10 NBA Superstars and Their Social Media Counterparts

Even though the NBA’s regular season ended last Sunday with the Cleveland Cavaliers becoming world champions, the NBA offseason is just beginning. Now is the time to look forward to the NBA Draft coming up on Thursday (June 23) and the mayhem that is NBA free agency (starting July 1). And, of course, what would the NBA offseason be without a few ridiculous articles? Whether you like it or not, social media has become a huge part of the NBA. Nick Young, aka “Swaggy P,” has over 2.2 million Instagram followers. Stephen Curry’s wife just got into hot water for her untimely tweet during the Finals. From players to players’ families, from journalists to fans, social media has become a necessity in terms of interaction, engagement and education when talking about the NBA.
Here at Candor, working on social media campaigns and handling social media crises (like Ayesha Curry’s aforementioned tweet) are things we do on a daily basis. Because social media is so integral to the NBA, we wanted to take it to another level: What if NBA superstars were actually social media platforms? This is for digital marketers and business owners that want to know a little more about social media network characteristics, and for NBA fans that really like personification. Let’s see who made the cut.
Facebook: LeBron James
Facebook is by far the most globally dominant social media network. As of April 2016, Facebook became the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently rests at 1.59 billion active monthly users. It could be argued that the Facebook comparison belongs to Stephen Curry considering he has taken LeBron’s throne for most global jersey sales. Curry’s flashy ball-handling, off-the-charts shooting ability and palatable, yet cocksure demeanor have made him the face of the NBA over the last two seasons. He has become Pitbull. He’s Mr. Worldwide.
However, anyone who watched the NBA Finals saw LeBron is still clearly the best player in the world. And much like LeBron, Facebook is quite polarizing in terms of popularity, but it’s still the unquestioned leader of the pack. As the demographic for Facebook grows, we can’t help but be reminded this is LeBron’s thirteenth year in the league (he turns 32 this year!). And much like Facebook, LeBron has been consistently dominant over the last 10 years. According to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 56 percent of all adults over age 65 use Facebook (compared to 21 percent on LinkedIn and just 10 percent on Twitter). Like a fine wine, both Facebook and LeBron are getting better with age.
But let’s take this a step further than dominance and age: Let’s talk about advertising. Facebook makes a killing off of social advertising revenues, routinely eating up two-thirds of the social ad market (which is roughly $15 billion/per year). We have to remember LeBron may not lead in jersey sales anymore, but he still remains the king of advertising. According to Forbes, LeBron is making $48 million in endorsements this season. That’s $12 million more than the next guy (Kevin Durant) and $36 million more than Curry.
LeBron IS Facebook.
Snapchat: Stephen Curry
If LeBron is Facebook, then Curry has to be Snapchat, which is quickly becoming Facebook’s biggest rival. Snapchat now receives over 10 billion video views per day, which has surpassed Facebook’s stranglehold over video engagement. You can liken this to Curry surpassing LeBron in jersey sales, I suppose, but two things really stand out when comparing Curry to Snapchat: money and usability. Let’s start with the money.
Curry is currently signed on to the NBA’s most financially hilarious contract: four years/$44 million. He made just over $11 million this season, which made him the 54th highest-paid player in the NBA. That’s right, the back-to-back NBA MVP wasn’t even in the top 50 in terms of salary. That will all change after next season when Curry becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Warriors lowballed Curry back in 2013, but will have to reach deep into their pockets to keep him around next year. Another deal happened (or at least tried to happen) back in 2013 that sounds awfully similar: After losing the engagement from its teenage audience, Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion. At the time, that number seemed ridiculously high, but knowing now that Snapchat’s approximate value is $20 billion, the offer definitely screams lowball. If Facebook ever wants to keep Snapchat in its back pocket, it’s going to have to shell out a lot of money.
Next, let’s talk about the usability of Snapchat. While it started as a photo app, video has really become the driving force of its user engagement. Anyone can send up-to-10 second clips of anything they want to their friends, and then it’s (assumedly) gone. Snapchat is the perfect comparison for Curry because his on-the-court highlights were seemingly made for the platform. In 10 seconds or less, Curry can dribble across half court, crossover two defenders and nail a contested 40-foot jumper. It all happens so fast, and he’s gone (back down the court) before the ball ever gets to the goal.
Twitter: Draymond Green
Why would the social network with the easiest engagement functionality NOT be the league’s most hated trash-talker? You can confront whomever you please in seconds on Twitter. This makes trash-talking easier for the world’s keyboard warriors. At times, it’s almost like reading the comments section of controversial articles. Draymond Green made his presence felt (with his mouth, foot and hand) throughout the playoffs, which led to a suspension in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And what was the go-to social media channel to talk about his suspension? Twitter. I can almost guarantee if he hadn’t been fined numerous times already, Green would have been right there on Twitter complaining with the rest of the Golden State fans.
LinkedIn: Kevin Durant
This is the summer of Kevin Durant. The lanky small forward who many deem as one of the top three basketball players in the world is finally a free agent. Though the consensus pick is for KD to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a short-term deal, that doesn’t mean he won’t have many recruiters blowing up his phone come July. That, more than anything else, makes LinkedIn Durant’s social media counterpart.
LinkedIn is the quintessential networking platform when it comes to job hunting. However, while Durant’s inbox might be flooded, his decision may ultimately be to just hit ignore and stay with his current gig. So forget the anticipation, because this is going to be pretty boring – a feeling LinkedIn users know all too well.
Pinterest: Russell Westbrook
The NBA’s most notorious fashionista has to be soulmates with Pinterest. Whether you love or hate his style, Westbrook’s passion for fashion is on another level compared to other NBA players (and really everyone else, too).
Pinterest is an online shopper’s dream. Whether you’re looking for the perfect complement to an already purchased ensemble or creating your outfit from head to toe, Pinterest acts as a personal style guide. According to Pinterest, 93 percent of Pinners have shopped online in the past six months. Westbrook, who already has his own line of fashionable glasses and a branded line of clothing at Barney’s, has a real future selling his clothes on Pinterest.
For now, Westbrook will continue flashing his inner-Pinterest nightly in the NBA, turning each pre-game arena arrival into his own personal catwalk.
Instagram: James Harden
Instagram has grown rapidly over the last few years, going from a network primarily used for selfies to a social media powerhouse with over 500 million active users per month. However, the latest update to its algorithm has many users complaining. Like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is changing from a chronological, most-recent-post-first feed to an algorithmic feed, which means users will only see the most relevant content from accounts they follow. As of March 2016, the average amount of a newsfeed Instagram users missed was already 70 percent. This new change should result in an even higher percentage.
So, why is Harden’s social media counterpart Instagram? Like the increasingly popular photo app, Harden’s rise in popularity and prowess has grown rapidly. Ever since his departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden has served as the Houston Rockets’ number one option, made the NBA All-Star game four times, been named to the All-NBA First Team twice and finished as the runner-up to Stephen Curry in 2015 as the league MVP. However, despite finishing this past season with career highs in points, rebounds and assists, Harden failed to finish in the top five for MVP voting and didn’t make the cut on any All-NBA team. What changed? The Rockets had a lot of internal problems that ultimately made them hard to watch. They changed their game plan (see: algorithm), which left fans (see: users) wanting more. If that doesn’t convince you, then let’s liken the inability to see at least 70 percent of your newsfeed to Harden’s inability to see 70 percent of the floor when he’s playing defense. Like Instagram, that number is going to get even higher when another change comes (see: Dwight Howard’s likely departure). If THAT doesn’t convince you, here’s a fun stat: There are over 175 million Instagram posts associated with the #food hashtag. Needless to say, Instagram is a foodie’s paradise. Have you ever seen Harden’s popular celebration? No doubt he’s a foodie.
YouTube: Blake Griffin
While the case can be made that Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook, LeBron James or baby Damian Lillard produce the best commercials, I’m giving the nod to Griffin for continuously putting out great work. 
YouTube is still a powerhouse among social networks thanks to its one billion users and roughly four billion video views per day. Generally, when you want to watch basketball highlights, YouTube is the first place you’ll go. Griffin’s highlights are other-worldly, but that’s not what makes his social media counterpart YouTube – it’s his comfortability for being on screen. If you didn’t know him as Blake Griffin the basketball star, you might know him as that tall funny guy in those KIA commercials. When his career is over, he might want to look into becoming a YouTube star.
But let’s be honest: there was really no surprise here. We’ve been watching Griffin act on-the-court for years.
Google+: Dwight Howard
Just a few years ago, Google+ was seen as one of the top social media networks in the world. Now? Google+ only has four to six million active users per month. It’s become a bother to work with, and many question the importance of keeping it around. If that doesn’t sound like the plight of Dwight Howard’s career, I’m not sure what does. Just four years ago, Howard was seen as the most dominant big man since Shaquille O’Neal (and it was hard to argue). However, after playing with a few ball-dominant shooting guards (Kobe Bryant, James Harden), Howard’s numbers slipped as he faded away from the spotlight.
Now, it’s 2016 and Howard is a free agent again. While he’s no longer the most attractive asset to teams, there’s no denying his ability to protect the rim make him desirable and necessary. Google+ is in the same boat when it comes to businesses and local search engine optimization (SEO). While businesses may not be using Google+ as their primary weapon, it’s still nice to have them around in case anyone is looking to drive there.
Swarm: Kawhi Leonard
Does anyone even use Swarm? For those unaware, Swarm is a ‘check-in’ social app that was supposed to be a new-and-improved version of once popular Foursquare. But even though it hasn’t yet received the overwhelming notoriety of other apps, it still gets the job done…quietly. This is the perfect counterpart for Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ stoic, straight-faced small forward. Unlike Kawhi, Swarm isn’t getting any MVP votes in the social network world; however, its functionality is the closest resemblance to Leonard’s playing style.
Swarm is essentially a tool that can be used to virtually stalk people. It will tell you when people are nearby. It will let you check-in everywhere you visit and display it to the world. It always knows where you are. Enter Leonard: Back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year. His overwhelming length and always active hands make him the best on-the-court stalker in the NBA.
MySpace: Carmelo Anthony
They were both really relevant from 2006-2008. Now? Eh…not so much.

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