TL;DR: For better or for worse, sports news spreads like wildfire on social media as fans can engage in real-time headlines as well as their favorite players' personal lives.
Remember those “Basketball Is Life. The Rest Is Just Details.” shirts from the 1990s? That was me then and still now. Sports are life. It’s been said that my colleagues can tell when the Trail Blazers play based upon my wardrobe during the season.
Looking back to the turn of the century, it’s almost unfathomable to think of how I found out about one of the biggest trades in Trail Blazers history. Scottie Pippen, Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold Medalist, was dealt to Rip City and it took multiple outlets for the news to travel before it was announced. The way the trade rumor funnel worked at the time: Fan hears rumor of a trade on sports radio, fan posts said rumor to their favorite teams’ online forum, fan watches local news sports broadcast or waits for the morning paper to get confirmation. If that sounds like a lot of work, it was.
What does the funnel look like today then? Take Portland’s trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn: I was getting ready to start a meeting when I received a Slack message from my colleague that a trade has just taken place! I was skeptical at first because I had just seconds before, refreshed my Twitter feed and didn’t hear (see) a peep. In the matter of seconds, millions of fans worldwide were notified.
Now, an hour doesn’t go by that I’m not opening up Twitter and scrolling through my feed to see the latest rumors and reports. It might be the dog days of summer, long past the end of the NBA season, but seeing as how all breaking news and up-to-the-minute updates occur on social, I’m locked in and just as engaged as I normally would be during the season.
For better or worse, an athlete’s personal life is now an open book based upon how much they willingly share with the public. Whether it’s a Snap of their meal or an Instagram post from their day’s adventure, anyone can see what it’s like being their favorite superstar for a day.
And it doesn’t stop there. These athletes are using social media just like you and me. They like photos and crack jokes about their teammates in post comments. And, if the situation is serious enough, they may even unfollow.
In July 2017, news broke that Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had requested a trade. This report sent shockwaves through the Twittersphere as fans and media members alike were trying to wrap their heads around this. Why would Kyrie request a trade? He is the Robin to LeBron James’ Batman, played in three consecutive NBA Finals and even hit the game-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals. It didn’t seem real that he was unhappy in Cleveland and really unhappy with LeBron. There was no press conference, no interview with Irving was granted. We all knew these reports were true when it was discovered that Irving unfollowed James on Instagram a day later.