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Which NBA Player Won Social Media This Summer?

We're in the dead of summer and the NBA storylines are few and far between. For now, The Crossover will lean into the absurdity of the offseason and decide who is doing the best job promoting themselves on social media.

Look, it’s the offseason, the Carmelo Anthony-to-Houston transaction has seemingly taken years to complete, and August feels like it will take another six weeks to finish. What I’m saying is, when you have to write about the NBA this time of year, your mind tends to go to weird places. Tasked with discussing the Association when the only people dribbling basketballs are in Instagram videos, I thought, why not lean in and settle once and for all who is doing the best job promoting themselves online?

There are way too many social media accounts in the NBA for this to be a thorough investigation. If I left off your favorite player, it was on purpose. I don’t like them. Find a new slant. For now, let’s run through the most obvious candidates and decide who won social media this summer.

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Bryan Colangelo (And his wife), 76ers

The Colangelos are kind of cheating by being a couple who don’t actually play basketball, but how could they be excluded from this competition? To recap, a group of burner accounts (but mainly only one) were tweeting sensitive information about the Philadelphia 76ers. At first, signs pointed toward Bryan, the team’s general manager, as the brain behind the operation. Later, the team determined it was Bryan’s wife, Barbara, who actually sent the tweets, which included criticizing draft picks and defending big collars.

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Bryan basically blamed his wife on his way out the door in Philly, in an attempt to save face in one of the most ludicrous “scandals” in recent sports memory. It’s hard to make a case for the Colangelos winning social media this summer, though. Bryan lost his job, and it sounds like he’s in for some very awkward dinner table conversations at least until he finds a new job. The Sixers, by the way, still don’t have a new general manager.

Joel Embiid, 76ers

Like a successful sitcom in its fifth season, Embiid is still churning out solid if not spectacular material. He can still be funny. And it’s great when he’s self-deprecating. But Embiid’s act is geared more toward the regular season than the summer. He needs a foil, a villain. He needs a sneering Russell Westbrook or a flailing Hassan Whiteside. The best part of Embiid’s social media is he’s not afraid to go after his contemporaries, and he’s adept at straddling the line between biting and endearing. Embiid certainly doesn’t need to slow down, but he’s saving the true gems until October. I’m okay with that strategy.

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Kevin Durant, Warriors

You know the hits. Arguing with players online. Arguing with journalists online. Arguing with teens in Instagram DMs. What will we remember more 30 years from now: KD’s dagger in Game 3 of the Finals? Or him telling C.J. McCollum, “I just did your f--kin podcast?” Here’s what you can’t deny about Kevin Durant: He cares. You’re telling me that if thousands of people tweeted about your livelihood every single day you wouldn’t want to say something? Durant may not be making any friends, but he’s being himself when he responds to a critic.

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The most interesting part of the social media time loop that Durant is caught in is his willingness to admit that he’s reading what’s said about him. How many athletes pretend they don’t pay attention to “the outside noise?” Kevin Durant is the noise. I can’t say KD should handle his critics the way he is now, but his online presence is ultimately harmless. And it’s certainly human.

Enes Kanter, Knicks

The local car dealership version of Joel Embiid, Kanter is what happens when one of the businesses from Nathan For You hires a consulting firm to help grow their social media presence. Kanter means well, and his Twitter feed is largely videos of him working out, giving back to the community, and speaking out politically. Those are all great!

The problem is when he decides to insert himself in everything else happening in the NBA. As a wise man once said on a podcast, don’t concern yourself with what’s going on at the top of things. Like we didn’t need the tweet about Adam Silver joining the Warriors. “#MakeKnicksGreatAgain” will never be funny. Kanter is living his best life and I respect his enthusiasm in the face of all the obstacles he’s faced as a voice against his home country’s government. I don’t know anyone who loves the jokes, though.

Stephen A. Smith, ESPN

This is the greatest video I’ve ever seen.

Carmelo Anthony, Rockets

On the strength of basically calling every single one of us writers broke. Having someone pour you wine as you hold the glass behind your back is Rick Ross levels of opulence. You could argue that was the post of the summer. In general, Melo’s consistent joy in reminding everyone that he’s getting his money this season no matter what is aspirational.

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Honorable Mentions

Shout out to the NBA players who don’t really do anything in the summer other than travel and have fun. Klay Thompson in China remains one of society’s last true examples of pure joy. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have one of the best travel agents in the world. Then there’s Jamal Crawford, who seemingly always has a basketball in his hands. All of these people are doing a good job of keeping things breezy.

The Winner

It’s Kevin Durant. Love him or hate him, KD made sure people had something to say about him this summer. Durant invites scrutiny for the way he continues to respond to his persona non grata status on NBA Twitter, but 1) all of this is completely meaningless and 2) I think Durant is in a bigger no-win situation than people realize. I hope he keeps tweeting. At least until the season starts.