The fake sports news on Twitter is getting a bit out of control. I’m aware that part of responsible internet usage requires users to vet sources. It’s not like people haven’t been getting burned by fake Woj and fake Schefter accounts for years, but handles like CockSources and Ballsack sports — while appealing to the more juvenile side of my sense of humor — are fooling people with tweet designs that look so official, they forget the name of the handle.
It’s also easy to spread fake news when, while it seems excessive, said news does line up with a person’s capabilities or talent level. The FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup Qualifiers aren’t broadcast on ESPN, so not many people are looking for the box score from Greece’s win against Belgium on Sunday. Therefore, if @Bobbysworld414 decides to tweet out that Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded a 60-point, 20-rebound quadruple-double in the game, many people will take that at face value.
On a slow sports news Sunday, two weeks prior to the start of the NFL season and more than a month before the MLB postseason, the tweet went viral. The entire stat line was 60 points, 20 rebounds, 12 assists, 10 blocks, three steals, no turnovers, on 86/100/93.8 shooting splits. The stats were lined up vertically, atop a good photo of Antetokounmpo in a Greece jersey, and many people bought it.
What really happened was Antetokounmpo went for 26 points and seven rebounds and shot 3-9 from the free-throw line in an 85-68 win for Greece. Bobby’sWorld’s math was just a bit off, but in one day the tweet has garnered nearly 10,000 RTs and over 60,000 likes. A loss for accuracy and for the stability of a nation that continues to believe anything, but a huge win for one user and for Antetokounmpo, because all of those people glanced at a one of the rarest feats in basketball — only four quadruple doubles have been record in NBA history — and just assumed it to be true. It’s still being quote-tweeted on Monday afternoon.
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It shows just how far Antetokounmpo has risen in the eyes of basketball fans. As recently as the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, his entire game was getting picked apart by critics, piece by piece. His free-throw shooting is a liability, he has average footwork, he can’t shoot, he commits too many offensive fouls, etc. Then Kevin Durant’s big toe touched that 3-point line and a few weeks later Antetokounmpo dropped 50 points and went 17-19 from the free-throw line, and the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA Championship since before Jermaine left the Jackson 5.
Even before the title, that tweet likely would’ve been accepted as news by most people, but after seeing Antetokounmpo these last two postseasons, of course it makes sense that he would treat Belgium like My Player Mode on the easiest difficulty level.
The potential that became visible in the Bucks’ seven-game, first-round loss to the Boston Celtics in 2018, is now reality. Antetokounmpo is the best athletic specimen to ever play in the NBA. The way he runs and jumps, moves laterally, and also is capable of running an offense all while being over seven-feet tall and built like a boulder carved into the shape of a basketball player, and he still has guard-like court vision.
He’s the NBA’s Bo Jackson. Any athletic feat is believable. If someone told you that while practicing in Greece, Antetokounmpo elevated so high that he grabbed a basketball off the top of a backboard and dunked it, you might buy it.
Who wins a race between Giannis and a rocket ship. Race would never happen, because the rocket wouldn’t dare show up.
So yes, I would like the fake sports news Twitter handles to stop being so good at fooling people. It points out a far more serious problem of people believing whatever they want and feeling no need to verify the information. But I am now interested in how extreme an athletic feat would have to be before the average person would believe that Antetokounmpo couldn’t do it.