Spurs Stay In Touch With Social Media


Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His Spurs.com column will appear every Wednesday.


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Coach Pop and Manu Ginobili
Pop coaches up Manu on the finer points of tweeting.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

It was a sequence befitting the game’s most unusual All-Star, a reminder of why Manu Ginobili belongs in the NBA showcase. Racing up court, Ginobili grabbed a tipped rebound. Without looking, he passed the ball around his back, around the defender chasing him, all the way around disbelief to West teammate Deron Williams.

With a 3-on-1 advantage, Williams dished to Ginobili, who finished with a soft layup. The spectacular and the simple came together in one maddening sprint that was oh so Manu. How’d he do that?

Back in the day, David Robinson would stop and marvel and ask that question. Then Robinson would remember: I’m in a game.

The media may have been more interested in Kobe Bryant (34 points, Most Valuable Player) and Carmelo Anthony (now with the Knicks) after Sunday’s All-Star game. But there were legions who wanted to hear from Ginobili. So he obliged with an electronic message -- or tweet -- to nearly half a million followers on Twitter: “So nice to be back home after 15 days!! ASG (All-Star Game) was a lot of fun! Great to be part of it. Thx 4 the msgs.”

He also promised a 360 panorama of Staples Center and delivered on Monday with a photo on Twitpic. Ginobili does not lead the league in points, assists or tweets. But he ranks among the best at connecting with teammates (see YouTube highlights) and fans (check Twitter and Facebook postings).

He’s a rare one, all right. Ginobili plays in his second All-Star game six years after his first and soars as a social media All-Star. In the ever-changing world of electronic media connections, @ManuGinobili boasted 461,735 followers on Twitter early Tuesday afternoon -- ninth best among NBA players, according to fanpagelist.com.

“I tweet once or twice a day,” says Ginobili, who offers his posts in English and Spanish. “It’s a great way to stay in touch. I love it.”

Yes, Ginobili also connects with friends through Facebook (he had 440,735 fans shortly after noon on Tuesday). But he prefers to communicate through Twitter.

Some guys send random thoughts as Twitter feeds. Ginobili often sends news. Consider one tweet from last May: “Dante & Nicola were born this am! Mom and the kids are doing great. We r SOOO happy. I’ll keep you guys posted.”

Did he ever. Before long, he posted this: “I just changed my first diaper!” Baby pictures soon appeared. One showed tiny, curled fingers beside a small coin: “Look at the size of this hand,” he wrote. “Isn’t it incredible?”

“Incredible” is a word that fits Ginobili well. His wild, improvisational moves made him a fan favorite long before the advent of Twitter or Facebook. But his skillful use of social media -- he sends text, photos and videos to fans -- has elevated his popularity.

George Hill knows the power of Twitter. He once invited followers to a treasure hunt at Best Buy, and the place packed out. Another time he alerted fans that he’d be at Dave and Busters to play games, and suddenly, @George_Hill3 began adding hundreds of followers to his Twitter account.

What’s Hill going to do next? If you want to know, start following him on Twitter. No Spur tweets as often as Hill, who gets started before he rolls out of bed. “I get up and tweet before I even go to the bathroom,” he says.

After the Spurs landed on the fifth stop of their rodeo road trip, you could practically feel the chill in Hill’s tweet: “I just took the 100 coldest steps of my life here in Toronto!!!! I have never been that cold in my life. …”

@TP9Network uses Twitter. But Tony Parker prefers to message through Facebook. His 279,827 fans ranks 19th among NBA players, according to a Tuesday afternoon count from fanpagelist.com. Parker posts photos of teammates and friends and muses about games in English and French. After Antonio McDyess made a buzzer-beating tip-in to beat the Lakers, Parker wrote, “Huge win in L.A.!!!” and “Enorme victoire à LA !!!”

Twitter keeps @TiagoSplitter in touch with fans in Brazil. Twitter keeps @DeJuan Blair in touch with friends in Pittsburgh. And Twitter keeps Ginobili in touch with peeps around the world.

How powerful is a Manu tweet? A couple of years ago, fellow Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro defeated Roger Federer to win the U.S. Open. To celebrate, Ginobili and former Spur Fab Oberto grabbed fireplace tools, swung them like tennis racquets and posted a photo. Manu wrote, “With all the tennis excitement, after the game we decided to pose with improvised rackets. Welcome back my friend!… “

Quicker than you can say “Holy Ginobili,” the tweet became a sensation in Argentina. “It made it into the newspapers,” Manu says, shaking his head.

No, he never saw that coming, and isn't that ironic? The whirling wonder who surprises with no-look passes was blindsided by the force of his own tweet.