Besides the many accolades and millions of dollars, you really know you’re on a different path than most 22-year-olds when your decision to wear a backpack spawns hundreds of tweets, questions and comments about your fashion choice.
Fashion choice? Kevin Durant was wearing a damn bookbag because he felt like it. All right? At least, that’s what he told us almost immediately after he finished his postgame presser and had his phone and @ mentions column blown up by people critiquing his choice to go college kid and stay strapped into his backpack as he sat down to talk with the media.
The fun part of Twitter: Having a discussion about backpack vs. bookbag at 2:30 a.m. all because the NBA’s leading scorer wore one in his press conference. For the record, I’m with Durant and am on #teambookbag.
The not so fun part of Twitter: Being @RussWest44 after a game like last night. 30 points on 30 shots, zero makes on seven attempts from deep, lots of criticism from the tweeps. Russell Westbrook turned on his phone to find a lot of negativity staring back at him. He quickly responded with this:
Westbrook acknowledged he saw the tweets, the criticism and armchair coaches and then let the Twitter world be.
Teammate Nazr Mohammed came to Westbrook’s defense, directly addressing those slinging criticisms:
From Durant’s bookbag to Westbrook’s acknowledgment to Mohammed’s direct response to those detractors, the Twitter happenings of the Thunder immediately after a Game 4 loss provided a perfect snapshot of professional sports and social media.
If you’ve never been in a locker room postgame, it goes like this: While you wait for guys to shower and/or get dressed, before talking to the media, sometimes even before a towel has been replaced with clothes, phones are in hand. While writers now tweet observations, news, snippets of quotes that are being said during scrums in the locker room, players are checking their own Twitter accounts, and as a result, are instantly bombarded with thousands of messages from fans and foes alike.
After a good game, it’s all gravy. After an ugly night, like Westbrook’s performance in Game 4, it’s a clusterfuck of awful. ESPNW writer Amanda Rykoff tweeted this screenshot of her twitter feed immediately after Westbrook missed an ill-advised three-pointer:
Criticism is nothing new for professional athletes. If they’re on social media, they are exposing themselves to another, more personal level of criticism. They’re also exposing themselves to a lot of love from friends, fans and females, so it’s not all bad. Still, there’s no denying that the experience in the wake of a disappointing loss is different today than it would have been two or three years ago. Before, you could escape to the confines of your locker room, team bus or plane. Now? Thanks to the lifeline in the palm of your hand, there is no getaway. And, it’s addicting. You do it regardless of what is waiting for you because we are curious creatures and we crave connection. Even when that connection turns into a frustrating and deflating experience.
Can you picture a vet like Kobe Bryant checking in with his Twitter followers to see what they’ve got to say about him? Me neither. There are, of course, some elder statesmen who are all over Twitter — see @CharlesOakley34 — but the Thunder represent social media and youth. Less than a half hour after their loss, they were caught up. And we were there to react to their consumption of our tweets, suggestions and criticisms.
Twitter definitely changes how we watch games. If you doubt this, turn off the computer, get out of the house and then turn off your phone for an evening during a full slate of NBA games. It’s a weird experience. Same goes for these guys. Take their phones, cut off their connection to all of us and we’ve changed what has become a part of their normal hooping experience.
It’s kind of funny, right? We use social media for entertainment, news, info about our favorite athletes. Our favorite athletes use it for those exact same things. Even if they’re a part of the entertainment news cycle.
From backpacks to broken jumpers, last night’s Twitter conversations served to further the conversation about sports and social media. We’re all communicating within the same medium now, even if some of us live in a world where deciding to wear a backpack creates a ripple over the internet. Having more access to professional athletes has been argued to be both good and bad, but from where I tweet, anything that reminds us that these guys are humans — and sometimes college-aged humans — is a good thing.
Here’s Drew Unga‘s take on Durant’s bookbag-wearing self:
The next time you’re angry with one of those players, take a moment and remember the stupid shit you were doing at 22, then @reply to your heart’s content.