Paul Flannery wrote an excellent piece about the season that ‘never ends’. I recommend reading the entire article (it’s that good), but to help, I carried over a few paragraphs and titled each one’s topic for you.
The NBA season begins in late September when training camp opens and lasts through June when the Finals conclude. The real action for NBA heads takes place during the transactional windows: The trade deadline, draft, and free agency. They are micro-seasons unto themselves…
Information moves quickly during these periods, far too fast to be contained within the next day’s newspaper or a television show. Even websites move too slowly to keep up with the flow of breaking news. Twitter is the only medium capable of handling the torrent of information, real-time analysis, and jokes. Always jokes.
Those storylines exist throughout the year in a parallel universe from the competitive cycle. Theorizing about the league — be it in the form of trade rumors, draft stock, salary cap situations, or analytical breakdowns — is as much a part of the conversation as the reality taking place on the court. The games are a way to pass the time; a charming diversion between Woj Bombs.
Making sense of all this required a deep understanding of the league’s narrative dynamics and required fluency in the language of the basketball Internet. In order to follow along, one had to be invested in an ongoing story arc that plays out day after day and went well beyond the contours of the basketball court. This past year, with its rapid mood swings and high-stakes transactions, was the culmination of a decades-long movement.
In order to sell its culture on a mass scale, the NBA and its players needed a better medium. If football thrived on the ritual of television’s rigid schedule and baseball lived in the pastoral realm of radio, the NBA found its perfect vehicle within the relentless insular reality of the Internet.
Suddenly we were awash in content from every corner of the sport. Press conferences became open-ended forums for self expression, staged arena arrivals became fashion shows, practice quotes became fodder for think pieces. The games themselves were secondary to the spectacle.
As other leagues began to push back and claim the content as their own, the NBA made one of its savviest marketing decisions. Like the Grateful Dead, who allowed tapers to record their concerts without fear of arrest or reprisal, the league took no action against individual posters.
Let the people have their vines and like the Deadheads, the people will become your best natural resource. With no pushback and an almost unlimited access to images, clips, stats, and interviews the NBA became inescapable on social media and that allowed its organic marketing machine to flourish.
You don’t even need to explain yourself. Simply post a photo of you and your pals on a summer vacation and let the Internet run wild. When is a float not merely a float? When it’s a banana boat. What does that even mean? Nothing and everything. The power is in the mere idea of an open-ended suggestion.
Already alliances are forming between players and moves are being put in motion that may one day lead to the next great migration of talent. What happens on the court is for the nerds. It’s the backstories that resonate with all their petty dramas and cheap thrills.
This is the NBA in 2017. Turn off social media and you’ll miss something. Log on tomorrow and new storylines will be revealed. The league never stops generating fresh content and we never stop consuming.