I am a huge basketball enthusiast, and I have been a religious NBA viewer since I was about 14 years old. I believe the NBA is the most special professional sports league in the world, because its individual players are so much more visible, distinct, and recognizable compared to players in other sports. There are several reasons for this: for one, the NBA has the least restrictive equipment, meaning that players can be seen without helmets, hats, or protective gear while on the court; seeing a player’s entire face and frame makes it much easier for fans to observe and remember them. Similarly, fans’ seats, and their views on television, are much closer to the action than in other sports, mostly because of the dimensions of the playing area. Finally, individual players have much more creative licensing in regards to their styles of play, compared to baseball or football players. All of these factors make the NBA an extremely entertaining league from the fans’ perspective.
To continue to build popularity and revenue, the NBA has been very active in trying to maximize engagement with fans via social media. I am particularly active on Twitter and Instagram, and the NBA employs several helpful strategies on both of these sites. Every team has an official account, and these accounts interact with users very often, with ticket giveaways, fan polls, “takeovers” of said accounts by select players, et cetera. These team accounts also interact with each other regularly in funny and clever ways, either sparking interest in an upcoming matchup between the two teams or lightheartedly stoking the flames of a divisional rivalry.
Whereas other professional sports leagues, particularly the NFL, have restricted usage of game film/video on social media, the NBA has embraced it. I can’t scroll through my Twitter timeline before going to bed without seeing Vine-like videos of dunks, alley-oops, deep threes, or scuffles from that night of NBA action. I always look forward to catching up on what I missed from the nightly slate of games, particularly if I was only able to watch one game in real time or if I wasn’t able to watch any live games at all. I feel like this type of content is especially helpful to the fan who is too busy to watch full live games; they can still keep up with their team, in addition to the popular teams and players around the league, simply by committing a few minutes to a handful of accounts on Twitter or Instagram.
NBA players have a good bit of freedom to tweet and interact with fans as they please. Virtually every NBA player has a Twitter, and individuals like Joel Embiid, LeBron, Steph, Damian Lillard never cease to post hilarious and engaging tweets. You would never know that Mark Cuban or Daryl Morey were owners or GMs by the way they interact with Twitter users.
Finally, the NBA has used Twitter to enhance the experience leading up to its annual All-Star game. Fans are able to tweet the players they wish to vote into the All-Star game simply by adding the hashtag #NBAVote to tweets including the names of players. Daily voting accounts for 50% of the weighting that goes into deciding who starts in the All-Star game. I have taken advantage of this simple voting method, as it is much easier to tweet my choices than to go onto the NBA’s website; additionally, my followers and I can engage in discussion regarding my votes after I tweet about them.
The NBA has done such a good job with their social media platform that I don’t have that many recommendations for them. However, I do have a couple of ideas. The Dunk Contest is one of, if not the most popular events during All-Star Weekend. However, it is typically only judged by a panel of former players and personalities. I think the NBA would be wise to let the Dunk Contest be settled by votes on social media. Additionally, the current structure of the All-Star game is that the top two vote getters among players serve as “captains” for the game, choosing their teams from the remaining 22 players. The NBA has elected not to broadcast this “draft,” but I think that they could absolutely stream it via Twitter to a fan base that would be salivating over the results of such a draft. Along that same vein, I think that the NBA should experiment, as the NFL has already, with streaming full live games on Twitter.