NBA on Twitter: Under the Microscope
Professional sports are a prized pillar of sports in the present day United States. Sports and social media such as Twitter seem like a match made in heaven; fans have the ability to interact with their favorite stars with the click of a mouse or tap of a device from any corner of the planet. Super stars like Steph Curry have a staggering amount of followers. In the harsh world of sports, players are generally only recognized if they are outstandingly good or exceptionally awful. This concept translates to Twitter quite well. One can argue the players who get the most attention typically have the most influence on social media. What is generally misunderstood, however, is the concept of the spotlight. The pressures that come with fame and fortune tend to be overlooked by those who have never experienced it first hand. NBA players on social media have a unique type of pecking order; a complex, dual sided order is in play. Despite the super starts having social influence and power, the real winners are the players who are less known and perhaps seen as mediocre or even bad athletes on the court. The lesser known players have by far the most freedom on Twitter and the superstars are more puppets than they are people (on social media).
Before one can understand the comparison, an example of a superstar’s Twitter account must be used. Players’ personal accounts will be used and not one that is run by a group of people specifically hired to maintain a player’s public relations with the fans. It should be made clear; the players used in these examples have a large following when compared to non-athletes. Spencer Dinwiddie has 17.5k followers (@SDinwiddie_25) and Steph Curry has 8.71m followers (@StephenCurry30). These two accounts will be compared based on a few tweets to show the discrepancy and the true freedoms (and lack thereof) that comes from being a well known, high profile athlete versus a much lesser known professional athlete. Curry’s account will be dissected first.
Steph Curry is the reigning MVP of the NBA and as previously stated, has over 8 million followers on Twitter. With the amount of followers and visibility he has, it would be quite easy to claim that he, like many other players with millions of followers, are at the top of the pecking order. The concept of a hierarchy among NBA players is much more unique and complex than what meets the surface. Curry’s fame is only partially valuable in the aspect of this hierarchy. While he does have the ability to make statements and have millions of people see it, he is quite limited in what he is able to say. If Curry were to voice his opinions like Spencer Dinwiddie does, he would lose his endorsements, damage his public image, and potentially his overall worth off the court as an icon. Through the advertisements and endorsements he makes on his account, Curry has very few actual personal tweets. The most outlandish tweet he has in the past few months is “Y’all mind if I just take out a 9iron in Oracle one time just too see what it’d be like playing #16 HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/tpcscottsdale"@tpcscottsdale. Looks so crazy on TV” (https://twitter.com/StephenCurry30/status/827248027358294016). Through lots of searching, this was the most unique piece of Curry’s twitter. As a fiery competitor and person in general, this is quite tame. After looking deeper into his tweet history, the conclusion is clear; Curry has a lot to lose as an athlete. The separate hierarchy of freedom of speech is one he does not possess. Followers and athletic success means losing freedom. Dinwiddie’s account by comparison is the complete opposite.
Spencer Dinwiddie is one of the lesser known players in the NBA. Many fans have likely never heard his name before and this privacy he retains puts him higher in the pecking order in terms of freedom of speech. To be blunt, the NBA does not care as much about Dinwiddie as they do Curry. Players like Curry are quite unique and make up a very small percentage of professional athletes. Dinwiddie is able to slip under the radar and is actually treated with more fairness and forgiveness than Curry could ever imagine. In the traditional sense, Curry is at the top of the hierarchy due to his follower count and visibility. In reality, this puts him at the bottom of what makes Twitter and the NBA such an excellent partnership. Dinwiddie tweeted, “The fact that ppl side with a billion dollar industry that owns their employees likenesses is hilarious..” (https://twitter.com/SDinwiddie_25/status/849296607333974018). Dinwiddie is essentially criticizing his employers in a way that only players with less visibility have. If he were the poster child of the NBA, like Curry is, it would have caused a scandal that SportsCenter could stretch out into a week long segment. The key to Dinwiddie’s triumph and higher spot in the pecking order is his freedom and transparency.
Many would argue that strictly follower count is the deciding factor of who is at the top of the pecking order in the NBA on Twitter. A misunderstood part of this is that there is more than one pecking order. When it comes to loyalty and connection, one could argue Dinwiddie has the upper hand. The few accounts that do follow him have a more intimate bond and connection with him because of the fact that he is much closer to a normal civilian than he is a superstar athlete. Loyalty is an overlooked part of what puts one higher up in the pecking order of their group. The “power” Curry has is cancelled out by his fame and the many parts of said fame he has on the line. A controversial statement could drastically end Curry’s career; the same comment is just another day for Dinwiddie. People far too often confuse fame with power and power with freedom. The burden of giving up certain freedoms is similar to the burden Dinwiddie may carry knowing he could be cut from his team at any point.
In this case, the freedom mentioned is that of speech. Among his followers, Dinwiddie is known as a player who speaks his mind via Twitter. The loyalty and the reputation he has gained for his continued honesty about what he is feeling in the moment is prized among many Brooklyn Nets fans. To the NBA, Dinwiddie is a below average player on a very poor team. This is why he is one of the highest players on the totem pole in terms of loyalty and freedom. His followers do not follow him because he makes big shots, has a popular shoe endorsement, or because he has a major impact on his team. With this being known, his fan base is much more loyal due to his transparency. This is not an attempt to discredit the measurement of followers as a major key on the pecking order; the argument is that the totem pole has two ends. While Dinwiddie is on the wrong side of follower count, Curry too is on the wrong side of a different set of parameters. The concept of a pecking order on Twitter in the NBA is an elaborate one to say the least. Players with the smaller fan base and more freedom have their own niche when compared to the athletes with the constant spotlight. Players like Dinwiddie are not to be forgotten or unappreciated; while they are not under a microscope, they are at the top of a different pecking order in a league of their own.
Superstars in the NBA may have more visibility from Twitter due to their stardom but it means less personal freedom when it comes to what they post. The real winners of NBA Twitter accounts are the average/below average players who aren’t as closely watched by the league, likely have few to no sponsors, and have all the freedom they desire on their personal Twitter accounts.