advertisement
advertisement

Inside Josiah Johnson’s ankle-breaking, gut-busting NBA Twitter success

The NBA Twitter champion combines perfectly timed memes with a breathtaking fearlessness.

Inside Josiah Johnson’s ankle-breaking, gut-busting NBA Twitter success
[Illustration: Agata Nowicka]

This story is part of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2022. Explore the full list of innovators who broke through this year—and had an impact on the world around us.

advertisement

Of all the vibrant online communities where experts and enthusiasts interact, none may be more fearsome to break into than NBA Twitter. Basketball fans have to go into the paint with some of the game’s biggest stars, who hang out and dish about the game on and off the court year-round. Josiah Johnson wasn’t much of a player: During his UCLA career from 2001 to 2005, he averaged just 7.3 minutes and 1.3 points per game. But he has become the “king of #NBATwitter,” as the Los Angeles Times declared in June, combining the kind of speed that the 6’8″, 255-pound forward did not exhibit on the hardwood, with a propensity to select the perfect movie-clip meme that’s the Twitter equivalent of an ankle-breaking crossover dribble. He got 130,000 likes for an absurdly extreme workout meme during the NBA Finals in June with the caption “How Steph Carrying the Warriors” (referring to the team’s star, Steph Curry). He received more than 10,000 likes for posting a pic of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Django Unchained character with the caption, “Jack Del Rio after Ron Rivera told him the Commanders fining him 100k,” after Del Rio called the January 6 Capitol riot a “dustup.” His 260,000-plus Twitter followers don’t put him in LeBron’s 51 million-followers territory, but Johnson is your favorite NBA superstar’s favorite to follow.

Johnson, who builds his reputation on Twitter and makes his living from podcasts and TV writing, represents a new direction in sports media, where commentators and fans banter directly. “A lot of people don’t quite get the social part of social media,” he says. “You need to be creating and evolving conversations, participating in a way that encourages people to be a part of it.” That means not treating Twitter like broadcast media, but jumping in regularly to comment or debate.

Over the past two years, Johnson’s clever writing style and connection to culture have attracted Hollywood’s interest. He’s currently writing for two Ava DuVernay-produced series: Netflix’s Colin in Black & White, based on the life of the former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, and OWN Network’s Cherish the Day. He also has begun doing official social video work for Turner Sports on NBA Twitter Live.

advertisement
advertisement

As prolific and popular as Johnson has become, he is careful to never believe his own hype. “I operate with impostor syndrome,” he says. LeBron James may have called Johnson the greatest of all time in a June 2021 tweet, but, says Johnson, “I don’t believe any of that shit.”

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

More