Pride cometh before a fall. In this case, Gordon Hayward’s social media post of video game pride preceded the fall of his website.
This Tuesday afternoon, Gordon Hayward’s PR staff at Athlete Interactive posted an article entitled “THE BEST IN THE GAME” on GordonHayward20.com, featuring quotes like these:
My name is Gordon Hayward, spelled with a G. And I am the best player in the game today.
One on one versus Lebron James? He would get crushed. We would all be witnesses to a straight up annihilation. The reigning MVP, Kevin Durant? I’m LOLing.
Honestly, take any 5 NBA players you want and put them on the same squad. It doesn’t really matter. I’d beat them all. It would be like playing a bunch of kindergartners.
His staff even put together this image, posted on Twitter and Instagram:
The punchline of the article is that he’s actually better at League of Legends than anybody in the NBA, not basketball. And Hayward’s almost certainly right.
The post itself is quite good. Clearly written in Gordon’s voice, it talks about his lifelong experience with video games, from Mario, to Halo, to Starcraft, and now League, and how even how it’s intersected with his basketball world at times. It’s legitimately interesting stuff from an athlete who’s trying to show off his multi-dimensionalness, something we need more of in general.
Unfortunately, his PR staff went a little crazy with the title, the above image, and the carefully timed release. The picture above has received over 4,600 RTs and counting1, and with all of that traffic, GordonHayward20.com crashed.
In other words, no one is reading the blog, because they can’t. All they see is the one-on-one challenge against superstar LeBron James above, which portrays Hayward as irrational, cocky and brash. As Hayward admits, “It may come as a shock to read me saying something like this because most of you see me as pretty humble. And 99.9% of the time, I am.”
Basically, Gordon Hayward’s PR team has inadvertently created a public image for Gordon which directly contradicts his actual personality because they turned his relatively innocuous post into an item of standard-issue internet clickbait.
This isn’t actually the first time this has happened. Hayward’s infamous “Too Big Yo” rap, released 4 and a half years ago now, also portrayed Hayward as arrogant with an oversized opinion of his own game. Just like Hayward’s post today, it also was tongue-in-cheek, and anyone who has any familiarity with Hayward knew he was being playful. Both the post today and the rap itself were a kind of low-key wonderful, and I’m very glad they exist. But one only needs to look at the Twitter replies or Youtube comments to see the swarms of people who don’t get the joke.
Hayward isn’t who the meme-quote above would have you believe he is. He’s not DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young, or even Matt Bonner. He’s very competitive, yes, but really self-aware, a trait that comes out both on and off the court. Hayward’s just a kid with drive, one who can’t stop doing the things he loves.
The reason why [I became good at video games] was simple: It was the only other thing I did in high school. I didn’t have a girlfriend. I didn’t go to dances. Literally all I did was play sports, then come home and play Xbox. I was logging two or three hours a day because my parents put a limit on it, and I always went right up to the max on that. When you play at least 20 hours a week, you improve.
Gordon Hayward’s path to public stardom can’t copy Michael Jordan’s; Hayward’s personality can’t match Jordan’s psychotic swagger. Athlete Interactive might be wise to cut down on the extravagant claims and the memes to enflame, and instead promote Hayward more accurately: definitely competitively-driven, but also a humble, hard-working, everyman’s hero.2