How Social Media Plays a Role in the Perception of NBA Players

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In the ever-evolving digital world, social media has become a place of connection and network, but it can also be a perfect storm. Draymond Green’s recent comments about how the NBA and the media treat players that want to be traded has brought to light again the acerbity that is the media, among other elements. McLuhan’s tetrad of media effects raises four questions:

• What does the medium enhance?
• What does the medium make obsolete?
• What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
• What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?

The last question becomes interesting when we apply it to social media and NBA players in particular. Essentially, what happens when social media is pushed to the extremes? Well, it turns into the vilification of these athletes.

Case Study #1: Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler may have found his home now in Miami, but let’s not forget what it took to get here. Back when Butler was on the Timberwolves, drama ensued behind the scenes but was brought to the public through social media. Rumors became perpetuated through “Internet detectives,” and it blew way out of proportion.

This proved to be pretty harmful and even spurred a Twitter war between Timberwolves teammates. Although KAT jumped in and tried to dispel these rumors, we all knew what happened next.

This turned into tension at practice and an inability to be in the same room. Frustration and the publication of the incidents labeled Butler as the problem in the locker room and he was eventually traded to the 76ers. After a one-year stint with them that ended in an unlucky bounce out of the playoffs, Jimmy Butler signed with the Miami Heat. All perceptions of Butler being the bad guy in the locker room seemingly went out the window, with teammates like Embiid having good chemistry with him.

Seeing Jimmy Butler succeed in both Philadelphia and Miami shows the destructiveness social media can have in how they portray NBA players, especially when problems are just speculation.

Case Study #2: Steph Curry, Lebron James

In case you needed any more proof that some of the best players in the game still get hate on social media, here it is: in a study compiled by, these were the results from Twitter alone.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is the most-trolled NBA player on Twitter. Of all the tweets sent to Curry, 27.9% had a negative tone, which was the highest percentage of any player.

Per via

Rounding out the top-six were Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (22.1% negative tweets) and Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant (21.7%) and Kyrie Irving (20.7%).

Per via

Let’s talk about two of the names on this list. Steph Curry and LeBron James. Arguably two of the best players ever, yet they both get an excessive amount of hate. What’s going on here? Well, for one thing, anonymity is playing a huge part in this. The ability to hide behind a screen and post without repercussions has developed into a common term of “player avi twitter.” While there are plenty of good people who remain anonymous, the consequences of those who post hate comments are far more prominent.

Of course, with that much fame, hate comments are expected. But should they be accepted? I guess the best advice would be to curate your timeline with credible people and use the report/block button when necessary. Screening is something that both social media platforms and their users need to improve on.

Case Study #3: The All-Star Game

Oh yes, what better way to end off than with the All-Star Game. This is the ultimate test of social media and NBA players. The All-Star Twitter voting was brought back this year, and the results brought out many opinions on various players.

Doncic vs Lillard, Who deserved it more?
Should Harden have started over Irving?

These were the two main questions to come from the starting results, and it sparked even more debates when the reserves were announced.

While a lot of the discourse around how social media affects the perception of NBA players has been negative, it can also be positive. Seeing their favorite players get snubbed from making the All-Star game has brought fans together and educated others. The consensus this year has been that the league is very talented, and social media has given fans the ability to learn and digest all of it.

Social media has definitely become an outlet to tear apart athletes, but it can also be a place of community and resources. Speaking of resources, don’t forget to follow Overtime Heroics – Basketball on Twitter and myself Crina Mustafa (@crinamm) to stay up to date with the basketball world within the social media world. Stay safe and think before you tweet.

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Crina Mustafa is a first year Sport Media student with an interest in producing social media content and sport journalism. She is a basketball and tennis writer, and also manages social media for places like Raptors Cage. Crina is currently a NBA writer for Overtime Heroics.