Bryan Colangelo social-media mess is exactly why we love the NBA

Dan WetzelColumnist

The Philadelphia 76ers have commissioned an “independent” investigation into whether their president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, was using five separate secret Twitter accounts to blast players and former management, comment on internal actions and generally act like a complete idiot, considering he was the president of a NBA team.

Via a statement, Colangelo denied he owned more than one “burner” Twitter account, which he said he used to monitor league news and player actions. He never tweeted on that one. That’s a reasonable explanation, but nothing else that’s happened since The Ringer broke the story on Tuesday points to Colangelo’s innocence here, most notably Colangelo’s own behavior.

If nothing else, the scandal offered a reminder of why NBA fans so love the NBA, even as the league prepares for a fourth consecutive finals featuring the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cleveland, a series that is expected to be a lopsided coronation for the Warriors.

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In the NBA, even if the on-court action lags, there’s always an absurd soap opera to entertain.

“Unbelievable,” one NBA general manager said. “Unreal.”

Oh, it’s probably both believable and real. No, you wouldn’t think a guy who achieves his dream job would be so reckless as take to Twitter to anonymously blast people in and out of the organization, including star center Joel Embiid. Social media can be as intoxicating and addictive as conventional drugs though.

If Colangelo gets busted here, his career will be just the latest to be negatively impacted, if not ended, via Twitter. Earlier Tuesday, ABC canceled a popular and profitable television show because Roseanne Barr, her career finally resuscitated, couldn’t resist the pull of tweeting.

It happens.

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is in quite a predicament. (AP)
Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is in quite a predicament. (AP)

In this case, it has provided a perfect storyline for NBA fans. There is a mystery element: Did he really do it? There is a stunning element: Oh, man, did he actually criticize Embiid for dancing at a Meek Mill concert while being injured? There is even a comedic element: Why didn’t one of the burner accounts talk him out of trading (essentially) Jayson Tatum for Markelle Fultz?

Perhaps the same Twitter account that quickly grew so frustrated with the underperforming Fultz, and presumably that trade with Boston, ripped Fultz for his workouts with his “so-called mentor/father figure.”

Yeah, that happened, too. The entire thing is just delicious.

“This storyline is disturbing to me on many levels, as I am not familiar with any of the other accounts that have been brought to my attention,” Colangelo wrote in a statement. “Nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.”

Embiid, who was frequently criticized by the accounts, has so far accepted Colangelo’s denial. Colangelo, also the team’s general manager, has reportedly called others involved to personally express his innocence.

Still, the circumstantial evidence against him is pretty strong, most notably his reaction to the story.

There are times when remaining publicly silent isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only one. If this was a criminal matter where anything you say can and will be used against you, then issuing a broad denial and shutting up would be advisable. You hire a lawyer and listen up good.

This isn’t a criminal matter, though. It’s a silly sideshow. As such, the human reaction, not to mention the proper crisis-management strategy, would be to do every media appearance possible — if not an outright press conference — and deny, laugh, joke and ridicule.

Look, if that was me I would have been tweeting how handsome Bryan Colangelo is. (Of course, it did defend the collar on a shirt Colangelo wore and retweeted a comment bout what a “clean-cut, stand-up guy” Colangelo is, so …)

Still, if someone just up and accused you have having five secret Twitter accounts that you didn’t have, would you be cautious with your reaction or just make a mockery of the story? Why would you allow yourself to be raked over the coals over something so pointless?

When The Ringer calls for comment, you don’t issue a statement, you go, “What the heck are you talking about?”

There is simply nothing to lose here by talking. He can’t put himself in any legal jeopardy. With an investigation coming, the truth is almost certainly going to come out. It’s unlikely that someone who couldn’t hide the identity of four accounts from The Ringer is going to outwit a true forensic team.

Yet he isn’t talking publicly.

There is more, of course. Three of the accounts went private — meaning the public can’t read what has been tweeted — at the same time just after Colangelo became aware of the story. That’s an odd coincidence. And the one other public account that Colangelo denies any involvement with hasn’t tweeted since the story broke.

It is certainly possible, especially considering the fact the account seemed to have some insider Sixers information, that it could be operated by a different Philly employee and not Colangelo. So maybe the 76ers are quiet and terrified. If so, Colangelo would be turning over desks in the Sixers’ office.

If not, if, say, this was just a gag account run by some fan or high school kid or whomever, the 76ers certainly would have embraced the sudden celebrity and had fun with it.

Instead, silence.

So, we enter Day 2 of the mystery/scandal/sideshow that has long made the NBA fantastic. It’s another bit of harmless (except to Bryan Colangelo’s career) fun that makes this league so entertaining.

One day before the start of an NBA Finals that features Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, everyone is playing detective or standup comedian over burner accounts in Philly.

Never change, NBA. Never change.

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