Kevin Durant is on the NBA All-Twitter team, the wing complement to Joel Embiid’s dominant post presence. KD has earned this distinction over the course of eight years, since he tweeted about watching the History Channel while in the club. This offseason he’s taken to replying to people who have things to say about his career, especially those critical of his 2016 decision to leave the Thunder for the Warriors. It’s been entertaining to see one of the NBA’s true superstars exchanging insults with randos online.
But Sunday night, a crack in Durant’s social media strategy emerged:
KD has secret accounts that he uses to defend himself and forgot to switch to them when he was replying to this guy I'm actually speechless pic.twitter.com/9245gnpa3c— 1-1 / ✭ 1-1 (@harrisonmc15) September 18, 2017
Those are two tweets from Durant’s verified account trashing Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan and every player on the Thunder not named Russell Westbrook. Durant doesn’t normally dis the Thunder, and, uh, Durant doesn’t normally refer to himself in the third person. The tweets seem like something a Durant fan would write, not something that Durant himself would.
There’s surely a logical explanation for this. Somebody else probably has access to Durant’s Twitter account, as is the case with most celebrities. That person could have conceivably scrolled through Durant’s mentions on his phone or Tweetdeck and decided to respond to a message. But before replying, that person could have forgotten to switch away from Durant’s account. History is filled with people who have failed to switch accounts; for example, the person who tweeted from the Texas Rangers’ official team account about how the University of Texas needed to fire head football coach Charlie Strong. The icon indicating which account a user is tweeting from is surprisingly easy to gloss over, and even a skilled tweeter can make such a glaring mistake. (I won’t disclose which Ringer employee was responsible for a profane, since-deleted, 47-tweet rant about how every NFL quarterback other than Trevor Siemian “can suck it” and should retire, but I can confirm that person has been internally disciplined.)
But what if it wasn’t some anonymous, unknowable person in Durant’s employ who forgot to switch accounts? What if the person who forgot to switch accounts was DURANT HIMSELF?
According to the fans who subscribe to this theory, Durant feels he needs more than his own word to win Twitter arguments. He needs a slew of other voices backing him. So maybe KD created a web of alternate accounts to say things that he can’t, like negative comments about his former teammates. And maybe Sunday night, he forgot to switch accounts before responding, tweeting as KD when he meant to tweet as an anonymous KD supporter.
There seems to be more to this. Sleuths on Reddit discovered an Instagram account that some believe belongs to Durant; many of KD’s friends follow the account and have tagged it in pictures of Durant, and the account is named after streets near Durant’s childhood home. That account has gotten into comment flame wars, also referring to Durant in the third person. The account is not confirmed to be Durant, but it is not confirmed to not be Durant, either—and that will likely lead some to feel certain that Durant is defending himself via nonverified accounts.
Perhaps Durant is using a fake avatar. He heard the critics his whole career. He thought he could quiet them by winning MVP, by winning the NBA Finals MVP, by turning down millions of dollars to facilitate his team’s roster construction. But no—the trolls were unkillable. Like Taylor Swift, KD could pretend that he was shaking them off, but really he was writing out all their names in red, underlined, so he could release the Look What You Made Me Shoe.
Perhaps he hoped his strategy of getting into fights online would win him fans, sensing authenticity from a superstar. But that didn’t always work. Perhaps Durant decided that the only way to push his agenda on the NBA masses was through an anonymous Twitter campaign.
Laugh at Durant if you must, but this is serious. The perception of a player is an existential threat to his legacy—and his marketability. And KD may not be the only player proactively fighting for the sake of his image online. What, you think all of those Kobe stans are actual people who believe that Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of all time? Kobe? Greater than MJ and LeBron? More importantly, don’t you know Kobe? Would you put it past him to create a millions-strong network of fake humans to ensure that his brand remains prominent long after his retirement?
Trust nobody. Anybody online—that professional-looking media member, that cute girl or guy on Instagram, any die-hard fan of any team—could be fictional, a sprite created to manipulate your basketball opinions.
You have no idea how deep this goes—how much money stands to be made from hacking into the brains of online users. You have no idea, but I do.
After all, I am Kevin Durant.