With just 67 characters, Jeff Green connected with his fans like never before on Sept. 25. "tryna figure this twitter stuff out...can someone pleeaase help me?” Green wrote on that Friday at 3:53 p.m.
Within seconds, the star forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder discovered his fans were more than willing to answer the call. Green had just signed up for Twitter, the social networking Web site that has swept the NBA and given fans more access than ever into the lives of some of their favorite professional athletes. Powered by brief, 140-character shorthand messages, or "tweets,” Twitter has quickly gained popularity among players and changed the way the league communicates. Players are now their own messengers, with a round-the-clock means of telling the world which team they intend to sign with or what ailment will keep them out of the big game. "This technology has really taken over the world,” Green said. "Now it’s easy for somebody that you never would have met to hit you up. It’s just like them having your phone number but everybody can see it.” In March, Nielsen.com ranked Twitter the Web’s fastest-growing, member-community site. The official Twitter account of the NBA is one of the site’s most popular brands with more than 1.5 million "followers.” The NFL’s account, with 1.23 million followers, is the next closest professional sports league in popularity and the only other major professional sports league to top one million followers. Major League Baseball’s official account has only 606,000. Half the Thunder’s roster has active Twitter accounts. Kevin Durant owns bragging rights with more than 75,000 followers. The team’s mascot, Rumble the Bison, even has an account. The furry creature doesn’t talk but does of course tweet. Some players use it as a free marketing tool. Others use it to stay connected. For many, it’s just quick, clean fun. By following Green’s updates, fans can learn little details they can only get from him. For example, did you know Green enjoys relaxing pedicures? Or that the 23-year-old is perfectly content with a night at home watching the Disney classic "Aladdin?” "That was the first thing that caught me by surprise,” Green said of his attraction to the site, "how many people were so interested in what Jeff Green wants to do with his day.” Green now averages nearly 18 tweets per day. Not bad for a guy who needed nudging from teammates Durant and Russell Westbrook all summer before he finally signed up for the free site. But players have used Twitter to offer more than mundane details about their days. Durant is like many players who use their accounts to interact with fans by answering questions or replying to comments. Durant also has offered tickets to fans in visiting cities if they can correctly answer trivia questions. Cleveland’s star center Shaquille O’Neal, who has more than 2.4 million followers, has played Twitter tag with fans and given away tickets to anyone who finds him and declares he’s, "it.” Toronto rookie forward DeMar DeRozan on Friday pledged to give away tickets to fans in every city the Raptors play in if he reaches 20,000 followers by opening night. "When I was growing up you didn’t get to do that,” Durant said.
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