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Steph Curry, the NBAs First Viral Star, Breaks Opponents, and the Internet, Too

The leagues first Internet superstar plays basketball 2.0.”>

Check out this GIF. Its transfixing. Steph Curry is weaving through the arms of the NBAs best defensive center (DeAndre Jordan), one of the leagues best defensive point guards (Chris Paul), a man so committed to defense he drove 95 miles to beat up a man dating his ex-wife (Matt Barnes), and a 7-footer with a man bun (Spencer Hawes). None of them catch up to him.

Then Curry, the best basketball player on Earth, casually steps back and takes a 26-footer. I dont even need to tell you this, but it goes in. It doesnt touch the rim. The end of the GIF reveals two guys on his own team standing around by the midcourt line, just watching the show.

The Legend of Michael Jordan was born of the television and Nike ads and SportsCenter. Joe DiMaggios myth was made of tabloids and cigarette ads and Marilyn Monroe.

Steph Curry makes a beautiful six-second video. After each jaw-dropping new play, the rush is on. Americas most prolific children of the Vine are rewinding their DVRs, trying to be the first one to get a grainy Zapruder film of it up on Twitter so that they can get sweet, precious retweets. This kind of thing will happen, oh, twice per game.

Steph Currys Golden State Warriors broke the NBA record for wins Wednesday night, just like hes broken the brains of coaches and the concept of defense and everything else.

But heres Steph Currys silent killing: Because of GIFs like this, he broke the timesheet at the leagues website.

Weve adjusted our staffing schedules to follow our coverage of Steph, said Morgan Dewan. We do measurements on every post we do. He over-performs every single time.

Such is the strife of Dewans crew at Turner Sports, which runs the leagues digital operations, website, NBATV, and the NBA on TNT. Shes the vice president of social media there, which now means managing a team that distributes a ludicrous amount of Steph Curry videos on Vine and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and Flurf and any other social media service that we may or may not have just made upall at a record pace.

They have no other choice.

This might marginalize the best basketball player of a generation, but theres no other way to put it: Steph Curry is the first NBA superstar the Internet built. All of the stats prove it.

According to internal NBA data provided to The Daily Beast, Steph Curry was mentioned 12 million times on Twitter in the last 90 days. Thats 40 percent more than the second-biggest story in the NBA right nowthe retiring Kobe Bryant. Its twice as many mentions as Nikes Half-Billion Dollar Man, LeBron James. And its seven times as many mentions as any other playerfrom Russell Westbrook to Carmelo Anthony.

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Instead, everythings a BuzzFeed video in the Curry universe.He brings his whip-smart 3-year-old daughter Riley to the podium with him after he wins Playoff games.

His wife, Ayesha, is such a Twitter staple, she even got a cooking show out of the whole thing. In December, when she found herself in a mock outrage Twitter pseudo-controversy, TMZ made a beeline to defend her.

Off the court, the Currys, intentionally or not, have become the royal familysorry, King Jamesof the NBAs non-news content generation machine.

And then twice per game, for 82-plus games a year, Steph crosses up a lost defender or hits a 40-foot buzzer beater to win a game, then leaves it to the Web to figure it out.

Just as SNL skits are the perfect length for YouTube, Stephen Currys highlights are perfect for Vine, said Ryne Nelson, who runs the web operations over at SLAM Magazine (where, full disclosure, the author sometimes writes.) On any given night, Steph will account for at least a couple highlights that drive the brunt of SLAMs traffic. Currys highlights on Vine alone are a goldmine for web traffic that publications, including SLAM, have been tapping into this season.

And where other leagues have run scared of unlicensedalbeit likely fair usevideos of their most profitable moments, the NBA has made a strategy out of it. And its working.

The breathing succubi of goodwill that is the NFLs PR department got the Twitter accounts of two of the worlds most popular sports sitesDeadspin and SBNationtemporarily banned from Twitter for posting GIFs of their games in October. It was a brand new, inventive way for the NFL to piss off its fans.

Meanwhile, the NBA is often the first one to Twitter with HD-quality highlights of Stephs latest tricks. And its attracting NBA fans who didnt even know they were NBA fans.

There are only so many hardcore fans, so we try to get the casual fan and bleed the lines between sports and pop culture, said Dewan. A lot of credit goes to the league for giving us the runway. They didnt haveto, but they did.

Steph even has Dewans mom hooked, but it started with videos of Riley. And thats how Curry gets you.

One second, youre watching a kid charm you on a podium, or reading a G-rated Twitter controversy with whichhis wifeis tangentially involved, and the next second youre left dumbstruck by the craziest basketball shot youve ever seen.

He not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk, said Dewan. Hes a bona fide superstar.

If you can spare a second, you can see the greatness of Steph Curry. And the league knows it.

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