As recently as two offseasons ago, when players split for the summer, their exit interview was the last fans heard of them.
But that has all changed in the not-too-distant future of 2010.
This offseason, I knew when Mo Williams was hosting a barbeque or what Daniel Gibson was thinking while watching “The Expendables.” And did I just read that Christian Eyenga was sitting around watching a Browns game?
Like most people with a Twitter account, I was originally reluctant. Maybe it’s the name. (I’m sorry, but “tweeting” still sounds like a distinctly un-masculine activity.) But Twitter – the unstoppable microblogging tool – seems to get bigger by the day. And besides, you don’t want to be like the 85-year-old Anthony Parker …
“So, I have a grandmother who’s still not completely sure how to use a cellphone,” laughed A.P. – whose Twitter handle is AMP1808. “And I’m not going to say her age, but I thought: ‘Fast forward 50 years. I don’t want to be that guy – where technology passed me by.”
Parker is one of six Cavaliers to venture into the world of social media. The former Euroleague MVP boasts 3,456 followers. Other members of the Wine and Gold include Leon Powe (Leon_Powe, 2,365 followers), Samardo Samuels (samardo24, 1,979), Christian Eyenga (christeyenga8, 1,086).
Former Cavalier, Shaquille O’Neal, is the king of NBA tweeters, boasting 3,242,015 followers – tops among all athletes. Other NBA players in the top 10 are Dwight Howard (1,708,920) and Paul Pierce (1,627,712).
Daniel Gibson started tweeting, mid-summer, choosing the name “1BooByD_Gibson” because an impostor had taken the original “Boobie” moniker. Gibson – who’s up to 15,441 followers (and growing) – has been the most active Cavalier since joining Twitter, hosting a “Tweet and Greet” after Friday night’s Wine and Gold Scrimmage, taking time to sign autographs and spend a minute with the first 25 fans who tweeted him before the game.
But Boobie wasn’t always the social networker he’s developed into recently.
“At first, I even put it on the blog on my website – that I don’t have a Twitter account. But after saying that, I looked into what it was all about. My fiancée kind of got me into it. She’s an entertainer, and that’s one of their outlets of getting to the media. She said it would be good for me to do the same thing. It’s a way to be closer to my fans. I never thought about it before then.”
Getting his own Twitter account also helped Gibson dispose of the faux-Boobie.
“There was actually someone posing as me, and I was getting comments on my website,” laughed the Cavs guard. “People were saying, ‘Is that really you on Twitter, because (the impersonator) is kind of a mean guy, and that’s not cool.’ So I wanted everybody to know that’s not me. And I guess the best way to do that was to get the ‘little checkmark.’”
Boobie might be the most active tweeter right now, but every Cavs fan knows that Mo Williams (mogotti2) was an open book via Twitter over the tumultuous summer. Mo has always been a guy to wear his heart on his sleeve, but through Twitter, his feelings have been blasted into cyberspace.
“Everybody knows I have a Twitter account, and (this summer) I got a message to the account, and the message was: ‘Mo, you make too much money to worry about a situation like this.’” explained Williams. “And I usually don’t reply to messages on Twitter because there are so many. But my reply was, ‘You can’t control where your heart is. It’s not about how much money I get paid.’ Just like the average fan that goes to work every day, I felt the same pain that they felt. I feel the same love for this organization and this team that they do.”
Mo’s emotional tweets did the job. He is by far the most popular Cavalier in that cyber-community, boasting 73,040 followers at the time of this writing.
Though his approach might be different, Gibson also sees his Twitter account as a way to show his love for the organization.
“I want everybody to love these Cavaliers,” said Gibson. “I know it’s going to be hard right now, but I want everybody to roll with us.”
It’s not just the Cavaliers players that have discovered the power of Twitter. In August, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert used a “Tweetup” – inviting Twitter followers to come to downtown’s Cadillac Ranch for the unveiling of the Wine and Gold’s new uniforms.
Dan Gilbert (cavsdan), who is up to 6,351 followers, is one of four owners – along with Dallas’ Mark Cuban, Portland’s Paul Allen and Utah’s Larry Miller – who currently use Twitter.
And it’s not limited to current ballplayers. Some former Cavaliers with accounts include Eric Snow (8,427 followers), Dan Majerle (1,822), Donyell Marshall (4,105) and the current mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson (11,595).
The NBA’s acceptance of Twitter hasn’t been an overnight process. Obviously, in-game tweets have been banned and the league rule states that players can’t tweet until after players and coaches have talked with the media. On top of that, teams still have the discretion to add their own rules on top of those enforced by the NBA.
Last season, one of the first Twitter-related fines was taken out of Bucks rookie, Brandon Jennings’ pocket – $7,500 simply for a positive tweet rejoicing that Milwaukee was back to .500.
But not everyone got the league’s message last year. Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva tweeted during halftime of a game, Minnesota’s Kevin Love tweeted when Kevin McHale was out as coach, and T.J. Ford took some guff after tweeting about his early-morning bowel movements.
In the college game, Villanova hoops players have done away with Twitter until after the season.
The current Cavaliers have seen some Twitter blunders, and know better than to make the same mistake.
“I’m very careful with what I say,” asserted Anthony Parker. “I’m not going to make crazy comments. Remember a couple weeks ago where the guy was planning to burn the Qur’an? I was thinking, ‘Man, should I comment on this?’
“One of my friends was talking about Toronto and saying how great Toronto is. And he’s like, ‘You got that nutcase down in Florida.’ So I did comment on that. But you have to be careful. I’ve been tempted to comment politically on different things, like the mosque in New York City. But people feel a certain way, and I’m not that figure. I’m not running for public office. I have to be careful about that kind of stuff.”
Gibson has been equally cautious.
“Everything I tweet, I think about it before I tweet it,” said the former Longhorn. “I don’t just go on spur-of-the-moment tweets. And everything I tweet, I try to be inspirational. I try not to get into anything negative. And I’m a fun guy, so my tweets are most likely going to be funny. I’m going either jokes or inspirational. There won’t be anything coming out of left field.”
It seems like a new NBA player enters the Twittersphere every day. And even their avatars are getting more creative. Philly’s Evan Turner goes with a black-and-white Mohammed Ali; OKC’s Nick Collison has himself in a huge afro and beard, Denver’s Renaldo Balkman is decked out as Uncle Sam. And the Cavaliers own Samardo Samuels – a native of Jamaica – is represented by the late, great Bob Marley.
With thousands of fans following them, who do they follow?
“I follow Reverend Run DMC,” said Parker. “I follow Russell Simmons. I follow John Maxwell and Depak Chopra. Of course, my sister, my brother. Some of the guys on the team. I follow Common. I do CNN, HoopsHype, the NBA.”
“I like to follow a lot of my friends,” added Gibson. “If you don’t get a chance to talk to them, maybe they’ll tweet and you can find out what’s going on. I like to follow friends and then famous people that you might want to know what’s going on – celebrities from Houston or maybe President Obama. You might want to hear what they’re thinking about.”
Years ago, the thought of pro athletes, celebrities and ordinary people meshing in cyberspace seemed unthinkable. Now, we can keep up with almost anyone through Twitter.
“I need to stay up on Twitter,” concluded A.P. “I don’t want to be the guy on there every five minutes, but you get inspirational quotes, you get news updates, you get NBA news. And you can use it as a platform for positive and good as well. That’s why I’m embracing it.”
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.