Throwin' it Out There…

From Alison Brie to Zach Randolph, and everything in between.

NBA: Where Twitter Happens, Part 1

At the 2013 NBA Draft, Google made an interesting choice in gifting the eventual number two pick, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, a pair of Google Glasses to wear to the draft. Just last week, they gave Pacers Center Roy Hibbert the same treatment, who then in turn Vined and tweeted pictures of his new shades, along with his ringing endorsement.

hibbert pic

hibbert endorse

Pepsi enlisted Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to play pickup basketball in Jackass-style old man suits as “Uncle Drew” & “Wes” to promote Pepsi Max. Interestingly enough, the YouTube videos went viral so quickly (10 million views in 3 weeks) Pepsi decided to make more videos to show during the NBA Finals. Kia started their affair with Blake Griffin with the dunk contest and over the past year has rolled out a full Kid Blake campaign. Without it, we wouldn’t have enjoyed one of the funniest NBA-related social media moments in recent history: the following tweet, after Blake was groin punched by Serge Ibaka this season:

blake tweet

In selecting these young, up and coming stars to represent their products, companies are able to directly reach their target audience through the power of social media. Specifically, the 5 representatives mentioned above combined have over 3.3 million followers on Twitter. Don Draper would kill for that kind of direct exposure to his market. How do these companies choose which players to latch on to, though? Not everyone in the NBA is as prolific as LeBron, as funny as Blake Griffin or as explicitly unlikable as Kris Humphries. Roy Hibbert is one of the most pop-culture friendly players in the NBA, having appeared on Parks and Recreation several times, which, combined with his rising star from this year’s playoffs made him a savvy choice by Google. But how else can companies know which players will have the most direct outreach to their fans, ie. the most Twitter followers in the future? I compiled the Twitter data for the top 3 players in PER for each team only as of 7/4/13 and tried to see if there was any connection between the amount of players’ Twitter followers and several factors. It’s worth noting that the average followers for all the players in the study was 657k. 

Player Age?


Theoretically, an established veteran of several seasons should have more followers than a young player. However, the correlation coefficient is .23, the weakest of all the factors tested. Take David West (31) vs Boogie Cousins (22), two small-market bigs with the same ’12-’13 PER. Despite his experience and playoff run over the last few years, West still trails Cousins by nearly 132k followers. Players under 26 average about 384k followers while players 26 and up averaged 936k followers – skewed due to 9 of the top 10 players in followers being over 26, with Kevin Durant as the lone exception. Verdict: Nope.

Twitter Activity?

Do players who are more interactive with their fans accumulate more followers than their counterparts? Guys like Javale Pierre McGee, JR Smith and Nate Robinson are as (in)famous for their timelines as their basketball careers. I personally only follow these types of fun accounts; a weekly plug for a player’s new charity or sneaker just crowds my feed. Doesn’t look like the actual number of tweets has a direct effect on followers though, with a correlation coefficient of .17. Some non-stars, like Kings PG Isaiah Thomas who chucks up more tweets (over 18k!) than threes, and Jared Dudley who has cultivated his “JMZ” persona in Phoenix over the past few years with almost 14k tweets, seem to benefit from being active and boast 101k and 157k followers, respectively. This number dwarfs comparable small-market role players like Dudley’s former teammate Goran Dragic and Ryan Anderson, who have only tweeted 2k times combined to amass less than 40k followers each. As the players’ star level rises, it doesn’t really seem to matter how many times they’ve tweeted. Perhaps less notable, up and coming players- looking at you and your 9k followers, Greg Monroe- need some more free time to tweet, or better publicists. Verdict: Not really.

Speaking of rising stars, Milwaukee’s cult hero LARRY SANDERS! has 7k tweets with just 21k followers to show for it, which leads to the next factor…

The Larry Sanders Show.

Team Market Size?

Using the latest Forbes list of most valuable NBA teams to admittedly imprecisely determine market size yields a correlation coefficient of .51, a moderately positive relationship. The bottom 4 teams on the list – Milwaukee, Charlotte, Atlanta & New Orleans – only average 102k followers per player, well below the league average of 657k. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the top 4 teams – New York, LA Lakers, Chicago & Boston – averaged nearly 1.6m followers per player in the study, even with KG absent from Twitter altogether. Take Hawks PF/C Al Horford for example – a fine player, fringe All-Star in a weak NBA market. He often draws comparison to Bulls Joakim Noah, who bests him by over 100k followers, despite Noah appearing in fewer games with a lower PER than Horford. The relationship is most evident in role players, where big-market bench players like Jason Terry and Nate Robinson have more followers than small-market stars like Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and even Rob Delaney. Fifth-to-smallest market Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (1.3m) bucks the trend thanks to his international fans, but he deserves all the followers.

Verdict: Sort of.

Player Quality?

…found in Part 2 , along with the whole point of this dizzying array of pointless numbers: who should be the next Cliff & Chris Paul?

Before he meets Chris and the ensuing crippling depression.

Speaking of Twitter, check out my account, @kramerkram – I’m only 8,850 followers away from Greg Monroe!


One comment on “NBA: Where Twitter Happens, Part 1

  1. Pingback: NBA: Where Twitter Happens, Part 2 | Throwin' it Out There...

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This entry was posted on July 11, 2013 by in NBA and tagged , , .
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