Twitter's role in the NBA

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In no other professional sport does an individual player have as much power as those in the NBA enjoy. LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden are all perfect examples of how quickly they can change the fate of a team and just how much power they have.

In Memphis, their second-year head coach was supposed to be their leader into a new era but a disagreement with their star player had him fired before the season reached its halfway mark. Even a legend like Phil Jackson was fired in part because of the way he treated the New York Knicks’ cornerstone player.

It’s natural then for the league’s players to jump to Twitter to freely express themselves as many, if not most, do. You have certain characters in the NFL and MLB who will also enjoy the Twitter landscape but not nearly to the same degree as NBA players. Trash talk, interacting with fans, sharing their thoughts on politics, they do it all on there.

What’s striking is the site’s ability to have a lasting impact on what happens on the court. The latest case of this broke just last week when it was reported Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, allegedly ran five different anonymous Twitter accounts. Those accounts criticized Philadelphia’s players, leaked team information and staunchly defended Colangelo over the past few years.

It’s the latest bizarre story in what seems to be turning into a theme in the NBA: the role of Twitter and social media in affecting teams. Two days ago, the future couldn’t be brighter in Philadelphia. They had a roster loaded with young talent and a legitimate shot at landing LeBron James this offseason. Now they have something that is bound to cause some animosity and distrust between the players and the front office. No doubt James, a staunch defender for players to be respected by ownership and the business side of franchises, will take it into account.

Last year, Golden State star and perhaps the most hated man in the NBA, Kevin Durant, was found similarly guilty of running burner accounts. He used those to defend himself against critics and it’s still a point many bring up to mock him today. It didn’t have any lasting impact on the court but still something that will be synonymous with Durant’s legacy to many fans.

More noticeably was in the spring of 2016 when a video leaked and caught fame, mostly on Twitter, of Lakers’ star Nick Young. In the video, which was recorded by teammate and 20-year-old D’Angelo Russell, Young admits to cheating on his fiancée. The video attributed as the cause of the engagement breaking up.

Russell was a top-five pick for the Lakers and was traded just one season after the video leak. While many say it didn’t factor into the decision, it’s fair to question the truthfulness of that given the natural lack of trust teammates had in him after that.

These three instances are just the most notable ones. Sexting scandals, accidentally Tweeting private messages and more has happened in the past few years. Some affect the person’s

reputation, which is extremely important to any professional athlete, and others further intensify the hate for a person or team.

One way or another, as social media continues to evolve into further importance, its impact on what happens on the court does as well. The significance has prompted players to announce their displeasure with their current team and that’s how the franchise finds out about it.

Until players learn to be more responsible with this new aspect or the older executives and coaches learn to navigate it, it will continue to happen. With responsibility not a strong point among pro athletes and technology constantly changing, either group adapting doesn’t seem likely.

It’s not an epidemic but it is something that can change a team’s plans fairly radically in a matter of days, weeks or months and with immediate no solution in sight, it’s just a matter of time until the next Twitter mistake hits the NBA.

Tad Desai covers sports and education for The Sealy News. He can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at sports@sealynews.com.

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