he really is. Forget TMZ, this is TMI.

We all know what happened with Michael Beasley and his Twitter mishap, so no need to revisit that again; but what about JR Smith?

In June, he was on Eddy Curry’s live uStream feed called “The Eddy Curry Show” during a 4 a.m. traffic stop by police with JR duly noting that he hadn’t been drinking or smoking. Then, after completing his sentence last month for a traffic accident that killed his best friend two years ago, a writer at the Denver Post with way too much time on his hands became the “Tweet Police” and noticed that JR was removing the letter ‘C’ from words and replacing them with the letter ‘K’ in his tweets which led him to speculate that he was a making ‘kryptik’ messages associated with being a member of the Bloods street gang. Wow, really?

There are players in the L with gang affiliations, this I know for sure. But their backgrounds aren’t even remotely close to JR’s and they certainly don’t broadcast it on Twitter. I know as people grow up they change, but JR Smith went to HS at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey; a Catholic, all boys prep school. Go to their website and you’ll see this:

St. Benedict’s Preparatory School is a community of 555 young men and 53 faculty members. Members meet each morning at 8:00 for song, readings and prayer, for announcements and attendance reports, and to discuss common problems and opportunities. This Convocation is a daily reminder of the conviction that the happiness and success of each member is the responsibility of all.

I don’t know about you, but I read that and thought to myself, “Now that’s exactly the kind of place a Blood would come from.”

Also, does anybody besides me remember seeing JR being ribbed by Devin Harris five years ago about his parents living with him and hearing his admission to still getting whoopings when the two were on the bus during All-Star weekend their rookie years? Oh yeah, and let’s not forget those infamous SpongeBob slippers that he used to rock. So after all of that, you now expect me to believe that JR Smith, a multi-millionaire professional athlete, turned into a gangbanger after spending only 24 days in a county jail cell? Yeah, OK. And Kobe Bryant really is a rapist.

Lastly, we have Milwaukee Bucks rookie PG Brandon Jennings. He made some not-so-kind remarks about Ricky Rubio on his Twitter feed and took some heat for it. He also found out that expressing your true feelings over an internet feed isn’t exactly a good idea either. He went on rapper Joe Budden’s popular Joe Budden TV webcast and spoke his mind on a number of things including Rubio, the Knicks and their PG situation.

In the context of the conversation which took place over the phone, I’m willing to bet a “Milli” that Young Money had no idea that he was being recorded. I’m also pretty sure he had no idea of Budden’s intentions of actually putting the conversation out there. But he was recorded, and the conversation was put out; briefly. After word got around about it, his Twitter account was immediately closed and the video was also taken down. Every now and then he’ll pop up on Facebook, but other than that it seems that Brandon’s foray into the world of social media is over; for now at least.

These incidents along with several others are the reason why the NBA is now monitoring the content of its athlete’s tweets and will institute rules regarding Twitter this season. Given what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think monitoring along with rules being put in place regarding is a bad idea at all considering NBA players tweet more than athletes of any other sport. Besides, when employees know that their boss is watching, they tend to be more mindful of the things they do and say. The NBA after all is a global business. It can’t afford to have a few people drag the entire image of the League down which they’ve tried so hard to re-build and maintain after the “thug years” passed.

Don’t get me wrong, social networking isn’t all bad. In fact it’s a testament to the wonders of technology that has brought us all closer. It’s made us all one big community. But like everything else, it has an underbelly. It has an ugly side. Or then again, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just people broadcasting the ugly side of themselves for the entire world to see that gives it a bad rap.

Either way, to quote Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” For those whose lives are in the spotlight and under the microscope 24/7, there is no room for error. One slip and your image and your reputation can be tarnished forever. Its one thing to have other people try and bring you down, it’s something totally different when you do it to yourself.