For a while during my childhood, they had only the name of Grant Hill to defend their pride, and were often the laughing stock of their division. Then Joe Dumars took over and turned the franchise from one of the league's worst into eventual NBA champions even with the draft flop of Darko Milicic. Being a high school basketball coach and a former player not to mention a lover of the gameit is extremely difficult for me to sit through an entire NBA game without it filling my brain with boredom.
Before Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, high-school basketball players played for two core audiences: local fans and college scouts. Around that began to change. Short-form video began to proliferate on social networks and more digitally native high-school athletes, armed with their own cellphones, started posting clips of themselves and friends doing dunks and trick shots, and cobbling together their own highlight reels for YouTube.
These clips spread like wildfire, amplified by the rise of basketball-focused media companies like Ballislife and Overtime, which have dedicated increasing resources to covering the high-school market.
Jahvon Quinerly has nearly , followers on Instagram, and Cassius Stanley has almost , High-school games across the country are now frequently recorded and broadcast on YouTube, Instagram Live, and other platforms.
A big game between top schools can lead to several highlight reels created by parents, fans, and platforms like Overtime. Young athletes also record each other doing impressive moves, cutting video up and posting to Instagram constantly.
Their outrageous dunks, or crossovers, or their personality or brand makes them so popular.
Chase Adams , a senior who plays for Marian Catholic High School and has over , followers on Instagram, had his first viral video come out when he was just in seventh grade. The video was just a simple mixtape of him playing basketball, but quickly racked up more than 14 million views on YouTube.
Soon, Adams noticed there were cameras and people recording him at every game. Like the other young athletes he plays with, Adams has become conscious of his own brand.
Roy Clarke, a year-old high-school junior who plays for Fremont High School in Los Angeles, says that social media allows young athletes to generate their own fandom. Everything we do goes on social media Everything is like, Snapchat this, Snapchat that, give me your video, I wanna dunk, or work on this mixtape with me after this game, or film my dunk.
I want to show people what I can do. I get people to edit videos for me, to make the video look good.
Rodriguez, who founded Ballislife back in , has seen several generations of high-school basketball players evolve, and says that the current generation is held to almost impossible standards.
Instagram is a valuable resource for learning new moves and keeping track of what moves other players are doing, much to the chagrin of many coaches.
Hargraves says that while athletes in general improve over time and kids today as a whole play better than their predecessors, he is surprised at how quickly a viral move can spread across the country. Not every player takes that precaution.
The temptation to knock out crazy tricks that will go viral on social media instead of playing the game straight the best you can is something many young athletes feel acutely.
But it can be a steroid. If you get a viral dunk, that certainly has an impact on how you play McClung now has over , followers on Instagram and videos of his dunks on Twitter have amassed millions of views.
McClung is headed to Georgetown University next year , a top-tier basketball school. Coaches spend hours scouring social media for kids like McClung, and platforms like Twitter and Instagram have allowed them to cast their net far more broadly.
Coaches used to have to visit smaller markets or watch local tournaments to find a diamond in the rough. Now they pay attention to who is gaining traction online. It allows colleges to cover a great deal of ground without traveling.
Plays like this display his quick twitch jumping, lateral movement and recovery ability that are at an elite level pic. Young players use social media to evaluate their future college options, potential teammates, and competition.
Coaches and young athletes say that Twitter, in particular, has allowed them to have a direct line and dialogue with each other that was more difficult to have previously. When high-school players do make the decision to commit to a school, the announcement, customarily made on Twitter via the Notes app, is yet another opportunity to go viral.
Young athletes with more money can buy the fancy high-res cameras and hire top-notch video editors to cut together edits for social media and mixtapes. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic.
Taylor Lorenz is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers technology.