Attention: This post has got some very rough language involved. Parental discretion is advised.
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“Fuckin coon, burn in hell!!!”
That’s what someone tweeted Kevin Durant after the Thunder’s loss Monday night to the Spurs.
“you suck b and you a fag”
That’s what someone tweeted Russell Westbrook.
“you’ve gotta be borderline retarded for the decisions you make on the court… Take some pride”
That’s what someone tweeted Serge Ibaka.
And that’s just the start of it.
Twitter, it’s an amazing thing, man. It’s my newspaper, except unlike a newspaper, it gets printed every five seconds. Information, jokes, insight, analysis, all instant, all day long.
It’s also really the only gateway fans have ever had directly to professional athletes or celebrities. It’s kind of like having their phone number, except it’s a special kind of phone where the text messages mostly only go one way. You can tweet at them how awesome you think they are, or with requests of retweets or birthday shoutouts or whatever, and hope they respond or at least pretend in your head they read it and will cherish it forever.
But Twitter, and even Instagram too, are open microphones for anything that anyone wants to say. It’s essentially social heckling, but with the luxury of being hidden behind an anonymous username without people in an arena giving you looks when you say that horrible thing to a player. It’s a transmitter for hate, for putdowns, for vile words.
And when you’re someone like Durant, who has more than 3.7 million followers, you’re going to get more than your fair share.
For example, a sampling of what a couple Thunder players were tweeted Monday night:
@kdtrey5 play like yu got sum fuckin nuts .. Lookin soft as hell bruh
— original kriminal ™ (@biggsTRiPPYmane) March 12, 2013
@kdtrey5 soft ass nigga
— Gabe pinedo(@DearGabe_) March 12, 2013
@kdtrey5 it’s one fuckin game calm down you overgrown vagina. Jesus
— Δamer (@Aamer_24) March 12, 2013
@russwest44 you took 14 MORE shots than Kevin and you still COULDN’T outscore him!!!!BE A TEAM PLAYER YOU BALLHOG!
— John Doe (@AusPro777) March 12, 2013
— vicente gonzales (@vicentegee) March 12, 2013
@sergeibaka9 can anyone say miss miss miss miss. Lol cmon how u on OKC. U are garbage.
— DDG (@DustyDaGreat) March 12, 2013
@kdtrey5 fuck u stop bitchin and whinin’ on twitter and man the fuck up and win a game
— Tim Ermilio™ (@ERMILIOS_pizza) March 12, 2013
@russwest44 I hope you sleep good tonight knowing your the reason your team lost. Give the ball to the true star on that team. KD.
— Mohamad (@Pali_Mudda) March 12, 2013
— Put A White Boy In (@NBA_CRACKA) March 12, 2013
@russwest44 you need to train with magic or nash this offseason and learn to run the fucking point
— THE GINGERBREAD MAN (@Zcarp4life) March 12, 2013
@kdtrey5 YOU A PUSSY FOR DELETING YOUR TWEETS MAN, MILLIONS SAW IT, JUST SHOWS YOUR A CERTIFIED PUSSY
— Save Dallas (@Dwight2Dallas) March 12, 2013
KD – 13 attempts, 26pts, Westbrook – 27 attempts, 25pts. PG shot twice over the SG. What a dumb player @russwest44 is so freaking dumb.
— Siegfried Kiel Sañez (@siegfriedkiel) March 12, 2013
Now, after spending a good amount of time browsing through their mentions, I would say they receive at least 5-to-1 positive to negative tweets. In some cases, it’s way higher than that. (The other thing I learned: Grammar and spelling have died. They’re dead. Forever.)
Players love Twitter because it increases their exposure, enhances their brand and gives them an ability to connect to the fans that give them an opportunity to make millions of dollars playing a game. They can promote their shoes, show off their interests, answer questions and send out pictures. Twitter places fans as close as they’ve ever been to the stars they idolize. It’s awesome.
But again, it’s got that darkside. Don’t believe me? Take a tour through Dahntay Jones’ mentions right now because of this Kobe thing. It’s horrifying.
I’ll fully admit it: I’m a fairly thin-skinned person. The criticism and trash-talk I get often gets in my head. And comparatively, it’s nothing. But I know if it bothers me, it has to bother them, right?
“People don’t really know how much words can really hurt sometimes, no matter who you are,” KD told me. “NBA players, lawyers, doctors — words hurt. They cut deep. I think people on Twitter specifically really don’t know because they’re behind their computer, you know what I mean?”
I asked Perk, who was on Twitter last season and then left it before reviving his account this season, if he reads what people send him. Does he check his mentions routinely?
“I do,” he said. “Sometimes I respond. I shouldn’t, but sometimes I do. I had to respond to one dude who was like — I posted a picture of my kids — and he was like ‘your kids are ugly’ and I’m like what and he’s like ‘I hope your kids die tomorrow.’ So I followed him and I DM’d him. I didn’t say nothing crazy but I was like come on man, you want my kids to die? Sometimes it gets outrageous, but I guess it’s just part of life. But a dude get out of hand it makes you sometimes want to shut off your Twitter.”
@shaboopie16 because ya mama was bothering me the night before all night
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) March 12, 2013
Said KD: “I’ve had some bad tweets as well, hoping I tear my ACL, my mom this, your dad that. It’s a bunch of BS and I think sometimes people don’t really know what they’re saying. But what can you do?”
I know what some of you are thinking: They’re professional athletes. Deal with the criticism and if you’re sad, cry into your millions of dollars. It’s just trolling — get over it. And while yes, these guys have it very good and because of their status are available targets for ridicule, they also aren’t robots programmed to run up and down a basketball court for your personal enjoyment, or to be your personal punching bag. Believe it or not, they are, in fact, people. Yes, they’re public figures and yes, that puts them in a very unique situation when it comes to this kind of stuff, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be blasted with hateful and harsh stuff every night.
“I think as NBA players sometimes people look at us, I don’t know a good way to say this, but as animals sometimes,” Durant said. “Like, ‘just go out there and entertain and don’t say nothing back, we can say what we want to, we can do what we want to and you can do nothing to us.’ So I mean, sometimes you just want to let people know you hear it. We’re human. It hurts. We go through emotions and feelings.”
And it can get in your head. One player told me privately that the distraction of critical tweets can have an effect. Take that kind of routine verbal beating about the way you look, the way you play or the way you do anything, and it can get to you. You can tell yourself those people don’t matter, you can try to turn the other cheek, but it’s not easy to simply ignore.
So what are the options? Here’s one thing that’s probably not recommend unless you’re Perk: Did you guys see that boxer that took matters into his own hands with a Twitter heckler recently? Basically, he had enough with a guy tough-talking him so he did a little research to find out exactly where he lived and afforded him to put his fists where his 140 characters had been. When it came down to it, Internet Tough Guy wasn’t so tough after all.
It reminded of a Seinfeld episode where Kramer’s girlfriend heckles Jerry during his act, so he decided to go to her work and heckle her back. Not that Russell Westbrook should hunt down anyone that calls him a ballhog on Twitter, but you can always retweet some to expose the ignorance. People are mostly anonymous on Twitter, so at the least you can ruin the little online world of 140 characters or less they’ve built for themselves.
Because that’s really the only option there is, outside of blocking them or just deleting your account all together. Moves that are probably futile though, because the lesson is, as always, is that people are the worst. Seriously, read the comments on an Instagram picture posted by KD or Westbrook. It will make you wonder why God hath not smote us all from Earth.
So why even have it at all?
“You know how I look at it?” Perk said, “for everyone one negative person that’s on Twitter you’ve got 20 positive people. So that’s how I try to take it.”
Which really, is just about all you can do.