The NBA is characters. The NBA is drama. The NBA is comedy. The NBA is access. The NBA is personality. The NBA is petty. The NBA is forward-thinking. The NBA is everything that plays on social media.
Twitter has become the performance stage for basketball fandom, a place where thoughtful statistical analysis intersects with meme culture, trash talk, sarcasm, and jokes from every corner of the world to create the real pulse of the NBA. For years, TV and broadcast networks have been exploring ways to overwhelm us with companion media and second-screen viewing options during live sports. As far as the NBA is concerned, Twitter has already filled that role.
There’s been a lot of movement in the basketball media world since last season, mostly as a result of the massive layoffs at ESPN back in April. And for this reason, I thought it might be helpful to create a Basketball Twitter starter-kit for the uninitiated. Below, you’ll find a list of my favorite Twitter follows heading into the new season, including their Twitter aliases, handles, platforms, and what makes each a worthy follow.
Zach Harper – The Ding King (One would think)
Twitter: @talkhoops | Platform: Writer for FanRag Sports, contributor to The Basketball Friends
Zach came up through CBS Sports and ESPN, contributing to the latter’s TrueHoop Blog/Podcast Network. He’s currently a writer for FanRag Sports and one of the primary contributors to The Basketball Friends podcast – the spiritual successor to ESPN’s TrueHoop pod from producer Jade Hoye. He’s one of the funniest follows for Basketball Twitter and is always thrilled to engage fans in a discussion about Ricky Davis or Nic Cage’s “Next” at 3AM.
Pablo Torre – Stephen Jackson’s Nemesis
Twitter: @PabloTorre | Platform: ESPN Writer, Around the Horn/PTI contributor, Host of yet-to-be-named future ESPN show with Bomani Jones
One of the smartest and wittiest follows. Leads the league in “damn, that’s funny – how the hell did I not think to tweet that first?”-isms.
Rachel Nichols – Chief Airport Correspondant
Twitter: @Rachel_Nichols | Platform: Host of ESPN’s The Jump, contributor to SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, and E60.
Rachel is kiiind of a big deal among the NBA’s media personalities. She’s the host of ESPN’s The Jump, where she carried the network’s coverage leading in to this summer’s momentous free agency period. She has what feels like unprecedented access to both current and ex-players making her a must-follow. She also gets my vote for “most likely to star in a hit buddy cop series alongside Ramona Shelburne,” if that counts for anything. Little known fact: Rachel appears as an extra in 14 airport scenes across 9 different cities in Up in the Air – by accident. Shout out to stools, Rach.
Zach Lowe – The Middle-Man
Twitter: @ZachLowe_NBA | Platform: ESPN Senior Writer, host of The Lowe Post podcast
By his own admission, Zach Lowe is happiest when ranking NBA team mascots or court designs. However, he is probably best known as the guy who creates gifs of complex basketball actions and breaks them down in great detail so that even us common folk can understand what we’re watching each night. Zach is also the host of The Lowe Post podcast on ESPN where you can find him chatting it up with Jeff Van Gundy, Howard Beck, Kevin Arnovitz, Brian Windhorst, Ramona Shelburne, and countless league vets, team executives, insiders, etc. Zach offers great balance in his tweets. He’s plugged in to most NBA circles so he’s a must-follow for breaking news, weekly written analysis, and is always good for an occasional zinger.
Ryen Russillo – The Guy Who Sits in his Basement and Watches TV
Twitter: @ryenarussillo | Platform: Host of The Ryen Russillo Show
He’s friends with the Barstool guys, he’s super jacked, he loves to party, and (along with SVP) he created the greatest radio segment of all time (I just wrote his Tinder bio for him). Ryen’s radio show places a heavy premium on NBA coverage, which is great, but the Ryen Russillo Show host is also becoming sneaky plugged in to league circles. He’s a hilarious Twitter follow as well – the only caveat being you either get him, or you don’t.
Jason Concepcion – Kristaps Porzingis’ Father
Twitter: @netw3rk | Platform: Writer for the Ringer
Fans of Game of Thrones should already know Jason from The Ringer’s post-episode coverage and Binge Mode podcast. Jason’s true tweeting percentage is through the roof during the NBA season – especially when the Knicks and Porzingis are playing.
Larry Coon – CBA Yoda
Twitter: @LarryCoon | Platform: Writer for ESPN, author of cbafaq.com
Colleges might as well start offering a CBA/NBA salary cap undergraduate program, because 4-years of intense study is what it would probably take to fully grasp the CBA and its nuances – it’s that involved. Fortunately, Larry Coon wrote the NBA CBA FAQ for public viewing, and while quite lengthy, it features a straightforward appendix and search function to assist with your NBA salary-related questions.
Haralabos Voulgaris – The Wise Guy
Bob Voulgaris is best known in NBA circles as the guy who outsmarted sportsbooks years ago by taking advantage of the ones that failed to adjust NBA second-half point totals. Voulgaris has since become a popular Twitter follow who, despite having no real affiliation with any network or sports platform, uses a five or six TV setup to watch and analyze multiple NBA games at a time. He’s also a professional poker player, so bonus points for anyone out there looking for hold-em commentary.
Brian Windhorst – The Apple Tech and Sliding Guy
Twitter: @WindhorstESPN | Platform: Insider for ESPN
If you’re trying to get into the industry, spending the majority of your career covering and developing a close relationship with the league’s best player is usually a good route to take. Windhorst isn’t really in the funny guy game, and still doesn’t know how to install updates to his phone, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy dispensing as much quality content and breaking news as Windy throughout the year.
Mina Kimes – The Laugher
Twitter: @minakimes | Platform: Senior Writer for ESPN The Magazine
Mina’s Twitter game is elite year-round and the quality shows no drop off when she jumps from sport-to-sport. In fact, Mina comes in at number one in the Cross-Sports Twitter Power Rankings (patent-pending), and it isn’t even close. She also holds top spot in the “best laugh” and “funniest faces made on Highly Questionable” power rankings, but now we’re getting off-topic.
Adrian Wojnarowski/Shams Charania – The Scoops
Twitter: @wojespn/@ShamsCharania | Platform: ESPN Senior NBA Insider/Yahoo! NBA Reporter
I group these two together primarily because Twitter made me do it. Woj and Shams will be forever linked as far as Basketball Twitter is concerned. Woj ran the show over at Yahoo’s The Vertical before leaving for ESPN, and it looks like he taught Shams everything he knows before departing. With each free-agency signing from this past summer, fans had a blast tracking which of the two biggest news breakers in the biz would beat the other to the punch. It will be fun to track Woj ‘s Tweet PER at ESPN considering he’ll be expected to appear on various television and radio programs, which could really hurt his tweet game.
Marc Stein – The Sage
Twitter: @ESPNSteinLine | Platform: The New York Times maybe
Stein is the godfather of access and breaking news, which he continued to do (admirably) this summer right up to June 30 – the day his ESPN contract would expire without renewal. Stein was notified back in April that he was to become part of ESPN’s massive layoffs, which is unfortunate considering how damn good this guy is at his job. It’s reported that Stein might have landed a role with The New York Times, but I can promise you he’s someone you need to be following regardless of where he ends up.