The days before the NBA trade deadline are a time of speculation and sources and "sources." It is also the moment when basketball Twitter's weirdest trolls shine.
Twitter is too big. This is about the best and kindest thing that can be said about it, in the same way that you could say cities are too big because you could never possibly eat in every weird restaurant or talk to every resident or walk every humdrum block. This doesn't mean the city is itself too big, it's just that it's too big for a person to process. There is some place in the Bulgarian neighborhood—yes, there's a Bulgarian neighborhood—serving weird dumplings that you wouldn't know how to order anyway, and you will never visit it. Just as, on Twitter, there are little cul de sacs and corners that you would, in a whole logged-on lifetime, never see fit to visit.
And so at some point, as in the days before the NBA Trade Deadline, you must decide to just kind of surf the swells of nonsense that periodically roil the surface. If you go on Twitter looking for rumors about NBA trades, you will find them; if you do not look closely, you will notice that some of them come from Adrian Wojnarowski and some of them come from Adriam Wojnarovvski, the former being a real and very well-sourced person and the latter a teen so stupendously bored that creating a fake Adrian Wojnarowski account to disseminate fake rumors seemed like the right thing to do. I have talked to these teens in the past, and they are, like most teens, fundamentally so teen as to basically be beyond any moral standard or judgment. No functioning adult could be as bored as they are, and so no functioning adult would do what they do; we have no choice but to take their lurid teenliness as a sort of wild art performance.
This, anyway, was my first instinct when it came to the person who had made an account designed to look like that of Washington Post NBA writer Tim Bontemps. The real Bontemps is doing his job, which is reporting on the NBA; the fake Bontemps, on Tuesday, was doing his, which is writing value-free but initially convincing NBA rumors, "some fun on a boring day." The accounts look pretty much the same, give or take a blue checkmark; the fake one is not new, and Bontemps told me that he tried to get it taken down back when it was last active, in 2015, to no avail. Then it went dormant, and Bontemps moved from covering the Nets—the college kid doing the fake Bontemps account is a Nets fan, and "used to fuck around on nets Facebook board during the whole dwightmare thing," an online friend told me—for the New York Post to covering the NBA in Washington.
The work at Fake Tim Bontemps was not always as crafty as it would later become. Compare this, say, from its first life:
Is it correct? It was and remains correct. But it is not artful, really, and not especially convincing as something that a pro NBA writer would tweet. Now compare it with this:
This is, right down to the quotation marks, a perfectly true echo of the serious fatuity/fatuous seriousness of NBA Insider Twitter around the trade deadline. It is a fake Tim Bontemps tweet—and it is, to be fair, not the way that the actual Bontemps tweets—but it is a very convincing NBA Insider Twitter tweet. Fake Tim dropped a bunch of those on Tuesday, and saw them passed around fairly widely. At the end of the day, his account was somehow followed by both University of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson and veteran West Coast rap producer E-A-Ski. He had been called out as a fake account, and dealt with it perfectly. It was good.
He was approaching the ideal of the fake account, which means that he was approaching a reckoning. He would get too big, and he would be banned; he would get too weird or grandiose, and he would stop being worthy of attention. I could see some reckoning coming, but I could not see how beautiful it would become. I tweeted this, rather thoughtlessly.
The real Timmy Goodtimes saw it, and responded. The fake Tim Bontemps saw that, and responded. And then, in all the beauty I had expected but in a form I never quite dreamed, the two Tims—real and fake, verified and un-, thirtysomething working journalist and bored college kid—met. Look at all the little Tim Bontemps heads!
Twitter is too big. There is too much there to see, and to be fair a lot of it is better left unseen. But, in the frantic and fatuous days before the NBA trade deadline, when everyone is ready to believe every dumb and unverifiable thing, there was still room for the sort of sweet and stupid singularity that reminds you how small it can be.