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How to Tweet About the NBA Responsibly

Twitter is the perfect storm for stupid arguments, be it in basketball or any other topic. It brings the confluence of two inevitable “fronts” that are bound to collide and cause all kinds of squally things to happen.

First, by design, Twitter is a place where people can dash off quick opinions to an unlimited audience. Second, by design, Twitter is a place where those arguments have a very limited (140 character) format for any supporting reason or substance.

Ergo, these two things crash into one another, and the result is a veritable fallacy-laden thunderstorm of epic proportions. But here’s my challenge to the world: Just because you can be stupid, it doesn’t mean you must be stupid.

I’m talking to you, NBA fans.

Here are some very common examples and why they’re fallacious. And I want to emphasize that these are VERY common. So, if your tweet is quoted, don’t feel bad. You’re just one straw randomly selected from the pile.

These are in no particular order:

This is one of the favorite tactics of the Twitter debate. Define a player by one or two games. Two of the best scorers in the league dropped 60 on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in his second season. Therefore in his fourth season, and in spite of all that’s happened since then, he’s still that guy.

He’s not the guy who’s provably on par with Tony Allen, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. He is what he was in the two worst games of his sophomore season.

Just like so many James Harden critics will define his “clutch” performance by Game 6 against the Warriors and deny that Game 5 matters because Game 6 was an elimination game that came after the Game 5 elimination game.

The antithesis of this is the fans who use a player’s best performance to define them. Kobe Bryant fans will often end debates in a froth and spittle-filled rage declaring over and over 81!!! 81!!! As though that answers all questions, ever.

Defining a player by a game, by a couple of games or by a series is technically called “observational selection.” More commonly, it’s cherry picking. Don’t do it unless you’re baking a pie. Then feel free to invite me over:

https://twitter.com/bosgreenroom/status/636016317376634880

This one is precious. Take any two random things and act like if you have one position, then the other is inconsistent, even if the two things have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

But in someone’s head, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s current level of defense is somehow tied to Marcus Smart’s ability to surpass Joe Dumars as a player. He’s literally arguing that these two positions are so tied together that it’s bad logic to have separate a take on the two things.

Forget that MKG’s defense has nothing whatsoever to do with Smart’s ability compared to a Hall of Famer in Dumars. Forget that MKG is a small forward and Smart is a combo guard.

The worst equivalence here is that of what is and what might be. Tim Duncan is arguably the greatest power forward of all time. Anthony Davis might get to that level someday if everything goes right. But let’s not get carried away. Right now, Anthony Davis is no Tim Duncan. Because with “might be” there’s also a “might not be.” And with “is” there is no “might not be.”

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone is going to go to this weird of an extreme, but false equivalence is the most persistent STD (Stupidly Tweeted Disagreement) on social media. So, before you click “send” ask yourself, is there a distinction between what you’re arguing and the present situation? Are you comparing apples and oranges? Or even like, in this case, apples and orangutans?:

This one is inevitable. If someone disagrees with you, just make it about them and how they feel. If they like something you don’t like, they must be a “fan” or even a “stan.” If they’re critical of a player you like, then it must be because they’re a hater.

Most people have heard of ad hominem attacks. It’s a Latin phrase meaning “to the man.” And we typically think about it as saying something mean or using profanity. But it’s broader than that. Accusing a person of bias is making the argument about the “man” (or woman) and avoiding the discussion of the actual thing being discussed.

And while we’re on the subject of bias, let’s also establish something. Being biased doesn’t mean having an opinion on a thing. It’s even possible to have quite a strong opinion on something, but that doesn’t mean it’s biased. For instance, I have a very strong anti-slavery stance. That doesn’t make me biased against slavery.

Bias means having a prejudicial leaning toward an opinion, even in the face of facts and reason. So here’s the thing you need to ask yourself before throwing the word around. Do you have a bias? If you’re mad that someone is saying that you don’t like about your favorite player, consider the possibility that the bias isn’t on the other end of your finger, it’s on the four pointing back at you.

And the best way to filter that out is to look at the actual facts on the table. If the other person isn’t offering any, they may very well have some bias. But even then, it doesn’t mean you don’t. If you have a strong feeling about a player, there’s a strong possibility you’re biased:

Two slightly different takes on if LeBron James played in the 90s there. And they’re both committing the same fallacious line of reasoning. It’s known as assuming the answer. Someone argues that LeBron is the greatest player of all time. Then someone else says, “What about Michael Jordan?”

And then the Jordan fan talks about how Jordan would dominate in this era, and the LeBron fan talks about how LeBron would have dominated in Jordan’s era. And both are using their favorite player’s dominance in his own era to prove he’d dominate the other era and that means the other era was weaker and so on. Go tautology!

But there are a host of problems with this whole line of reasoning.

For example, people argue that previous players wouldn’t do as well in the current era because there’s more athleticism. If that’s true, then is it because there was some Gouldian-type punctuated equilibrium leap in evolution whereby mankind made a genetic leap forward in just 20 years? Or is it because there’s better training and diet today? And if it’s the latter, wouldn’t the player in question have access to the same training and diet? And if he did, wouldn’t he also be more athletic?

Or if the player from today were born a generation earlier and grew up playing the more physical brand of basketball, wouldn’t he grow up playing more physically?

Point being, rather than just carte-blanche, ipso facto about it, consider how the changes might affect a player. For example, imagine a more athletic Larry Bird in today’s more versatile league. Adapting to today’s rules and with today’s training and his work ethic, he’d likely be a stretch 4 of a whole new breed.

The way to break out of this assuming the answer is to challenge your own answers and assumptions.

Remember that just because you’re on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you have to turn off your brain. Make the Tworld a better place. Tweet responsibly.

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