To endure the contemporary NBA Draft is to sit through four hours in which only 60 truly important sentences are said, with the gaps in between filled by the incessant babbling of talking heads and brief interviews with overwhelmed 20-year-olds.
Before you jump down my throat, I love the draft. It’s an event that’s perfect to be enjoyed with a bunch of friends, all providing running commentary. “Was Dion Waiters a good pick?” “Why did Samaki Walker wear that hat?” “Man, David Stern has a tyrannical smile.” When an event has so little substance to it, you get to fill the holes with your own material.
But that’s how we watch it. It’s not why. We watch the draft because it has a major impact on our favorite teams. We know that the 60 picks that will be announced over those four hours will quite literally change the league. We watch because we want to learn how.
But this year, the experience of the draft fundamentally changed, thanks to Twitter. Watching the first round Thursday night, I knew every pick before David Stern called it out from the podium (the only exception being the Bulls at #30 — Chicago tends to keep mum, from what I’ve heard.) So did most of the people I follow on Twitter. It got to the point where Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets point guard and a real, live NBA player, tweeted that confused missive shown above: “how y’all kno”?
Between CBS’ Ken Berger, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears, and ESPN’s Chad Ford, each selection was capably reported out one, two, or, at least once, three spots ahead of time. And though the reporting presence at the Draft is nothing new, the instantaneous functionality of Twitter means that as soon as Woj or Spears or Ford or Berger knew the Suns were taking Kendall Marshall, they could convey that information straight to their combined ~500,000 followers. Following any one of these four guys meant having a Minority Report—esque access to the Draft mechanism; the rest, like poor Ty Lawson, were left to wonder what was going on.
Twitter has made watching the Draft superfluous; ESPN is no longer the source of the information, instead becoming a flashy sidecar to the real action taking place online. And if the broadcast isn’t even that much fun, what’s the point of watching on TV at all? By stripping the suspense away from an event that trades in suspense makes the draft telecast basically a fashion show, or a sort of basketball-as-religion ritual; at any rate, it makes it inessential. This is an exciting development from a fan’s standpoint. If ESPN loses its chokehold over draft information, they’ll have to move the emphasis of the show from announcing these picks to actually doing something entertaining and informative. It’s too bad the same thing couldn’t happen to the Oscars.