At some point during my senior year of high school I realized that I had a Facebook fan page. I wasn’t on social media that much at the time, so it was definitely a surprise when my friends pointed it out to me. There were pictures of me playing at Christ School, photos from all-star games, updates on my recruitment and even a little bio about my life. More surprising, there were about a thousand people following “me.”
I thought it was cool, but really didn’t spend too much time investigating who was behind the page. There were a lot of people trying to get my attention since I was headed to Duke and I figured it was best to just stay focused on my day-to-day. I guess if it hadn’t been so well done I might have thought otherwise, but the page was accurate and didn’t seem to be the work of a stalker, so all good.
It was also a very different time for social media. When I arrived at Duke as a freshman in 2009, Instagram didn’t exist, MySpace was still a thing and Facebook had fewer than 200M users worldwide (compared to more than 1.2 billion when I graduated.) To me, it was more of a way to stay connected with friends from high school. I didn’t realize at the time that a Facebook “fan” page could be something of interest to a larger audience or a way to actually connect with fans. Even pro athletes weren’t thinking about Facebook as a branding tool.
Over my four years in Durham, that changed. Duke Basketball rode the social media wave and started to create daily content for the first time, like this winning Duke Blue Planet video with Marshall… As college athletes, my teammates and I followed the rules of our program and generally kept our social media presence to a minimum. Today, some high school kids are already huge social media stars by the time they arrive in college. Back then, you didn’t go public with social media until you graduated and became a pro.
As I was preparing for the NBA Draft, my agent reached out and congratulated me on the great work I was doing on my Facebook page. I laughed and thanked him, but explained that I didn’t have a Facebook page. He referred me to the fan page that had been created back in high school which now had more than 15,000 followers. To be honest, I had paid so little attention to what was happening online that I lost track of that page and a handful of others that had been created “for” me. But I had to admit, I was impressed — the page was really well done and it had an actual following. My agent explained it would be a lot easier to start my NBA social media career with a built-in following. It was time to figure out who was the man behind the page.
A quick message to the page administrator revealed that the “man” was actually a kid from Greenville, South Carolina named Joe Franks. Apparently, Joe was a Duke fan and convinced his mom to take him to one of my high school games after he learned I had committed to playing at Duke. As Joe tells it (though admittedly I don’t remember), he waited for me after the game, asked me to sign a Duke shirt and announced that he was going to make a Facebook page for me. He says I thanked him and said go for it. I’m sure I did, though clearly I didn’t fully process the conversation. He was 13 years old at the time and I was just a high school kid getting ready to board a school bus.
Four years later, I was graduating college and Joe was getting ready for senior year of high school. He was very gracious about turning the page over to me and my agent. But since Joe really knew the ins and outs of the page, we kept him on the job and just kept an eye on things. He continued to update the page through the first few years of my NBA career, even as he was balancing a full schedule as a student-athlete at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
Over the past year, it’s been more of a partnership between me, Joe and one of my friends who’s helping me with branding. It has been fun keeping Joe involved and getting his insights along the way. He wants to work in sports marketing and business after college, so the experience has hopefully been good preparation for what’s next.
The crazy thing though is that as of October I still hadn’t truly met Joe (other than the brief encounter at my high school game). When I saw that we’d be playing the Hawks early in the season, I figured I would reach out and invite him to our game with the hope that I could finally get a chance to thank him in person after more than eight years of managing my Facebook page.
I’m glad we made it happen. Joe and I spent some time reminiscing and I quickly realized he knows as much as anyone about my basketball journey. More than that though, he’s a quality person who’s passionate about the work he’s doing. We will definitely stay in touch and I look forward to seeing what he does next. Shameless plug: if there’s anyone in the sports world looking for a young, energetic and talented person to add to their staff next year, Joe is your guy.
I guess the moral to the story is that you never know where a small idea will lead you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you want to make something happen, go do it. Joe definitely did and I am grateful.
Last thing: I figured it would be cool to document the “reunion” in Atlanta for both me and Joe, so we invited one of Joe’s friends from Covenant who’s an aspiring filmmaker to capture the day. The video above is the work of Kyle Delk and I think he did a great job. He is another young guy headed for big things.
Let me know what you think.