Kevin Durant is reading this
Into the panopticon of Nets fandom
“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” - Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
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Kevin Durant is reading this post. At first, the idea of Kevin Durant seeing everything posted onto Nets Twitter was something of a corny joke, a bottom-of-the-barrel refrain from people whose senses of humor, to the extent they could be said to have one, mirror almost identically Josiah Johnson’s timeline. Recent events have converted the concept into something like an incontrovertible truth: Kevin Durant now bears the burden of proving that he hasn’t seen something posted about him. Of course, it’s old news that the sniper is online. What’s new is that he’s in our midst.
It started, as it seems nearly everything on Nets Twitter does, with a well-meaning dunk on Matt Brooks. Matt Moore, who has done more to normalize the sociopath-as-basketball guy trope that has come to shape the online basketball mediasphere, tweeted out some calculator bait about Kevin Durant’s strong defense.1 Durant saw it - he was not tagged - and sent a shot at Nets Daily reporter and apparent friend of the ‘Stack Matt Brooks. “Is this good?” asked Durant, sarcastically. It was 12:32pm on Thanksgiving day.
That Durant would spend his Thanksgiving starting well-meaning beefs with a well-followed Nets writer and film guy is not an entirely unreasonable proposition. Thanksgiving is a day for posting. What elevated this exchange into one of tremendous significance came five days later, when the sniper took on yet another lost soul in Nets Twitter’s purgatory.
Any survey of the deranged constellation of posters and personalities that form Nets Twitter must include BrooklynNets85. The account is a sort of bellwether for the collective id of a certain portion of the online fanbase at any given point in time, a poster apparently concerned more with riding the waves of fandom - even as they threaten to engulf him - than with establishing a personal identity or institutional voice. This account is not NetsDaily, more compelled by liberal pieties or viewership numbers than basketball, but it also avoids the excesses of the types of fans who yearn for Kyrie Irving’s imprisonment or threaten to beat Jared Dudley’s ass and then delete their accounts. This is an account of relentless optimism or manic doomerism, often in direct succession, determined by little more than whether the Nets are leading or trailing by fifteen in the second quarter. It is an account that almost perfectly embodies the trade machine/buyout market predicament of Serious Online Fandom: constantly offering proclamations, purporting to take the team’s temperature, attempting to will, through the concerted effort of posting alone, a better future into existence.
The Nets, as Durant said, got him in hell. KD found the posters - perhaps with the help of Eddie Gonzalez, his podcast host and terminally online bag man, but found all the same. He sees us as we lose our minds, howling into the void of Joe Harris trades and rotation suggestions. This is gonna break you, he warns; who could say with a straight face that he is wrong?
I’ve written before about the Nets’ existence as the only true sports team of the online era. Nets fans congregate online disproportionately to their real-life ranks for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that there are fewer of us in the world, which makes us seek community online. But there is something more inherently online to the Nets yet. Perhaps it’s that they’ve assembled the first ever digital big three, constituted of a poster, a YouTube guy who will inevitably post an Instagram story that ends his career, and a guy with depression who got gamer back. But the online character of the Nets runs deeper. The Nets are an organization predicated upon the internet’s promise that you will eventually experience that bliss that your life could not on its own deliver, doomed like the internet to fail miserably upon this promise, and structured like the internet to always deliver just enough dopamine amidst your misery to keep you hopelessly returning. Is it any wonder, then, that the Nets feel best-experienced online?
And so as the prospect of on-court, big-picture returns on Nets fandom diminish by the day - nobody, save the newest iteration of unhinged optimist, Brooklyn Netcast (who deserve a full post in their own right) believes that the Nets will seriously contend for a title again - there is a certain beauty in learning that the sniper is in our midst. Isn’t it fitting that the online team’s online fans are being observed by their online superstar? Durant, in reading our tweets, gives a version of the feeling that people pay thousands of dollars to sit courtside and feel: that the stars can hear and see you, whether talking shit or singing praise. His addiction to Twitter somehow makes him the first celebrity to actually render true the website’s promise to make the celebrity accessible and within reach - gone are the days of feeling you know Kevin because of his funny old Tweets, in are the days of suspecting that he may know you. The prospective reward of Nets fandom is no longer that the team will win games, but that Kevin Durant will reply to you online - that through posting, you might be noticed.
And so being a Brooklyn Nets fan has metamorphosed yet again into a sort of Foucauldian panopticism - we are kept in line, and remain stuck in this hell, because of the knowledge that the sniper is watching. Kevin seems ambivalent about this new role of his - as he warned, this might break us. Still, I find yet another reason to post in obscurity, tweeting drivel into the abyss until the day that Kevin Durant finally tells me to touch grass and get my money up.
I can’t quite parse the Tweet - I’m a pure hooper and will look down upon statistics, advanced or not, until somebody learns how to quantify vibes.