In one of the wildest sports stories in some time, The Ringer is reporting that Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo has been secretly operating five twitter accounts. Although at first glance the action may seem harmless enough, the accounts, if truly Colangelo, operated on a level that puts Kevin Durant’s Twitter alter-ego to shame.
Writer Ben Derrick, who has worked on the piece since February, received an anonymous tip about Colangelo’s supposed involvement:
Our source, whose identity is still unknown, contacted me via anonymous “egg” accounts on both Instagram and Twitter, claiming that they had a scoop. The source explained that they worked in artificial intelligence and, after noticing a “bunch of weird tweets” directed at Sixers writers, used an open-source data analysis tool to link five accounts through commonalities including similarities in who the accounts followed and linguistic quirks.
They all have a pattern of likes, follows, and tweets which are EXTRAORDINARILY similar,” the source wrote in a direct message on Twitter. For example, the source explained, all five follow accounts tied to Sixers players, members of the Philly front office, and beat reporters who cover the team; Toronto Raptors writers; Canadian high school basketball; and University of Chicago basketball. They discuss the same topics, use strikingly similar phrasing, and, at times, have tweeted out identical media images. Some of those shared attributes were odd, such as a distaste for beards and “unknown sources.” According to the source’s findings, the three newest accounts followed 75 accounts in common—roughly half of their total respective follows—with another 52 accounts followed by two of the three.
The accounts criticized players such as former 76er Jahlil Okafor on an alleged failed physical test, The accounts also tweeted about current players to national media, suggesting that they ask certain questions to players. Finally, the accounts threw a substantial amount of shade towards former GM Sam Hinkie while supporting Colangelo’s achievements in Philadelphia.
After the report was made, the 76ers responded with a statement from President Colangelo denying the allegation:
”Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news. While I have never posted anything whatsoever on social media, I have used the @Phila1234567 Twitter account referenced in this story to monitor our industry and other current events. 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, nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.”
Although not officially confirmed yet, The Ringer is still sticking to its sources. In the piece, it points out that not only did the source confirm that Colangelo was the owner of one of the five accounts in question, but the three that were not mentioned simultaneously went dark shortly after he was told of The Ringer’s inquiry.
All-Star center Joel Embiid immediately took to Twitter with his displeasure:
Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he spoke with Embiid a short time later:
Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid tells ESPN on Bryan Colangelo: “I talked to him and he said that he didn’t say that. He called me just to deny the story. Gotta believe him until proven otherwise. If true though, that would be really bad.”— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 30, 2018
After Embiid’s initial response, Blazers Guard CJ McCollum got involved after a little back and forth trolling with Embiid and NBA reporter Zach Lowe:
Are you saying you’re no longer happy in philly ? https://t.co/i623bIufJR— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) May 30, 2018
What ? I simply asked a question . I’ve been doing some freelance reading and there’s some interesting articles being written— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) May 30, 2018
Make sure to click through to The Ringer’s original piece. It’s long, but one of the strangest sports stories you’ll read this year.