DimeMag

15 NBA Players Who Could’ve Been Social Media Legends

Before the dawn of social media, the public’s access to the personal lives of their favorite players was limited to small headlines in the newspaper and postgame interviews. With the evolution of platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it’s now easier than ever to feel connected to the new generation of players.

Technology has enabled us to see everything: From what Kevin Durant is wearing out, to Matt Barnes‘s less-than-professionally worded feelings about his teammates, to what LeBron is having for dessert each night. Ok, that’s the end of my Introduction to Communications lecture for today.

The point is, my generation missed out. Can you imagine if the social media sites like Twitter and Instagram were around when the legends were playing? Imagine a Jordan casino picture with Sir Charles and Charles Oakley perhaps, complete with big, fat cigars! What about an Isiah Thomas tweet after a hard fought game against Magic and the Lakers (LOL, just kissed Magic)? My point is, as much as I love the players who utilize social media to connect with fans, I would love to see what some of legends would have posted.

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15. Magic Johnson
Career Stats: 19.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 11.0 APG
“When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are.”
Johnson is full of inspirational quotes and sayings made for Twitter. “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates” — Magic might have you thinking you accidentally followed @inspirationalquotes. To be honest, I don’t see Magic being very entertaining on Twitter; although the three-time MVP and Hall of Famer is still one of the most lovable NBA personalities to this day, he’d probably spend his time sending out the standard “great practice, love my team” tweets like that kid who takes rec ball way too serious.

No, where Magic would be legendary is Instagram. With Deron Williams making the “take pictures of your sleeping teammates” photo a standard this year in the NBA, Magic would be known for taking sneaky selfies with his sleeping teammates. You wouldn’t want to see candid photos of a sleepy Kareem or James Worthy all snuggled up on the plane rides, with Magic’s big smile and the hashtag #GotEm!? One of the all-time greats, Johnson would be the go-to choice for all the bromance photos the NBA has to offer.

14. Scot Pollard
Career Stats: 4.4 PPG, 4.6 RBG
“My only endorsement deal is with Fun-Dip.”
The man who I have to believe was Andrew Bynum‘s inspiration for last year’s many hairstyles, Pollard was a journeyman for 11 years. Pollard gave Rodman a run for his money when it came to strangeness (ok… nobody gave Rodman a run, but Scot is up there), from the strange pants (samurai) to painting his fingers and toes, to most famously his strange hairstyles/facial hair (pony tail, double pony tail, handlebars, mullets, mohawks, and mutton chops are all apart of his hairdo arsenal). While playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, Pollard was sitting on the bench (as always) when he looked into a camera he believed to be off and uttered, “Hey kids, do drugs.” He also played with Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson in Indiana…which means we could have been presented with play-by-play tweets like “Ron’s in the stands-LMFAO so is Stephen… O wait this isn’t good.” The combination of quirkiness and humor that Pollard brings to the table is too good to pass up on.

13. Charles Oakley
Career Stats: 9.7 PPG, 9.5 RBG
“Everything in life is double. If he didn’t pay me $108,000 he didn’t pay me.”
Oakley may or may not be a name you recall, depending on how much you follow the NBA. Oakley was a 6-9 bruising forward for the Bulls, Knicks, Raptors, Wizards and Rockets over the course of his 19-year career. Known as a rebounder and rugged enforcer, Oakley wasn’t afraid to mix it up with an opposing player, or to say how he felt about players/teams to the media (he even criticized the Knicks and said that LeBron shouldn’t come to New York when he was making his famed decision, a no-no for any former Knick). Charles has been in his fair share of fights too, once throwing a ball at the head of Sixers forward Tyrone Hill, who reportedly owed him money from a gambling debt.

Starting with the Bulls, Charles became a close friend and bodyguard of Michael Jordan. The one-time All-Star spent his free time hanging with the Jumpman, frequenting casinos and clubs across the globe. Oakley hangs with the likes of Jordan and Jay Z now, so were left to wonder what stories would come out had Twitter or Instagram been around while he was playing. Oakley has to be a pretty cool guy to get to call Jordan his BFF, and the photos he could have posted of them partying have me wishing social media came around 20 years earlier.

12. Marvin Barnes
Career ABA Stats: 24.1 PPG, 13.4 RBG
NBA Stats: 16.0 PPG, 9.1 RBG
“I don’t know about you, but I ain’t gettin’ in no time machine.”
Barnes, who said the above quote when told that he and the rest of the St. Louis Spirit team would depart Kentucky at 9:00 a.m. and arrive in St. Louis at 8:59 a.m., clearly struggling with the concept of time zones, decided instead to rent a bus and drive home. “Bad News” Barnes, who was also a key figure in the recent 30for30 film Free Spirits, was one of the most popular players in the ABA. Barnes’ talents weren’t limited to just the basketball court, as he wrote poetry about the game as well.

While drug problems limited him to only four seasons in the NBA, the 1974-1975 ABA Rookie of the Year was as talented as they come. Don’t believe me? M.L. Carr said, “Like Bird and Magic, Marvin had all the skills.” Barnes battled a cocaine addiction, and his stories (“Before I had come out for warm-ups, I had stashed a bag of coke into my jacket pocket. Now I put a towel over my head and began snorting the stuff.”) give some insight on what the old-school NBA was like. Can you imagine the things we’d see on the feed of someone nicknamed Bad News? Barnes would be one of the most popular characters on social media.

11. Gary Payton
Career Stats: 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.8 SPG
“I started talking back, and it was like thousands against just Gary – who’s going to win?”
Payton is a Hall Of Famer whose accolades include: NBA champion, 1995-1996 Defensive Player of the Year (the only point guard to receive that honor), and nine-time NBA All-Star. Not only is he one of the greatest players, but also he’s one of, if not the greatest, trash-talker in the history of basketball.

Payton said he never took it too far however, that trash-talking was just meant to get the opposing player’s mind off of basketball. Still, can you imagine if this man had a Twitter account back when he playing? Payton was the end of an era of great talkers — can’t you see him tweeting at Karl Malone after defeating the Jazz? Friendly gab or not, Payton’s mouth lands him the 11th spot on this list.

10. Walt “Clyde” Frazier
Career Stats: 18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.9 SPG
…is beginning to percolate!
Any Knick fan knows the above quote because Frazier uses it in each game. Clyde Frazier has gone from Hall of Famer on the court to one of the most popular announcers off it. For those of you who don’t know the artistry behind a Frazier call, Frazier really enjoys the art of rhyme. Not only is the seven-time All-Star and Hall of Famer a wordsmith, but he also has “impeccable style” that features beautiful suits and wide brimmed Borsalinos.

Seriously, the man has an eye for flashy fashion. You know how KD likes to post his pregame outfits on Instagram? Well, Frazier’s been dressing classy a whole lot longer than him (and a whole lot classier…sorry KD). I would love to see the many Instagram selfies of a well-groomed Clyde with the caption #boundingandastounding. Combine his unique style with his penchant for rhymes, and you’ve got yourself a social media legend.

9. Darryl Dawkins
Career Stats: 12.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG
“Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Robinzine Cryin’, Teeth Shakin’, Glass-Breakin’, Rump Roastin’, Bun Toastin’, Wham, Bam, Glass Breaker I Am Jam.”
Chocolate Thunder, as they called him, was one of the most ferocious slammers in NBA history. One of the main reasons the NBA changed to breakaway rims, Dawkins is known for shattering the backboard, on two separate occasions (and was the first to do so during a televised game). Double D never quite lived up to the lofty expectations set when he followed Moses Malone as a straight out of high school to NBA prospect. He did, however, lead the NBA in fouls three times, so there’s that. Well, I guess that’s the end. Oh wait, he also claimed to be an alien from outer space, from the planet LoveTron, where he practiced interplanetary funksmanship with his girlfriend Juicy Lucy. I knew I forgot something. Dawkins loved to name his dunks as well (see above quote) and partied with the likes of Dr. J. Predicting a Dawkins tweet is near impossible, but anybody who practices interplanetary funksmanship in his spare time has to make the list.

8. Latrell Sprewell
Career Stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.0 APG
“I have a family to feed … If Glen Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you’re going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon.”
Sprewell said this during his contract negotiations with the Timberwolves, while in the midst of a season in which he was making $14.6 million in the last year of his contract, and believed a $21 million, three-year contract extension wouldn’t suffice. Remember when J.R. had that Twitter inbox incident a while back? (And did we ever find out if the nice girl ever did in fact get “the pipe”? Can I ask these questions?) Well, we’re talking about a man who choked out his coach for criticizing his soft passes now. By comparison, J.R. Smith’s antics look like a walk in the park. But Spree didn’t stop there; no he also fought his teammates, brought a two-by-four to practice, and reportedly threatened to bring a gun to the next one. Sprewell also owned a 70-foot yacht, which he named “Milwaukee’s Best” and got into some problems on said boat for, you guessed it, choking a woman!

What does this have to do with social media you ask? Well, if you don’t think a player who did all this, plus retired instead of signing for the mid-level exception (it was “below him”) than you’re crazier than him! If social media was around, this four-time All-Star would have more Twitter-related fines than any player in the league, bar none.

7. Michael Ray Richardson
Career Stats: 14.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.6 SPG
The ship be sinking (How far can it sink?). Sky’s the Limit.
Drafted by the Knicks and labeled the next Walt Frazier, Richardson had all the makings of a superstar. He even led the entire NBA in both assists and steals his second year in the league. Sadly, no player exemplified the NBA’s drug problem more than Sugar Ray either (who probably would have gave a whole new meaning to the words InstaGram. The four-time All-Star tried to overcome his addiction, but only lasted eight years in the NBA.

Ok, enough of the sad. Richardson’s career may have been tragic, but he sure made the most of his time. Sugar bought 16 cars, and partied every night at popular New York clubs. Plain and simple, if Richardson had access to social media, the fans are seeing a whole new side of the NBA. LeBron may take photos with HOV, and Durant may hang out with Wale, but in Richardson’s time we’re talking about Rick James! Richardson on social media would be priceless.

6. Shaquille O’Neal
Career Stats: 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG
“So to me, shooting 40 percent at the foul line is just God’s way of saying that nobody’s perfect. If I shot 90 percent from the line, it just wouldn’t be right.”
Shaqtus, I mean the Big Aristotle, I mean ShaqFu, I mean… you get the point. The 1999-2000 MVP and 15-time NBA All-Star is a lock for the Hall of Fame and is one of the biggest players on the court, and one of the biggest personalities off it. Although Shaq utilizes social media now, can you imagine if it was around back at the beginning of his career? I don’t now about all of you, but I personally would love to see how the Shaq-Kobe feud goes down in the age of 140 characters or less (I guess “Kobe… tell me how my A** tastes” still works). Shaq has never been shy with words to the media anyway, so I can’t fathom the things he would say/post had Twitter or Instagram been around back in the day. Knowing Shaq, he would be one of the biggest and best profiles on the web. (Remember, the guy was one of the very first NBA players to first embrace Twitter at the tail end of his career.)

5. Allen Iverson
Career Stats: 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 2.2 SPG
“We’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.”
OK, so that quote wouldn’t fit in one tweet (it’s actually exactly two by my count), but can you imagine if Twitter was around in Iverson’s prime? The 2000-2001 MVP and 11-time All-Star has a personality made for Twitter. The diminutive point guard might have been the best player pound-for-pound in NBA history. Iverson is the epitome of an alpha dog, and the only thing bigger than his heart is his boisterous personality.

Iverson, a warrior on the court, is just as brash off the court. We all heard about the ballboy-buying-beer incident, picture that event going down via Twitter: “Man. F****** played our hearts out 2nite. Pourin’ one out 4 the loss.” All right, maybe I can’t properly predict his tweet verbatim, but I’m pretty sure Iverson is good for at least one Kanye West-esque Twitter rant, had the resources been available. The point is Iverson was more than a player; he was a cultural icon. Nobody portrayed the “hip-hop culture” of the NBA better than Iverson, and us fans missed out on the hilarious moments that would have ensued had social media been around.

4. Rasheed Wallace
Career Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG
“Ball don’t lie!”
Does any quote sum up the four-time All-Star better? Sheed, one of the most lovable players of my generation, is a comedian disguised as a basketball player. Seemingly everything Wallace says is comedic gold, and with the dawn of social media, Wallace would have been even more of a legend. Seriously, it’s impossibly hard to pick one story to show how great Wallace would have been for social media. Check out his recent dunk contest with rookie Tony Mitchell on Vine…even in his 40s he’s the center of attention. I want selfies with Ben Wallace and Chauncey! I want tweets about how weird Rip Hamilton looks with his mask off! With moments like “both teams played hard” in his arsenal, Wallace would have been legendary on Twitter.

3. Wilt Chamberlain
Career Stats: 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG
“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
The four-time MVP and 13-time All-Star has a lot of stories…most of which are NSFW and can’t be discussed without an NC-17 rating attachment. Some of the highlights: Chamberlain, an admitted womanizer, estimated he slept with over 20,000 women in his lifetime. According to journalist Robert Cherry (who wrote Wilt’s biography), Wilt’s Bel-Air mansion was like the Playboy Mansion, in which Chamberlain would have massive parties and engaged in his well-documented sex life. Chamberlain was also reportedly one of the nicest human beings, sometimes to his demise on the court (Jerry West called him a “very nice person”).

So let’s think about what were getting if the Big Dipper had social media access; can you picture that famous picture of Chamberlain holding the “100” sign on your Instagram? Chamberlain was one of the first NBA players with celebrity status as well. I want tweets like “Hanging With Bill Russell tonight… man loves his trains!” (Russell was an electric train collector). I want Playboy party photos! We missed out on more awkward size-difference selfies with the likes of Jerry West and Bob Cousy. The larger than life Wilt would have been one of the most interesting follows on social media.

2. Charles Barkley
Career Stats: 22.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.9 APG
“When I was recruited at Auburn [university], they took me to a strip joint. When I saw those titties on Buffy, I knew that Auburn met my academic requirements.”
The Round Mound of Rebound (Arguably a top five NBA nickname in my opinion) has been outspoken about everything. Basketball? Check. Race relations? Check. Weight problems? A big check. Government? A surprising check. Quite simply, Barkley says whatever is on his mind…sometimes to a fault (“I’d never buy my girl a watch… she’s already got a clock over the stove” is a good example). The 1992-1993 MVP and 11-time NBA All-Star would be worth a follow on Twitter, and probably on Instagram too. (I’m thinking lots of food, cigars, gambling photos would be widely available to the viewing public.) Oh, and what about that horrendous golf swing? Can you picture a Vine or Instagram video of that beauty? Barkley makes me laugh everytime I watch the TNT NBA Countdown program, so I can only imagine what he would have said on social media in his younger days.

1. Dennis Rodman
Career Stats: 7.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG
Karl Malone‘s too high-class for a bum like me.”
The Hall of Famer and two-time All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year winner is… unique. The Worm, as fans affectionately called him, is the greatest rebounder in NBA history, and by far the strangest. Rodman’s hair has been every color of the rainbow, and he wore a wedding gown to promote his autobiography. He also was linked to women like Madonna and Carmen Electra back in the day. A better question is, has Rodman ever not been in the headlines? From calling out Larry Bird (“Larry Bird is overrated in a lot of areas. … Why does he get so much publicity? Because he’s white.”) to head-butting John Stockton to visiting North Korea recently, Rodman has seemingly done it all. So how can I not put him at the number one spot? With the things he said to the media already, I can’t even imagine the late-night tweets or Instagram photos we would have been exposed to. Rodman has shown no signs of slowing up with age, recently taking part in Foot Locker’s new commercial where he makes fun of himself. Rodman has always stayed true to Rodman, and for that we thank him, and give him the top spot.

What do you think?

Follow Ian on Twitter at @Ian_Flick.

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