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Volume 23 No. 13
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How NBA prospects use social media

This year’s crop of NBA prospects has been more careful on social media than their NFL-dreaming counterparts, according to a study conducted by Turnkey Intelligence on behalf of Sports Business Journal.

With the NBA draft coming up this week, the league’s future stars were less active on social media last season and less likely to have engaged in risky social media behavior than their recent NFL draft peers, and many of them are taking a look at their social media personas to make themselves more attractive to teams and marketing partners.

Turnkey reviewed the public social media accounts of 75 of the top NBA draft prospects to see how socially engaged each player has been; if inappropriate content or language was seen on his public profile; if he publicly engaged in controversial issues or shared political opinions; whether he talked about an NBA team or not; and if he had taken steps to clean up his accounts over the past few months.

SBJ and Turnkey teamed up for a comparable study of NFL prospects prior to the league’s draft in April.

Among the findings: 20% of NBA prospects used social media at least once per day, compared to 43% of the football players. Additionally, 14% of basketball players had recently deleted 100 or more posts, while 24% of the top football players had made a similar attempt to clean up their accounts.

Turnkey said early exposure to the public is likely the key to the basketball players’ cautious approach.

“The top NBA draft prospects have always been front and center to fans, teams and coaches just through the AAU process, high school and college scouting,” said Rich Calabrese, Turnkey executive vice president and general manager, who oversaw the project. “Compared to NFL players, their content is pretty polished and clean.”

Easy access

Although access to the accounts of a player often requires his permission, Turnkey reported that their analysts were often easily granted such access simply by making a request through the player’s social media page. To receive a blue verification badge from Facebook, for example, account holders must provide the site a photo ID, an explanation as to why they should be verified, and relevant URL(s) that prove people are interested in their content.

How often the prospects posted to their social media accounts

Delete that post

For about half of NBA prospects, there is no evidence to suggest that they have deleted tweets or attempted to clean their social media profiles. Of those who have begun to clean their profiles, most have deleted fewer than 100 posts. Nearly a quarter of their NFL counterparts had deleted 100 or more posts.

How the prospects engaged on social media



Turnkey’s assessments of projected early- and middle-round draft picks. Projections based on ESPN as of May 31.


Kevin Porter (first round) USC, shooting guard

Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images

■ Porter has shared and liked explicit content dating to 2014.

■ While he has some less than appropriate engagement in his online history, this engagement is old and Porter doesn’t appear to be trying to hide anything — he has deleted only a small number of posts in the past year.

■ Is in tune with hip-hop culture, engaging with posts related to rap music and artists including Quavo, Future, Meek Mill and G Herbo. Was particularly vocal in commemorating the passing of  Nipsey Hussle.

■ Also engages with memes, GIFs and viral content, liking humor-based videos from influencers HaHa Davis and Desi Banks.


Zion Williamson (No. 1) Duke, power forward

Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images

■ Has more than 3 million followers on Instagram, making him the most-followed player in the draft class on this platform. No other player has more than 1 million.

■ His 324,000 Twitter following is also tops in this year’s draft class.

■ Has been in the public eye since his dunks started going viral at a young age. His social presence reflects this, as posts and engagement since grade school revolve almost exclusively around basketball.

■ Demonstrates appreciation for his fans, a passion for philanthropy and a soft spot for stories of perseverance; also maintains a humble sense of humor, liking content that mimics his basketball mannerisms.


Brandon Clarke (first round) Gonzaga, power forward

Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images
Photo: nbae / getty images

■ Is engaged with political content socially. Liked a tweet by Donald Trump, though perhaps sarcastically as it was about fighting Joe Biden. Also liked posts with the hashtag #vetsforgunreform.

■ Liked, but did not organically post, explicit content, including fight videos and explicit-language posts.

■ Has performed somewhat extensive profile maintenance, deleting more than 150 posts.

■ Engages with interests outside of basketball and sports, including gaming content.