Here’s the dirty little secret about most news nowadays: If you saw it on television, or in the newspaper, or on the Huffington Post, or on someone’s Facebook wall, it was probably on reddit first.
If you haven’t heard of reddit, you’re weird, because it’s the 27th most popular website on the internet according to Alexa (Google is #1; Facebook, #2), and as the self-styled “Front page of the internet,” it’s where most, if not all, news ends up. Or even begins — much of reddit’s content is created originally for the site, by its users, specifically to satisfy other users (who in turn reward the original poster with upvotes, which translates to “karma,” which is the closest approximation I’ve found to the “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” assertion that everything is made up and points don’t matter, but it feels good to get them anyway).
But I’m not here to talk about all of reddit. That would take forever, and would be akin to talking about thousands of different websites (seriously, click this link a few times and see how many different places it takes you). I want to showcase my favorite subreddit of them all, one that is unquestionably a top resource for every sports blog, and is slowly but surely replacing the need for those same blogs and even larger media outlets altogether: /r/NBA.
As a basketball fan and a redditor, I go on /r/NBA a lot. As a sports blogger/writer/editor/what have you, I visit /r/NBA religiously. So let me discuss both of these angles separately, starting with fandom.
FOR THE FANS
Why am I singling out /r/NBA, out of all the sports and news subreddits available to us? It’s not the biggest single-sport subreddit (at 250,000+ subscribers, it’s well behind /r/NFL and /r/soccer), but it’s the best representative I’ve seen yet of reddit’s goal as a website: an open and diverse environment that values discussion over discord. While most individual users have a favorite team (represented by their team-logo flair), the community appreciates good basketball over everything. It’s how you get Celtics fans posting about Russell Westbrook’s latest dunk, and Bulls fans creating threads about Kyle Korver’s All-Star candidacy, and so on. When considering the alternatives — Facebook? Twitter? Comment boards? — this is THE place to talk ball.
But there would be nothing to talk about without accompanying media — because what is the internet if not a collection of words and pictures/videos? — and the users of /r/NBA create and curate that as well. HD-quality GFYs, streamable videos, Vines and other visual delights populate the front page of the subreddit most nights, and can appear in the “New” section within minutes of the actual event having taken place. If you missed a busy Thursday night of basketball, all the top plays will be waiting for you Friday morning. And since everything is crowd-sourced and upvoted, only the best-quality media makes the cut — no wading through shoddily taken Vines of someone’s TV screen. We’re talking real high-grade shit.
In many ways, visiting /r/nba’s “Hot” page is better than using Twitter to find out about the latest news. Breaking stories are quickly posted to the page and upvoted, meaning you’re only a step behind somebody refreshing Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter page. And unless you’ve got a carefully curated Twitter account, you often have to sift through a barrage of tweets to get the most salient and well-sourced information. Thanks to the crowd-sourced nature of reddit (which occasionally comes back to bite the site as a whole in ass, as when reddit “solved” the Boston Marathon bombings by singling out an innocent bystander), you only get the best — the best in news, highlights and debate. Which, theoretically, is ESPN’s domain, but has not been for years.
Speaking of the media…
FOR THE MEDIA
The /r/NBA community is a gold-mine for bloggers who need content.
While some /r/NBA users are there to comment on stories, and some are there to provide links to breaking news, and still others are there to post their self-made GFYs and streamable videos (and these are also often the source for many blog posts on various sites), a small subset of users contribute to the community by doing something that very few websites can claim to engage in any more: work. They research. They parse through old tweets. They do the things that even paid bloggers, writers and journalists don’t have the time or energy or even impetus to do. And the work of these users, done solely for the benefit of the community, has resulted in some big stories.
The top-scoring link of any /r/NBA post is by someone named /u/JewishDoggy. This user dug up dozens of old tweets by NBA players who, at the time, clearly had no idea that the internet is forever. Some of the most incendiary posts were by Damian Lillard — a few called out LeBron for playing like a “straight pussy” — and Kevin Durant, who called people gay a lot. It’s a shockingly comprehensive list, and good for some shock-induced laughs and/or pangs of disappointment. It made headlines.
Another big and more recent story unearthed by a reddit user — this time, /u/sharpinator — was the fact that somebody (according to ESPN, the culprit remains at-large) was retroactively editing Chad Ford’s NBA Draft boards to make his predictions appear more accurate. We’re not sure where “editing things after the fact to try to look smarter” ranks on the journalistic ethics scale, but it’s probably somewhere in the range of plagiarism or quote fabrication. And we found out about it because /u/sharpinator went back through years of old draft boards and compared the archived pages to the current ones — truly impressive stuff.
Now, the nature of the internet nowadays is to aggregate, repackage, reappropriate and do anything else you can to make a story your own in the interest of gaining traffic without outright copying. We here at SportsGrid get that. So do many other sites, on every level, regarding almost every kind of news, from sports to entertainment to politics. This isn’t limited to blogs — newspapers base their articles on Associated Press breaks, for example. This is just how journalism works.
But there is a cardinal rule governing this, and it’s that you must provide attribution. It’s why we say “Via ESPN” when we quote a report, for example. I’ve never spoken to Kevin Durant in my life, but I’ve written plenty about the things he’s said and done. This is only possible because reporters at larger outlets go to the games and get the quotes that I can turn around and turn into hot takes. KEVIN DURANT SAYS THIS. How do I know? ESPN. Thank you. Here’s a link.
Now, had ESPN “dug up” those Damian Lillard tweets, or if ProBasketballTalk had noticed Chad Ford’s shifting draft boards, there’s no doubt that they would have received the usual h/t’s and links and shoutouts from other blogs who picked up on the news. Instead — and I’m only using this site as example because it’s one of the biggest out there, and arguably the best — Deadspin gave attribution in the following ways for those two stories:
1) Old NBA tweets — a link that read [Imgur], because that’s where photos of the tweets were hosted. No mention of reddit, /r/NBA or /u/JewishDoggy.
2) Chad Ford’s boards — A nod to “those Reddit rapscallions” by Timothy Burke, a guy we have great respect for, as both a former SportsGridder and the Michael Jordan of screengrabbing.
In both cases, the fact that these discoveries were the work of a single user apiece — not an “Imgur” page that magically appeared, or a group of “rapscallions” who banded together to upend Chad Ford’s place as an NBA Draft guru — is not only dishonest and disrespectful, but it amounts to stealing. Deadspin pays its writers and editors. By accumulating (as of this writing) over half a million hits between these two posts alone, Gawker Media made not-insignificant ad money off those discoveries. These reddit users didn’t make a dime — not that they wanted to. They wanted to a) enlighten the masses and b) get recognition for their discoveries (not necessarily in that order). In the case of the old tweets, it got the point where other outlets were crediting Deadspin with “publishing” the tweets, as if they did not simply embed the photos created by someone else. (Hey, at least ESPN itself gave “Reddit” credit. So did, um, TotalFratMove.)
This is just for the big stories. There have been numerous occasions over the past few months when I started my day on /r/NBA, then visited a number of other sports blogs to see what they were talking about (including, yes, Deadspin) only to find basically the same stories, videos, GIFs/GFYs and Vines posted on there as well.
There’s a simple explanation for this: There is just too much news, media and content out there for one sports blogger or even website to cover. Nobody, not even those tasked with writing about this kind of stuff for a living, has the time to look every tweet ever sent by star athletes, or read the musings of every individual team’s beat writer(s). The job of the blogger is to curate and present salient, interesting information in an easy-to-digest format, so someone on their lunch break doesn’t have to scroll through tons of weird bullshit (also known as most of reddit/the internet at large) to find what they’re looking for.
This is an issue that all of media face at the moment. No outlet, no matter how big, can compete with people who will do that same job — researching, writing, presenting — for free. According to Deadspin co-founder Rick Chandler, that’s how Deadspin got its start as well: People wrote about sports news for free because they loved it. Who can beat that? Today, Deadspin is part of the Gawker empire, but thousands of other blogs have appeared in the meantime — including this one — to siphon off its traffic and attempt to take its place.
FOR THE FUTURE
If subreddits like /r/nba continue to grow, we must ask: When will more internet users realize they’re getting a second-hand version of the news they want and simply go to the source themselves? When will the good, free content of these communities usurp the good, paid-for, ad-supported content of even the most well-meaning blogs and major outlets?
The way I see it, three things stand in the way of that happening:
1) reddit has a bad rap. It’s a popular site, and yet most people are reticent to admit that they visit it in real life. Maybe it’s because reddit played such a prominent role in things like “The Fappening” or because older internet users have a hard time discerning it from 4chan or other community-based sites, but it’s still easy to refer to any particular subreddit as a group of “rapscallions” rather than a separate entity that doesn’t deserve scorn.
2) Presentation is everything. As mentioned above, some people — particularly older ones — don’t necessarily want to scroll through a list of links in order to find the best stories. It’s the same reason why people don’t just read through a series of AP tweets to get their news. They want it presented in clean or even attractive formats, written by people they know and respect (at least by association, because The New York Times is a reputable outlet and should only hire reputable writers). Blogs, websites, magazines and newspapers curate the stuff we want to know. reddit, despite a crowd-sourced voting system that should support good content while filtering out the bad, is imperfect in this regard.
3) The big sites have a vested interest in keeping you away from reddit. The less stigma attributed to reddit — and the less quality work, from GFYs to breakdowns of the signature moves of star players, is attributed to the individuals who make up the /r/NBA community — the worse off other sites will be. By “forgetting” to include a link to the original post, or chalking up a fan-made chart or GIF or photo to “someone on the internet,” fewer people have a chance to discover this more intimate, personal, faster, more genuine, less ad-driven source for NBA news. And thus, our clicks and ad-revenue go towards those sites instead.
Of course, failing to attribute to /r/NBA isn’t an internet-wide policy. Plenty of sites give credit where it’s due. And on the other hand, there is plenty of excellent and important work done outside the walls of reddit’s sometimes “circle-jerky” community (to borrow a phrase from the site itself), such as the interviews and analysis done by Zach Lowe of Grantland. The intelligence and skill of such writers is irreplaceable. There is a place for the big (and sometimes small) outlets, staffed by well-paid (and often-times poorly paid) writers, and there
always probably always will be. The future of smaller sites, like this one, is less certain.
But it’s time to give /r/NBA — and, more specifically, the users who make it more than just a discussion board — the credit and respect it deserves. Some of the people on there are just as talented as any writer, or videoographer, or screengrabber, or analyst working in sports media today (whether said paid media members like it or not). Give them a h/t, or an upvote, at the very least. They’re doing it for the love of the game, after all.
P.S. — It was “reddit” that came up with “Slim Reaper,” still the best nickname for Kevin Durant ever created, even if KD himself doesn’t think so.
*Note: I reached out to a few /r/NBA moderators about the growth of the subreddit and how they help cultivate good stories, but received no response.
Photo via /u/Go0n on /r/nba