When NBA teams first started creating Twitter accounts in late 2008 and early 2009, they primarily used the platform to provide injury updates, blast out ticket promotions, and make meta posts about Twitter itself. In the beginning, the tweets were usually sent by members of the teams’ public relations or traditional marketing staffs, with mixed results. Some teams mistook Twitter for Facebook, and others clearly didn’t understand the vocabulary of the platform. Nearly a decade later, teams do understand the awesome power of Twitter and have hired employees dedicated exclusively to producing social media and digital content; one of the authors of this piece, Max Rappaport, was among them, working for the Philadelphia 76ers from 2012-15.
Last year, we ranked each of the league’s 30 team Twitter accounts, with the Trailblazers, Hawks, and Sixers all earning a podium spot. Since then, a good number of teams throughout the league have moved toward the more conversational and humorous style utilized by those three teams a year ago, with some doing so quite well and others unfortunately missing the mark. With so much change over the past year, we decided it was time to update our rankings. We asked six of our writers for their thoughts on the current hierarchy of NBA Team Twitter. Here are the results:
30. Boston Celtics (@celtics)
Avery Bradley, ladies and gentlemen! He cans a 3 from the left corner to give the Celtics the win at the buzzer in Cleveland!!!!
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 6, 2016
On the court, the Celtics are one of the winningest franchises in league history, with more championships, 17, than any other team and just 14 fewer all-time wins (3,221) than the team with the most victories ever, the Lakers (3,245). On Twitter, though, Boston stays taking Ls. They actually have a pretty fun team, led by diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas and a handful of unique and easily tweet-able players (Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk, to name a few). Unfortunately, all that potential goes to waste. Before games, they rarely share behind-the-scenes photos or videos, opting instead to simply tweet out a few pregame quotes from head coach Brad Stevens and possibly a link to a game preview hosted on their website. During games, they often tweet only score updates at the end of quarters, only sparingly posting video clips of highlights in between. In the rare occasions in which they do share clips of game action, they typically do so using Twitter videos instead of looping Vines and caption them the way your dad might:
This is Twitter. Try and have a little fun, Celtics.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder)
The Thunder have so much with which to work. They’ve got two of the best and most exciting players in the world in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they’ve got one of the league’s best defensive frontcourt pairings in Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams, they’ve got bench reaction GOAT Cameron Payne, and they’ve got one of the best fan bases in professional sports. But judging only by their Twitter presence, you’d have a hard time discerning the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Orlando Magic. Their only redeeming quality is their frequent use of video highlights, but still they have the remarkable ability to even make plays like this feel boring due to their weak and thoughtless captions:
Congratulations. You somehow made Russell Westbrook boring.
28. Memphis Grizzlies (@MemGrizz)
Okay…That tweet, which referenced a since-deleted post in which the Clippers mercilessly attempted to troll the Grizzlies, was actually fire. That said, it was a massive outlier in a sea of bizarre, head-scratching posts by Memphis’ Twitter account. Whoever runs it clearly hasn’t updated their Tweetdeck in forever, because they still use manual retweets and modified tweets on a regular basis, doing so in a way that often provides absolutely no context for their followers, like this:
And during games, they pump out redundant and aesthetically busy tweets like this:
Of all the accounts we ranked, this was perhaps the hardest to judge, because most of the time we were just confused by what they were trying to say.
27. Indiana Pacers (@Pacers)
Basically, the account's as exciting as Indianapolis. Which, if you've never visited, is about as exciting as a Tim Duncan fit pic. Honestly, it's been a few years since our last visit to Indiana's capital so the shade we're about to throw its way may be a little outdated...but when Hooters is the downtown hotspot and you're located above the Mason Dixon line, your city's as lit as a snuffed out Swisher Sweet.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA)
The Pelicans’ underwhelming season is rivaled only by their equally underwhelming Twitter account. @PelicansNBA is basically a glorified Anthony Davis fan page that happens to also promote some Pelicans events in the community. They’ll live-Tweet games, but it isn’t anything special. In other news, Kendrick Perkins is still around.
25. Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic)
The Orlando Magic should have had a great Twitter year. Sure the team wasn’t very good, and yes, coach Scott Skiles quit last week after apparently deciding he wasn’t a good fit for the job. But forward Aaron Gordon more or less won the dunk contest by not winning the dunk contest, which should have been enough to launch all things Magic into the stratosphere. Magic Twitter should have been able to use Gordon’s performance as a launchpad. Instead, they did things like this. Cool for the Magic fan (maybe), a bit too insider-y for everyone else. Come on, Magic, have some fun. Let us in.
24. Dallas Mavericks (@DallasMavs)
The Mavs are the ones taking shots and not the other way around. Featuring just the right amount of snark, the Mavs aren't afraid to fire one over the bow of a rival like the excellent tweet they cooked up after November's meeting with the Clippers. We all remember last summer's DeAndre-gate, right? In the next collective bargaining agreement, teams should be required to recruit all free agents exclusively through emojis.
23. New York Knicks (@NYKnicks)
The Knicks Twitter account is pretty vanilla because the Knicks like to think they’re above being childish and are adults. But when you look at the owner and the culture he has provided, you figure their social account would be comedy. They mainly use the account to push stuff they have on their site, charity event recaps, etc. with rare instances of fire tweets. While Knicks Twitter is a mix of delusional fans and people that hate Melo and want Isiah back, the team’s official account is as corporate as it gets. The Knicks need to hire someone under 25 to tweet for them and maybe think about hiring someone from the stands to coach.
22. Miami Heat (@MiamiHEAT)
The Heat are the second-most followed NBA team on Twitter, likely due to the leftover bandwagoners from the LeBron days. This following has led to a reasonably entertaining account, with lively live-tweets and interesting facts and cool clips. The only downside is that they spell “HEAT” with all caps just about all the time. Like, stop yelling at me.
21. Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets)
When we did our rankings last year, the Rockets earned a spot in the top 10. That was before they fired Chad Shanks, the fire-fingered tweeter responsible for the infamous horse/gun emoji post during the 2015 Playoffs. Under Shanks, the account was fantastic, and its in-your-face attitude matched the personality of the James Harden-led Rockets, with on-point posts like this:
The horse/gun tweet was undeniably crude, but in their haste to scapegoat Shanks and appease the “outraged” masses, the Rockets lost one of the best tweeters in the game. Since then, their account has become noticeably tamer and, frankly, is indiscernible from most other accounts in the league.
20. Utah Jazz (@UtahJazz)
Like the state in which they play, the Utah Jazz have a squeaky clean and wholesome image on Twitter, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some teams can be snarky and sarcastic online, but for a team like the Jazz that has had just one winning season in the past six years and has a somewhat more traditional fan base that’s not really an option. But what energy is conserved by staying away from more controversial tweets is put into creating smooth and appealing graphics, like this:
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA, with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine providing an endless supply of Vine-able highlights each night. Their Twitter account, though, is no slam dunk. That’s not to say that it’s bad—it’s really not. The problem with the account is that it’s just…meh. Being a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since George W. Bush’s first term as president certainly makes things tougher. But as teams like the Sixers and Kings (see below) have shown, teams can be bad and still have fun on Twitter without leaning on recycled pop culture GIFs. Just do more like this:
…and less like this:
18. Phoenix Suns (@Suns)
Last season, the Suns Twitter clocked in at No. 6. This season they’ve dipped quite considerably. They’ve toned it down a bit because their 2016 season was a disaster. The Suns had coaching shake-ups and problems in the locker room; it’s hard to be fun and light-hearted on socials when things are a mess behind the scenes. With a promising young core and a new head coach, hopefully their Twitter will be more lit in 2017. The only thing lit about the account these days are the constant Phoenix Suns Dancers retweets.
17. Washington Wizards (@WashWizards)
Some might assume that tweeting for a team like the Sixers or Lakers would be one of the hardest jobs in sports. They’d be wrong, though. The most difficult type of team to tweet for is one that is supposed to compete for a high playoff seed and instead misses postseason play altogether. The Wizards were one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA last year, finishing 41-41 despite many expecting them to take a big leap forward after a 46-36 record the year prior. The team’s Twitter account kept things simple last season, which was probably the right move given their situation. That said, the fire tweet above was pretty great.
16. Denver Nuggets (@nuggets)
Perhaps the best thing going for the Denver Nuggets on Twitter is that they’re one of the most active teams in the league on Vine. Even in 2016, too many NBA teams use Twitter to simply provide score updates and remind fans to tune in on their respective local sports networks. The Nuggets, though, use the platform to give their followers what they really want, timely and high-quality highlights.
15. Chicago Bulls (@ChicagoBulls)
🌹 with the 💵 jumper!
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 10, 2016
The Chicago Bulls Twitter is a lot like their home attendance: inflated because of the Jordan era. Nothing against the current Bulls (except for the whole not-making-the-playoffs thing), but the current team isn’t the only reason they sell out every night, or that they have 2.5 million Twitter followers. They know it too, sprinkling plenty of Jordan and Pippen in with current news. That said, it would be nice if the Bulls account stayed a little more active in the offseason, despite it starting a bit earlier than they anticipated.
14. Charlotte Hornets (@Hornets)
The Charlotte Hornets are like a lot of NBA teams on Twitter. There is nothing particularly offensive about the content they pump out, but there’s nothing all that memorable about it either. Beyond that, they lose some points here because despite being owned by Michael Jordan they didn’t once use or even sneakily allude to the crying Jordan meme. Big missed opportunity.
13. Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons)
Last year, Detroit took home the No. 17 spot in our rankings. This year, they jumped up to No. 13, mainly because of the tweet embedded above. Although they do so somewhat infrequently, the Pistons are one of the best teams in the league in terms of incorporating pop culture appropriately into their posts without it feeling forced or cringe-worthy. The tweet below is another great example of this:
Twitter should be all about having fun, and the Pistons clearly get that.
12. Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers)
Thanks to their storied history and their absolutely massive media market, the Los Angeles Lakers enjoy the largest Twitter following of any team in the league. As a result of their massive audience and stellar brand image, they largely stay away from the campy content employed by teams like the Hawks and Kings. But what they lack in showmanship they make up for with fantastic visuals, thanks to their excellent use of visual content. While most teams rely upon photography services like Getty and USA Today for in-game photos, the Lakers have an employee sitting baseline at every game, capturing bench reactions, sneaker pics, and pretty much everything Kobe Bryant did throughout his season-long farewell tour. The results were awesome:
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs)
It would be really easy for the Cavs to be “all business” on Twitter. Unfortunately, a lot of teams under the kind of scrutiny that they are would do exactly that (cough, cough, 2010-14 Miami Heat, cough cough). But Cleveland actually does a really nice job of providing intense, rallying content while also being goofy, as evidenced by this tweet sent out during the DeAndre Jordan emoji war last summer:
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) July 8, 2015
Their account has improved markedly since being ranked No. 26 by us last year. Coincidence? 🐸☕️
10. Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets)
Things aren't quite as easy for the Brooklyn Nets as they are for many teams. The Nets didn't win many games. The Nets don't have any stars. The Nets don't yet have a passionate Brooklyn fanbase. The Nets don't have any draft picks until like 2045. But at least the Nets have humor, right?
When so much of the deck is stacked against you, it helps to be able to laugh at yourself. It also helps when you're in New York's coolest borough and can get away with hip-hop references and slang that would be harder to sell if you were tweeting for, say, the Utah Jazz.
So while things on the court haven't been great for Brooklyn, the Nets' social team and the fact that they play in NYC has at least been able to keep things interesting.
9. San Antonio Spurs (@spurs)
The San Antonio Spurs have come a long way since being ranked No. 29 by us last year, when their account felt like it could have easily been managed by Gregg Popovich himself. This year, it felt like a completely different account. They had timely GIFs, they had snark, they had fun Boban tweets, they used the word “lit” once…
With the team turning over the reins from their original Big Three of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan to a new generation of stars in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, it’s good to see that @spurs was part of that youth movement as well.
8. Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks)
Bucks Twitter is a lot like a majority of their players—young, frisky, still figuring out what it can do. Sometimes it’s like Giannis Antetokounmpo, amazing everyone with some kind of unprecedented move. Sometimes it’s more like Michael Carter-Williams, starting a move brilliantly before clanking a shot off the side of the backboard. Growing pains happen. But—again, like the team itself—the Twitter account is underappreciated in terms of its potential. Get on board now.
7. Toronto Raptors (@Raptors)
Drake. DrakeDrakeDrake. DrakeDrake Drake, Drake Drake. Drake...Drake? Drake.
Okay, maybe it's unfair to say Drake's the only reason why the Raps have over a million followers and one of the best and most hip-hop aware Twitter accounts in the NBA. Maybe being Canada's only NBA team, being the No. 2 team in the East, having separate playoff Twitter-specific art treatments, and a best-in-class video team also plays a part. But...nah. It's Drake.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers)
No team account does more with less than @Sixers. Despite the Sixers beginning the season on an 18-game losing streak, the team’s Twitter account still kept things fun and lighthearted along the way, exhibiting the self awareness and savvy needed to properly navigate a season that culminated in just 10 wins. In the final seconds of their first win, a 103-91 triumph over the hapless Lakers, they posted this:
When you’re a team like the Sixers, you have to be able to laugh at yourself a little bit, and this was right on the mark. They also benefit from the crafty GIF-work of their digital team, which throughout the year put together gems like these:
Oh, and their Snapchat game is 🔥 too:
5. Golden State Warriors (@Warriors)
Thank you for playing the game of basketball, Steph Curry. There are no words.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) February 28, 2016
With a team like the one Golden State has, @Warriors could be run by Curt Schilling and still probably have over a million followers. But fortunately for all of us, the Dubs actually rack up Ws on Twitter at the roughly the same rate as they do so on the court. The Bay Area squad has long been one of the best teams in the digital realm. While the Heat were calling their followers “twHeat fans” in 2013, they were creating the nickname “Splash Brothers.” While the Orlando Magic were making graphics like this in 2014, they were killing the Hashtag Games with stuff like this. And while the Celtics were being the Celtics in 2015, they were clapping back at Charles Barkley. Just look at some of these tweets:
Um, so Steph Curry has 20 points in 8 minutes.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) October 28, 2015
This is damn good Twitter.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers)
On the court, the Clippers are an easy team to hate. On Twitter, though, you gotta love ‘em. Since the Rockets’ Twitter account had its wings clipped in the aftermath of the horse/gun emoji fiasco of 2015, @LAClippers has taken the crown as the league’s most savage team account. They do snark right, and the personality they’ve cultivated matches the attitude of their team brilliantly:
Simply put, the Clippers spit fire on a nightly basis. Hell, even their mascot brings the heat on Twitter:
3. Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks)
The Atlanta Hawks (also known as the HaWWWWWWWWWWWks for a while) were the darling of the NBA Twitter world last year. They were like the Leiscester City of the NBA Twitter world. Started out on nobody's radar, but ended having put the entire league on notice. And while ATL didn't come away with the hardware like Leicester City did, they certainly raised their profile. Like, literally, we profiled their Twitter guy Jaryd Wilson as part of a NBA social media longform last year.
This year the Hawks picked up where they left off. New year, new uniforms, new hardwood, same old hilarious Twitter game. They say the Hawks don't have any superstars, but dammit, YOU'RE their superstar, @ATLHawks. It's always been you.
2. Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings)
If it weren’t for the Spurs catapulting from No. 29 last year to No. 9 this year, the Kings (ranked No. 18 in 2015) would have Most Improved Twitter wrapped up without contest. This year, @SacramentoKings was a constant source of fantastic content, even while the team struggled on the court. In a league dominated too often by recycled How I Met Your Mother and Friends GIFs, they stayed on top of the latest trends.
They don't want you shooting threes, Boogie. We promise you. DMC shooting 2/3 from long range early on. Kings up 23-21.
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) December 16, 2015
This season alone, they brought @BdotAdot5 to team headquarters to create a video poking fun at their own GM (that’s badass), invited the LeBron James kid to Sleep Train Arena to announce starting lineups for a game against the Cavs (that’s savage), and let a dog run their accounts for a night (that’s weird, but also awesome):
And they have one of the best Vine accounts in the league, pumping out quick and high-quality highlights with great captions:
1. Portland Trailblazers (@trailblazers)
The Blazers took the top spot in last year’s rankings, and when we tallied the votes this year it wasn’t even a contest. Their account has it all, from snarky disses, to clever wordplay, to beautiful graphics, to lightning-quick Vine-work. The tweets they got off in their opening-round playoff series with the Clippers alone would have been enough to catapult one of the teams in the bottom third of this list into the top 10. Just look at this stuff:
The Blazers are the kings of the sneak diss, as demonstrated by the Khloe Kardashian GIF they used after a loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets in February:
And they also know how to handle losses with class as well:
Their Twitter game has even rubbed off on their players too:
When it comes to NBA team Twitter, there isn’t even a question about who reigns supreme. Trailblazers, you guys are amazing.