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Shots Fired Off the Court

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September 22, 2023 | Podcast
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Is off the court beef good or bad for the league?

James fired back at Green with some trolling of his own via James’ Instagram

Everyone lately is probably familiar with the Cavs-Warriors buzz. I am not sure whether there have been more shots fired on the court or off the court between the two teams.

On Thursday, June 15th, the Warriors had their celebratory parade, in which Draymond Green wore a shirt that read “Quickie”, with the logo of the Cavalier’s Quicken Loans Arena on it.

“Well the Q, that’s what those guys’ arena is called, and we got them out of here quick, with the trophy, quickie,” Green said during an interview about the shirt. He explained that it was inspired by the “Ultimate Warrior” shirt James sported at the Cavaliers victory parade in Cleveland the previous year.

“Jeremy Darlow recently discussed this with his new think tank, Brand Food, on the upcoming fight with Mayweather and McGregor. Nothing generates more buzz than a rivalry, and athletes today are doing these types of actions to get people talking about the teams, athletes, and upcoming seasons.” — Karen Freberg

Not to mention the GSW tombstone cookies featured at James’ Halloween party last year.

LeBron James had some jokes of his own about Green’s shirt of choice on his Instagram. Multiple high profile NBA athletes’ commented on the picture, such as JR Smith and Tristan Thompson. Russell Westbrook and James Harden both liked the Instagram post.

After the post, Green proceeded to call out LeBron on the issue of forming “superteams”.

Green and James have a history of a friendly rivalry, and I am sure this will continue into the off-season.

Green has been recorded stating, “I can’t forget the Ultimate Warrior shirt last year from LeBron.” He’s continued with, “You know the 3–1 tombstone cookies and all of that [from James’ Halloween party last year]? So I was waiting on this moment, but he’s definitely my guy. That’s family.”

The trolling is all in good fun, or so the athletes say.

The question I would like to pose though, is whether the friendly jokes are good or bad for NBA media?

Additionally, the NBA has been receiving some heat from the public for the “superteams” and the same teams going to the finals year after year. The jokes surrounding it could make the public think even the athletes do not take it seriously. Should the NBA allow more attention to be drawn on the issue?

Green does not exactly have a clean slate of a reputation, but in the video above, the GM of the Golden State Warriors is shown laughing. Is this the sort of behavior that should be taken lightly?

Karen Freberg, Associate Professor in Strategic Communication at The University of Louisville, and Natalie Mikolich, founder of npm | pr and former 2016 Chair of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Entertainment and Sports Section, weigh in on the matter.

Freberg explains the recent social media trend surrounding sports and the rivalry complex. She draws a parallel to the Mayweather-McGregor situation:

“Jeremy Darlow recently discussed this with his new think tank, Brand Food, on the upcoming fight with Mayweather and McGregor. Nothing generates more buzz than a rivalry, and athletes today are doing these types of actions to get people talking about the teams, athletes, and upcoming seasons.”

The rivalry trend has always existed, but with social media, it seems to be in the hands of the athlete more than ever. Athletes are now able to have a more “hands on” relationship with fans, which Freberg addresses.

“We are in the attention economy, and this is one way athletes are positioning themselves in the minds of their fans. However, there is of course a time and place for these stories, and it all does come down to how athletes and teams approach them and how the fans and other audience members respond to them.”

Our being in an attention economy is a great concept, one that explains the psychology of the rivalry theme being so heavily discussed. Mikolich spins off of Freberg’s idea of there being a time and place for the rivalry behavior.

“Draymond says the trolling is in good fun, but these players also need to remember they still represent their teams and the league, and their behavior and actions, including posts on social media, can reflect poorly on them from a brand perspective.”

Mikolich states, “It is important for athletes to be wary of what they are saying for the sake of the organizations they are representing, as well as their personal brand.”

Both Freberg and Mikolich hit the nail on the head with explaining that the idea of the rivalry concept to attract attention from fans and media is great, but it is a tool that could easily backfire. We can all stay tuned for the next episode in the Cavaliers-Warriors post-finals extravaganza, and hopefully it will not feature anything heavier than some friendly trolling.

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