COMMENTARY – Social media is a powerful communication tool capable of positively or negatively affecting one’s reputation. This can be done at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen. The impact of several individuals coming together, briefly or long term, to agree on a common ground is rewarding, depending on which side of the argument you stand. The conversation becomes more complicated when involving professional athletes and sports figures. As their on-court performance changes game-by-game, so might their fan support and global implications. Social media puts the athlete’s life under a microscope, where their off-court matter also helps to determine how an athlete is perceived and their overall image. Social media forms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, offer fans the opportunity to voice their opinion on a sports figure. Once information about a sports figure is on the Internet it is there forever and travels amongst users at great speeds.
With the global impact of social media and the microscopic following of fans, athletes had better be careful. Although the matter affects all sports figures it more importantly affects those of top tier status: the greats, the legends, the hall-of-famers, the greatest of an era. Social media has the power to affect careers.
Here, we’ll be comparing the impact that social media would’ve had, had, or has on the careers of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.
His Airness ruled during an era where cell phones, email, and the Internet were becoming a trend. Now, some 10+ years after his last on-court action, Jordan is retired and enjoying the life he has built for himself. Jordan’s ticket to fame is a result of his hard work, dedication, and ambition. However, that could’ve easily come crashing down. Social media would’ve been a double edged sword for Jordan: highlighting his greatness but exposing his weaknesses.
It was no easy feat to dominate the court, but MJ did so on a nightly basis that you couldn’t help but to admire his abilities. Whether it be a game-winner or jaw-dropping play, social media would’ve exploded from over usage. Even the launch of his TV commercials and endorsements with Nike would’ve added to the legacy and given the Jordan brand sneakers a 15+ year head start on the popularity it has now. Years of consistency and the longevity of his career would’ve only boasted the reputation of MJ with social media.
However, all would not have been well. With the constant demand for 24 hour news coverage the media would’ve found something regarding Jordan to discuss and nit-pick. Whether it concern his downward marriage with then wife Juanita Jordan, an inability to win a championship his first seven seasons, the multiple retirements, speculations of a gambling addiction, a tendency to take ill-advised shots, etc., Jordan would not have been the same. With social media, just as quickly as your are brought up you can be torn down.
In the end, social media would not have been kind to MJ. The early unsuccessful championship runs combined with off-court activities may have altered history. There’s no telling how media coverage, fan involvement, and other outside factors would’ve shaped Michael Jordan. Would the good have outweighed the bad? Would the bad be too much to recover from? With such constant attention, would Jordan have done more to remove himself from the media? These are questions that will never be answered.
Even after his legacy is embedded Jordan doesn’t seem to be joining the social media world soon.
The Mamba finally got involved in social media within recent months and he’s actually been making headlines for it. Kobe has an aggressive personality, but he offers a different perspective when you’re reading his thoughts from the screen. Throughout the stress of basketball and the media Kobe seems more peaceful and engaging on social media. Although he was introduced to it later on in his career Vino seems to be making up for lost time. If he had gotten involved early on social media could’ve been a big boast to Kobe’s luxurious career.
There has been a change in the actions of “Kobe the ball player” and “Kobe the person”. As an 18-year-old drafted out of high school you’d expect a few immature and questionable decisions if the Internet had been what it is now. Later on, the world would’ve noticed a change in his personality and gameplay. The demographic of Kobe’s career could’ve changed if he had the opportunity to speak with the public. To offer his voice on matter concerning his feud with Shaquille O’Neal, the alleged rape case, questionable shot selections, lack of passing, etc., could’ve only helped Kobe. Looking through his career, I don’t think there is a downside if Kobe were involved in social media early in his career, aside from the microscopic view that every player on social media is placed under.
Kobe has a respectable image as a competitor and person. Offering insight from his perspective on various situations would’ve enhanced his persona, as is being done now, and cleared up a few gray areas.
Can you imagine the Twittersphere when Kobe erupted for 81 points against Toronto!
There is no better example of a superstar’s career being highlighted on social media than that of LeBron James.
James plays during a high-tech generation that catches any and every move he makes. No only is he watched by social media, but the media in general. Even from his years as a high school stud , social media has been embedded in LBJ’s career. James will forever be referenced on current and future social media outlets. It is what has made him an iconic figure and not just a basketball player.
James is a hell of a player and one of the most recognizable names in basketball. He’s set records and made explosive plays that not many will ever see again. At times it seems that too much attention is paid to Lebron and some things are not worthy of the hype. In no way am I discounting the greatness of LeBron, what he has accomplished, or what he will continue to do, I’m merely questioning whether LeBron’s reputation and popularity be on the same level if not for social media. Probably not.
There is some good to LBJ’s social media usage though. Similar to Kobe’s hypothetical situation, social media allows LeBron to offer his personal input on matter, whether basketball related or not. Although we’re years removed from “The Decision”, which erupted on social media and tainted James’ reputation, it seems to be forgiven, if not forgotten. LeBron has been able to reconcile his actions from admitting it was not the correct way to handle it and move on. As his popularity has been restored and he’s no longer deemed “the villain” it seems his words were understood, which wouldn’t have been possible without social media.
There’s not much of a difference between James’ career with or without social media. His greatness would’ve been witnessed by those who follow the NBA and his reputation would’ve traveled by world of mouth and the media. As a result of social media, James is viewed as more than a basketball player and his personal actions are highlighted. Social media has virtually made him a basketball legend before he’s close to hanging up his sneakers.
All in all, social media has done the king well.