A recent tweet by LeBron James, although directed at no one per se, is much more than a subtle shot at one of his peers.
A simple chronological search of NBA players’ social media activities can narrow down the list of potential suspects LeBron directed his tweet at. And that might’ve been his intention in the first place — this wouldn’t be the first time James took a shot at someone via his social media account. But let’s focus on the bigger picture.
We are two decades into the social media craze, and while its positive impacts are obvious, we’ve only scratched the surface of its negative psychological effects. Terms like negative body image, cyberbullying, fear of missing out (FOMO) are all potential consequences looming over the extensive use of these platforms. As we continue to learn how to deal with this new reality, trying to maximize its use and minimize its negative impacts, things inevitably change.
The NBA environment also hasn’t been immune to this dynamic. This isn’t exclusive just for the last two decades — depending on an era, the league is constantly evolving — but the change in and of itself, other than the crossover between the Hip Hop culture and basketball, has never been this impacted by a mechanism outside of the game.
Just like the social media phenomenon, the positive effects of its co-existence with the NBA are apparent — monetary opportunities, new communication and promotion channels, new ways to spot basketball talent. But just like the social media phenomenon, the negatives are yet to be discovered, and its impact on offseason workouts might be the first on the list.
Let me start off by saying this: most NBA guys still prioritize improvement over boosting their social media presence by posting a clip of doing stuff “they are never going to use in the game.” Even if they post such videos, some are actually trying to expand their games, even though that’s not what the team asked them to do. The Clippers’ Ivica Zubac is one of those guys.
I’m working on my three-point shot. I’m still not comfortable taking them, nor does the team demand that from me. But in case they do, I’ll be ready.Ivica Zubac, Podcast Inkubator
Every offseason workout is a pledge for the future. Everything they work on during the summer should at some point be implemented in the players’ in-game repertoires. So why are there videos of Dwight Howard coming off screens and shooting three-pointers? Or Mitchell Robinson dribbling like a guard? Or Ben Simmons pulling up from half-court?
At this point, social media activity has become a character trait. Everyone, NBA players included, uses it to a different extent. Guys like LeBron give fans an insight into his day-to-day activities. Others, like Kevin Durant, don’t use it as much until an opportunity to engage with fans presents itself. Guys like Kawhi Leonard don’t even have social media accounts.
There is no behavioral pattern for how NBA players use social media, nor is there an objective negative to it. But working on stuff they will never use in games, only to post Instagram videos about, might be the first apparent negative impact social media has on NBA players.
Instead of working on their flaws, some of them concentrate on making it seem like they’re doing extra stuff, but in reality, their games are stagnating. Such videos do have a certain wow effect in the short run. But long-term wise, they are doing no one any good.
So LeBron is right — instead of seeking attention, players should work on the stuff they’ll actually use in games. Let’s just hope this trend won’t continue. It’s better when the players let their game do the talking instead.