What NBA Players Say About Social Media

NBA players are the social butterflies of professional athletics. Few sports have the following of basketball, not to mention the same massive egos. However, for the average player, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook pose challenges much like those the average Joe would face if he suddenly gained 20,000 followers. We caught up with a few of the Raptors to see what they thought about their public lives, retweeted.

The most popular social media among NBA player seem to be Twitter and Instagram, potentially due to their immediate nature and how easy they make it to interact with fans.

“I think I like instagram, it’s like a big magazine,” says Raptors power forward Amir Johnson. Johnson set the internet on fire when he Instagramed a photo of him, Drake and Justin Bieber playing a pickup game. Teammate Terrence Ross also prefers Instagram: “I like pictures,” he admits.

Platforms like Facebook seem to rank low for basketball players, probably because of the website’s slower style of posting and fewer available avenues for talking to their fans.

Interestingly, despite the many thousands of followers some of these players’ social accounts attract, they manage them on their own without fail. However, a small company-sized Twitter account such as Jonas Valanciunas’ is challenging to maintain without outside help.

“It’s kind of hard because you have to do some stuff on [social media] and do basketball as well,” says Valanciunas, the Raptors’ center.

By adding their personal touch, these players often create an intense connection with a select few of their fans. They receive many positive messages, as well as lots of hate mail. Others, like Johnson, get superfans following them.

“I actually know who my regulars are, I follow them, I definitely know who they are. Sari is one of my biggest fans,” Johnson says, referring to a Twitter account attributed to Sari Birnbaum, a self-described member of #TeamAmir that regularly interacts with the player. He also counts Bieber among his followers.

“I think it was cool that Bieber followed me, my account went crazy for like two days,” he laughs. “I had all these Believer fans following me.”

Valanciunas himself is particularly proud of LeBron James giving him a follow.

He goes on to say that the best way to get a player’s attention on Twitter is likely through humour, a sentiment echoed by Ross and Johnson, especially if it’s “by writing him a funny message.”

Of course, not all the messages players will receive are funny, nor even particularly nice. Twitter allows fans to send players semi-anonymous jabs, rants and raves without even having to follow the player. Valanciunas says he tries to read the negative messages alongside the good, but it’s a hard choice at times. For Ross, he considers it a part of the game.

“It’s funny to me, because if you’re just that mad, you have to tell me? At the end of the day, you’re still a fan,” says Ross.

There are some people that don’t follow the players yet, however few. Terrence Ross would like it if the POTUS himself, Barack Obama, gave him a follow. Johnson also likes the sound of that honour. As for someone Valanciunas wished were following him? He quips without a moment’s hesitation: “Amir Johnson.” 


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