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News » Diggin' tweet smell of success

Diggin' tweet smell of success

Diggin' tweet smell of successNBA training camps start opening this weekend. Let the tweeting begin in earnest.

Of major sports, the NBA and its players make the most of Twitter, topping the athletic tweet list and ranking second among all brands (1.36 million followers) to Whole Foods (1.37 million) on

*In June, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love broke the news on Twitter that coach Kevin McHale would not return.

*In August, Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley posted personal feelings on Twitter and checked into a rehab center for depression-related issues. His account has since been closed and he is back with the team.

*This month, Allen Iverson's tweets led to figuring out the veteran guard would be signing with the Memphis Grizzlies.

By himself, new Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal has more than 2.27 million Twitter followers, seventh among all "celebrities" at

"As recently as last year, (social networks) weren't even a major topic of discussion," says Mike Bantom, NBA senior vice president of player development.

The NFL is the only other professional sport with more than a million Twitter followers (1.11 million). Some others: Major League Baseball (506,000), PGA Tour (16,000), WNBA (9,800), NHL (6,000) and LPGA (4,000).

But for NBA players, "Your body is a multimillion-dollar business, and you are the CEO," former All-Star center Alonzo Mourning says of using Twitter.

The NBA now includes social networking as an integral part of the league's media training, addressing advantages and pitfalls.

"We have regular conversations about it with all of our teams," says the NBA's Tim Frank, vice president of Basketball communications. "It's just like 15 years ago with the Internet. We all discuss the best way to use it and not use it."

Bantom says NBA staffers monitor the tweets of all players and "might alert them about things that could cause trouble."

It's unlikely players will be messaging from locker rooms at halftime, as then-Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva (now with the Detroit Pistons) did in March during a win against the Boston Celtics.

"That was one of the groundbreaking tweets," Bucks general manager John Hammond says. "I don't think we, as an organization, really knew how to react to it. But we felt it was inappropriate to do at halftime.

"Twitter is part of our society, but we believe there is a time and place for it. During team business is probably ... inappropriate."

Phoenix Suns All-Star Amare Stoudemire has no problem with such a guideline. "If a player is on Twitter at halftime, it means he's not focused on the game," Stoudemire says. "That's definitely not something I want to do."

The NBA also has more than a million new Facebook fans since October 2008.

"Social networking allows our league to connect with fans in a way I've never seen before," says Kathy Behrens, the NBA executive vice president of social responsibility and player programs. "It breaks down the wall between players and fans, and it's instantaneous."

When Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard visited South Africa as part of the league's Basketball Without Borders program, he posted photographs from Soweto on Facebook. On Twitter, Howard has 1.06 million followers and has posted more than 6,000 tweets. Last week he used Twitter to announce he was shooting a TNT spot with actor Rainn Wilson.

Stoudemire started tweeting two months ago under the handle "Amareisreal." He has more than 33,000 followers. "I was wondering, 'How can this help me?' " Stoudemire says. "Then I realized it's a great way to reach my fans and promote my website ("

O'Neal became engaged with Twitter because someone had created a feed under his identity. He reclaimed his brand under THE_REAL_SHAQ.

With his larger-than-life persona, O'Neal is a natural for social media. Other athletes have failed to grasp the Twitter concept.

Kathleen Hessert, president of the consulting group Sports Media Challenge, says fans don't really care what players had for lunch or where they went the previous night.

"They quickly become bored with gibberish. They want a return on emotion," she says. "I tell my clients, 'Don't just give facts, give insight. Help fans understand something from your unique perspective.' "

Behrens and her staff also advise players about privacy risks. "We are always reminding them this is a public community, not private," she says. "This is not like texting your friends."

One of the biggest mistakes a player can make is disclosing his location. "If you're telling people of your whereabouts, it makes you vulnerable," Bantom says. "We've talked about it and we'll continue to talk about it."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 24, 2009


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