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Star athlete Jared McCain redefines presence of athletes on social media

Laila Taraporevala
Jared McCain plays basketball for Duke University. This year, he led them to the Elite Eight in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

Over recent months, Jared McCain, a guard for the Duke men’s basketball team, has revolutionized college athletes’ presence on social media by posting numerous videos to his TikTok and Instagram accounts. McCain’s content includes sharing his thoughts both before and after games as well as following popular TikTok trends.

McCain’s social media presence is amplified by his performances on the court. Statistically, McCain was Duke University’s best player during March Madness, where he averaged 21 points per game and scored over 50% in field goals, according to ESPN. Duke’s men’s basketball team has posted multiple reels on Instagram showing off McCain’s skills and statistics after games as a testimony to his greatness.

Despite being only a first-year college student, due to his success at Duke and stellar season, McCain decided to apply for the NBA draft, which will take place June 27. This will not only increase the skillsets of the players he is playing against but also allow him to gain more popularity on social media.

McCain’s social media influence has been remarkable, gaining over 3.8 million followers on both Instagram and TikTok combined. One of McCain’s most viral videos was him dancing to the music of the song “Rather Beby Clean Bandit on TikTok, which garnered 7.6 million views. This video has been reposted multiple times on social media platforms, increasing his prominence.


Great song here

? Rather Be Clean Bandit x Jess Glynne Sped Up – Stan 🙂

McCain has gained popularity from this video and others because of the absence of other athletes on social media platforms. Star athletes refrain from posting for many reasons, but mainly because of the scrutiny and abuse they receive from online users, according to Loughborough University.

Additionally, the athletes who do use social media post content that differs from McCain’s. For instance, many athletes share highlight clips while McCain has posted videos of him partaking in TikTok dances and other rising trends.

The type of content on McCain’s accounts can be viewed as unprofessional, and it is often something athletes are hesitant to do in front of a large audience. However, McCain’s confidence will influence other athletes to change their attitude toward posting and follow McCain’s footsteps into the social media scene.

Lebron James, who has 159 million followers on Instagram and is one of the most prominent NBA players today, has never posted a video performing TikTok trends. Most of Lebron James’ posts are basketball-related, unlike McCain’s, which tend to be a mixture of both. Lebron James also has a TikTok account, which only has approximately 116,000 followers and no posts.

Lebron James’ unpopularity on TikTok compared to Instagram is due to the fact that he doesn’t post any videos. If James decided to post videos in the same manner that McCain does, he would receive a rise in viewership due to his already global fan base.

Some may believe McCain posts himself doing TikTok dances because he is younger, and thus is influenced by what other users his age are posting. However, this is not the only factor. McCain is one of the only college basketball players posting themselves doing TikTok trends. Zach Edey, who plays on Purdue’s men’s basketball team, is another one of college basketball’s most promising prospects and has around 100,000 followers on Instagram. However, Edey only has a total of 31 posts, none of which are him partaking in appealing trends.

Furthermore, Hunter Dickinson, one of the top NCAA basketball athletes who plays for the Kansas Jayhawks, also posts on social media. Dickinson has a following of 76,000 on Instagram and has posted a couple of photos and videos of himself in training and playing games. However, his number of followers is nothing compared to McCain’s 1.1 million.

One of the reasons McCain’s following is so important is because he is one of the first athletes to frequently post videos of themselves dancing on social media. Although Edey and Dickinson have equal or arguably better basketball skills compared to McCain, they don’t have as many followers. This is because viewers on social media aren’t interested in seeing these players train or play in games. Instead, people prefer to learn about the players on a personal level, as this is more uncommon and provides an insight into their personal lives they otherwise wouldn’t see.



? airplane mode prodbyabnormal – nia

In the video above, McCain dances with fellow McDonald’s All-American star Bronny James, who plays for the University of Southern California. This video was temporarily McCain’s most viewed video and now has 13.3 million views. Since then, McCain has collaborated with teammates at Duke and other NCAA athletes.

Using social media, McCain is redefining the presence of athletes online and is encouraging other athletes that he collaborates with, like Bronny James, to do the same.

McCain’s presence on social media has not only helped Bronny James expand his brand and popularity but also allowed people to gain a better understanding of athletes. Increased social media presence will only continue to boost the connection between these athletes and their fans.

McCain’s presence on social media has also increased after becoming an ambassador for nail brand Sally Hansen, where he posts promotional videos online. The partnership has allowed him to paint his nails and expand his brand.

In the video above posted to his TikTok account, McCain says, “I think everybody should do some self-care for themselves. For me, it’s nail painting. Sorry if that offends any of you guys …I’m just going to be myself and do what I think looks nice.”

McCain is certainly not afraid of being himself and sharing what he knows may be controversial to his viewers, demonstrated by the fact that he can share a personal story about why he paints his nails without caring about judgment from other people.

McCain’s defiance of regular stereotypes shows us how he is ready to be one of the most famous players, unlike others who are scared of putting themselves out there. Being the first person to bring about change is never easy, especially when you are changing the standards of masculinity that have been promoted by basketball players in the past.

We are all exposed to the mentally draining aspects of social media, but athletes especially struggle due to their fame leading to extreme scrutiny over any mistakes they make or opinions they have. This is one of the reasons many of them refrain from posting.

Naomi Osaka, a well-known Japanese tennis player who was formerly ranked number one in women’s tennis, has struggled with mental health problems as a product of abuse on social media. During the 2023 US Open Forum on Mental Health and Sport, Osaka said, “Somewhere along the line, I definitely got very scared of social media.” Although posting on social media is a great way to express yourself, sometimes the backlash athletes receive counteracts the benefits that come from posting.

When athletes such as Jared McCain openly talk about their mental health struggles and are unapologetically themselves online, it creates a less toxic environment surrounding competitive sports. McCain’s social media presence has not only paved a pathway for others to do the same but has also made the sporting world a better place. Next time you see a post by McCain or another athlete, remember to be positive and support them.

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About the Contributors
Raj Chamria, Reporter
Raj Chamria ('27) is a Reporter for The Standard in Journalistic Writing.
Laila Taraporevala, Media Team
Laila Taraporevala ('26) is a member of the Media Team for The Standard in Advanced Journalism.

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