Rehashing Some of The Best NBA Fake Account Tweets

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With the NBA Draft and the commencement of free agency approaching, it is officially Fake Account Season.  That is, the time where news breaks and rumors on Twitter published by fake accounts are most prevalent.  Deemed a nuisance by many, fake accounts are an institution of Sports Twitter. They are ingrained in the platform’s ecosystem. As a professional internet troll (through my Twitter account @OldTakesExposed), I am a strong advocate of fake account news breaks.  I am thoroughly entertained when fake accounts tweet out fake rumors or trades (what I call “bait”), and love searching for prominent sports media members that see the fake tweets and believe them (I refer to these folks as “biters”).

To those who don’t use Twitter or have never seen a fake Twitter account break a “story,” here’s how it works:  A random troll creates an account, usually one that mirrors a prominent and credible media member who posts scoops. Except for the handle, a quality impostor account looks exactly the same as a real account down to the profile picture and background. Usually the handle similar to the real account.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when fake accounts began to take off, but an educated guess would be around 2010-11 when Twitter started to gain popularity amongst news reporters and outlets and journalists began using it as a tool to report and break news.  In 2014, David Roth  wrote a nice piece in SBNation about fake accounts and interviewed a few teens that were behind some of them.

People always wonder, how does the media fall for these fakes?  A prominent news source’s account usually has a blue check next to it signifying that it is official. Why don’t people just look for the check? Also, many ask: Why does anyone follow an imposter account in the first place?

This is my theory as to how a fake news break spreads.  During a period where specific rumors and potential trades are rampant, many journalists and bloggers are honed in on a specific player who has been dominating the news cycle.  Some anxious media folks, especially ones who cover the relevant player, continuously search the player’s name. When a fake account tweets a phony news break, one of the jittery news people who has been tirelessly waiting for news, and has the competitive desire to be the first one to comment on a scoop, jumps on the bunk news, and tweets out the fake account’s tweet.  This biter often has at least a few followers that are prominent national media who have significant follower counts.  Once one of these national folks retweets the fake news, the floodgates open.

Being the fake tweet enthusiast that I am, I have noticed and remembered many throughout the years. Here are some of my favorites from the NBA (most are during the free agency/draft period).


Just as free agency was approaching in 2012, an account purporting to be ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard (Broussard is now with Fox Sports), but with one “S” in the last name (@Chris_Brousard), started tossing some bait.  Here’s a Rajon Rondo for Tyreke Evans trade bomb, which snared some biters:

People started to catch on:

Apparently ESPN sent out a text alert about the trade:

After the fake Rondo tweet, the real Chris Broussard had to clear the air:

Not everyone noticed Broussard’s PSA.  The next day, Teddy Greenstein from the Chicago Tribune saw another one-S Broussard tweet announcing Gasol and Metta World Peace to the Bulls for Luol Deng and became a bit excited.


Possibly one of the better executed fakes of all-time involved then Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden. After the 2012 season, Harden’s status with the team was up in the air.  Harden wanted a max contract, and the Thunder, who already had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, were not willing to spend that much. A trade was potentially on the horizon. Seeing a perfect moment to pounce, a fake account impersonating NBA reporter extraordinaire Adrian Wojnarowski went to work.   Wojnarowski, now with ESPN, is considered by most to be the premier NBA newsbreaker.  Back in 2012, “Woj” worked at Yahoo! Sports and owned the handle @WojYahooNBA.  The fake account, @WojYahoooNBA (notice the extra O),  dropped an early evening fake bombshell: the Thunder had traded James Harden to the Hornets for Eric Gordon.

While the Three-O’d  Woj may have expected to rope-in an anxious journalist, he probably did not expect to snare James Harden himself. But that’s what seemed to have happened. After the Fake Woj bomb, Harden posted this to his Instagram account, then deleted it minutes later.

It sure looks like Harden believed the Fake Woj trade tweet.  According to Thunder Digest, Harden posted his Instagram post ten minutes after the Fake Woj tweet, and deleted it five minutes later:

Whatever the case, Twitter was totally confused:


Likely feeling good about his Harden bomb from July, the three-O’d Woj struck again with a timely November blast.  The Lakers, who had high expectations coming into the season after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, were off to a 1-4 start, and fired head coach Mike Brown.  Phil Jackson, who Brown had replaced a year earlier, was reportedly in the mix to take over.   People were on their heels.  They were vulnerable.  Three-O’d Woj saw it was a perfect time to attack, and away he went:

A few of the many retweeters who had to apologize:


In July 2012, John Hollinger, the current Memphis Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations, was an ESPN NBA analyst who had a “this could never happen to me” attitude.  For all the people who think they are invincible and will never be a biter, let this be a cautionary tale. Turns out, Hollinger is as susceptible as anyone else, and was zinged by an fake account purporting to be long time respected national NBA reporter Marc Stein (then with ESPN) announcing Grant Hill’s retirement. Instead of Stein’s actual handle at the time, @ESPNSteinLine, the faker ignored the  “I before E except after C” rule to create @ESPNStienLine.


The Three O’d Woj was back in May 2013.  A few days after the Lakers were eliminated from the 2013 playoffs, Kobe Bryant, on his Facebook page, a “surprise” announcement occuring later in the evening.  Sensing another prime opportunity, Three-O’d Woj dangled this fake Kobe retirement bait:

Here are some who were left carrying the bag:

Some couldn’t handle the fake drama:

Kobe’s announcement turned out to be an upcoming charity event. He had a laugh about the fake news:


On July 3, 2014, the LeBron James second free agency sweepstakes was heating up.  Would he stay with the Heat? Go back to Cleveland? Sign with Houston? Everyone was on edge. Astutely observing the media’s collective susceptibility to bite, a fake Woj account, @WojiYahooNBA, took a calculated risk. A fake tweeter usually makes his or her bones on breaking fake news that is plausible. A fake scoop that sounds outrageous and non-sensical may be an instant red flag to even the most gullible biters.  Here, Woji tweeted that LeBron would “meet” with the Rockets, Suns, and Sixers (via Twitter/@REDNATION):

The Rockets were a viable and rumored candidate to sign LeBron, so that was reasonable. But the Sixers and Suns weren’t even on LeBron’s radar.  You’d think that would instantly throw people off, but there were biters. One of them: long-time NFL reporter Mike Freeman.

Another reporter who was duped by the Freeman bite, blamed Mike:

College Football Talk first retweeted the fake scoop, then was informed of the true nature of the Woji account:

Of course, LeBron ended up signing with Cleveland a week later.


On the eve of the NBA’s free agency signing period in 2016, one of the major storylines was where Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside would sign. Just like past free agency periods, Marc Stein was posting rumors and scoops under his account, @ESPNSteinLine.  Sensing vulnerability from the eager NBA media, someone posted from a Stein impostor account, @NBASteinLine, that Whiteside signed with Dallas. Numerous prominent media members gobbled up the bait, including Marc Spears, David Aldridge and J.A. Adande. Bill Simmons even started following Fake Stein:

Hassan ended up re-signing with the Heat a few days later.


There is no better time to dangle fake trade bait than during the NBA Draft. News is flowing fast and people are desperate for scoops and nuggets.  During last year’s draft, there were rumblings about whether the Celtics, who had traded the number one overall pick to the Sixers a week earlier, would keep their #3 pick.  In addition, Paul George’s status with the Pacers was in flux, as he had one year left on his contract and made overtures that he was not interested in re-signing with the Pacers after the 2017-18 season.  Last June, Woj was using the handle @WojVerticalNBA reflecting his writing for Yahoo!’s NBA site, The Vertical.  A Fake Woj account, @WojVerticalN8A (notice the number 8 instead of the letter B in NBA), dropped a torpedo announcing that the Celtics, who had just drafted Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick, were trading Tatum along with Celtics guard Avery Bradley to the Pacers for Paul George.

The media, especially low-hanging fruit NFL media, chomped on that bait like it was a piece of shrimp dangling in the ocean. KA-BOOM!


The Gordon Hayward free agency sweepstakes last summer had people on edge. There were a few great fakes.  I fell for one hook, line, and sinker:

But the Hayward frenzy produced one of my all-time favorite fake bites from long time Miami radio personality Orlando Alzugaray (aka the “Big O”). Alzugary got burned by a fake Woj Bomb ten minutes after making fun of a follower for falling for a fake.

Here’s the giddy follower sending the Big O a fake Hayward-to-Heat tweet:

Alzugaray immediately made fun of the follower for biting on the fake.

Just ten minutes later, a Woj impostor, “@ESPNWojNBA” (Woj moved to ESPN in July and was using his current account @wojespn) tossed out a similar Hayward-to-Miami flair, which the Big O quickly ate up:

Note to Big O, check for the verification first. On July 4, Hayward announced he was signing with the Celtics.


Also last summer, Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock bit on a Carmelo Anthony to Cavs scoop from a fake SportsCenter account with two underscores on the handle and a cloud emoji instead of a blue verification check.

The moral of the story is, don’t be a biter. Check for the blue checkmark. Don’t trust anyone!  Even the most seasoned veteran can bite. If you see someone quote tweet a juicy news break, stop for a second. Evaluate it, take a look at the tweet, examine it closely.  Don’t get suckered into a meaty dangler.  Sure, someone may have mistakenly put it your feed, or maybe you weren’t of a clear mind and were taken advantage of at a bad time.  But when the dust settles and the smoke clears, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Relax. Wait. Don’t bite on the bait. Good luck. Make us proud.

Fred Segal is an attorney from West Palm Beach, FL. He operates the popular Freezing Cold Takes twitter account (@OldTakesExposed) which highlights, among other things, hilarious unprophetic and inaccurate takes and predictions. 

You can follow Freezing Cold Takes on Facebook here, and Instagram here (username: freezingcoldtakes).

Written by Fred Segal