At 12:01 am this Sunday morning, I was on my phone refreshing my twitter feed in a pull down motion as if I was playing slots in Las Vegas. This motion happened over the course of the next hour quite frequently until I was ready to go to sleep. For those of us who are fans of the NBA and have a relationship with a team, this is the injection of aspiration that one needs after watching some other team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. This is the start of free agency.
Free agency wasn’t as fun as it is now or as public facing. There was a reason why people were surprised when Shaq left Orlando and signed with the Lakers in 1996. Since then we have learned that it was always on Shaq’s mind to go to the land of Disney, but there was no platform for him to tell us all, at once. Fast forward to now, even non-NBA fans know that Dwight Howard wants to be traded, and it’s because it’s all over our timelines. We can’t get away from it, so please…someone trade the man.
NBA players are not waiting for media to ask them what’s on their mind, they’re proactively doing so across numerous platforms. The inside scoop, the tip that will drive me bonkers is coming from the free agents themselves, and how can you not feel emotionally invested in that? Remember when Shane Battier announced he was joining the Heat exclusively on Twitter last year? Seconds after reading it I tweeted about a dozen people with a variation of “wrong, #fail or no title” in my tweets. I stand corrected Shane.
If you feel as if this is all self promotion for a player, it probably never crossed your mind there might be some strategy behind these tweets, Instagram pics or Facebook posts. NBA players are still very much like us when we are looking for a new place to live, or in their case, a new job. We need affirmation, we need to know someone is listening, that someone cares. Players want to hear from their current fan base, as well as throw out feelers to their future local market. NBA General Managers and Owners are on twitter too, they’re reading the tweets and wondering how a player will fit on the court, in the community and amongst all the digital/social plans they plan to sell to sponsors.
I spend countless hours (not at work, well a few minutes) wondering how professional sports would have been like in the 80s and 90s with the existing social infrastructure we have. We talk about all these social records being broken by such events as the World Cup and I’m sure the upcoming Olympics games will cause some twitter overload but ask yourself this—would have Twitter survived Magic Johnson announcing he had HIV? Or Michael Jordan announcing his first retirement? I doubt it. Of all the professional leagues we have, the NBA and it’s players are the most socially invested per my observation. They know that we as fans care too much to only get one source, or listen to one opinion. NBA players are listening to you. So as I go back to my phone to get my latest updates from the players themselves, I really hope @stevenash reads this post and feels confident that New York would love to see him in a Knicks uniform.