The Brooklyn Nets training facility is usually a mellow place in the summer months. The energy in the building wanes—such is life for an NBA team in the offseason. The full roster is not officially reunited; some players are on vacation or lying low, some pop into the facility to get shots up and refine their games. There are fewer basketballs bouncing and shoes squeaking. But a few weeks ago, a familiar hysteria pierced the locker room walls.
Nooooooooooooooooooo. No Power spoilers!
“When you come to the locker room, you’re like, ‘Hey y’all catch this?'” guard Spencer Dinwiddie says. “If people are like, ‘No, we didn’t,’ then you don’t spoil it. But if everyone’s like, ‘Yeah,’ then you have that conversation. It’s pretty lively. We all have the consensus that Angela’s not dead.”
“Sorry, guys,” adds Dinwiddie. “Don’t read the article. Spoiler alert.”
Here in Brooklyn, the Nets have spent much of their July, August and September inside, away from the sweltering northeastern heat, in front of their televisions. Without competitive basketball, they’ve killed time by doing the same thing we all do, binge-watching shows and tuning in week to week alongside their fans. They track the conversations on the ‘Gram and Twitter, and they post theories of their own.
The Nets are hooked on Power, a crime drama on Starz that just wrapped up its fifth season on Sept. 9. Throughout the summer, the show became appointment viewing, according to Dinwiddie and his teammate Allen Crabbe.
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For them, it’s as much a communal experience as it is an offseason stand-in for hoops drama. Many of the young Nets connect over social media with other fans—#TeamPower—and even trade barbs at times. It seems like many throughout the league do the same. Out west, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard tune in from Portland, and there are Clippers, Nuggets and even veterans, too. Coast to coast, NBA players are all-in.
“We go on Twitter every Sunday, talking about how crazy the episode is,” Crabbe says.
#TeamPower has been growing its legion of followers for years, and the NBA is among them. Just a few weeks after winning his first NBA championship with the Warriors in June, Nick Young turned his attention to Power. “I’m just happy power back,” he tweeted on the night of the Season 5 premiere.
In 2015, JaVale McGee, Swaggy’s former teammate, took to Twitter to figure out how he could tune in. He didn’t have Starz in his cable package, evidently. So in a burst of desperation, he asked in all caps. SOMEBODY SLIDE THAT STARZZ USERNAME AND PASSWORD SO I CAN CATCH UP ON SEASON 2 OF POWER… DMS PLEEZ.”
Online frenzies over Power are commonplace. The show is full of sharp plot twists and melodramatic turns that make it ripe for internet buzz. In many cases, the storylines don’t even make sense. Neither do the reactions: Victor Oladipo, himself not a stranger to Hollywood stunts—who could forget the Strength of The Black Panther dunk—nearly lost his mind once in the wee hours of the morning:
It’s the social element of Power that has helped players fight the feeling of alienation during months in which they would otherwise be disconnected. For them, the show has served as a bridge.
What makes Power—the season finale of which attracted more than 1.5 million viewers—so popular?
The show’s underworld dealings, drugs, money and sex are a recipe for must-see-TV. The protagonist is James “Ghost” St. Patrick, whom Dinwiddie calls “every young kid’s illegal dream.” Ghost is the owner of Truth, a New York City nightclub, and he struggles to escape a murky past, causing great tension.
Another part of the show’s allure is its cast. It costars 50 Cent as Kanan Stark, an antihero gangster, and features many more special guests. Kendrick Lamar, Anika Noni Rose, MC Lyte and other performers have played one-off roles. The late Charlie Murphy played a recurring security guard. Jerry Ferrara, of Entourage fame, plays Ghost’s lawyer.
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“Power dominates NBA locker rooms,” Dinwiddie says. Call it some mix of timing, community, drama and fun. And yet, “We do have a couple Snowfall outliers in our locker room—Allen Crabbe—don’t wanna name names.”
If the Nets are any indicator, Power has found a rival in the FX show Snowfall, which completed its second season Thursday night. It’s a crime drama, like Power, but it’s set at the beginning of the crack cocaine epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles. It also aired once weekly throughout the summer.
Crabbe, a Power obsessive, has become one of the NBA’s most faithful Snowfall watchers. “I’ve been hooked,” he says.
The debate over which of the two shows is better crescendoed toward the end of the recent season of Power. In August, Sixers forward Wilson Chandler boldly came out and said that he preferred Snowfall, which he considers the underdog. “Snowfall > Power. My opinion. Not up for debate.” he tweeted. The post emboldened two others in the NBA, Andre Iguodala and Thomas Robinson, to emerge from the shadows in support.
“Keep hearing this…” Iguodala replied.
“Facts!!” Robinson added.
Chandler’s reasoning lies in Snowfall’s believability. The show is “more realistic,” than Power, he says, “as far as how the crime happens and the way people can relate to it.” Snowfall follows a teenage drug dealer, a budding trafficker and a CIA agent as they try to rise in the drug world. Chandler appreciates the way the storylines are weaved together.
Harris has recently been working on a show of his own, Bobi and Tobi, with his teammate Boban Marjanovic. It’s no Snowfall, but they too embark on dramatic adventures across Los Angeles.
Chandler’s theory about Snowfall is that it fills a void that Power doesn’t concern itself with. “Power has a good storyline, but it’s more soap opera-ish,” he says. “More entertaining to people who aren’t that into details.”
For Dinwiddie, that’s exactly what makes Power so fun.
“It is kind of like a soap opera,” Dinwiddie says. “My grandma used to love soap operas; maybe that’s why I like it.”
He gets excited when he thinks about the twists and turns. “Angela’s the saint. It gets complicated ’cause there’s love there. Tasha, woo, she got issues, man.”
“Tasha fell in love with the driver, then went and fell in love with the lawyer. Like, bruh, c’mon man. Tasha’s been in love three times. How’d that happen?”
Dinwiddie came to Power after its first season, a few years back. He was in Detroit with the Pistons at the time, flipping through channels when he chanced upon it. Within two days, he’d binged the entire first season and caught up. “I’ve been a loyal fan ever since,” says Dinwiddie, who doesn’t watch Snowfall.
Crabbe had been a Power-only viewer, too, until the Season 5 finale, which he watched with family and friends. “Power seemed like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals when it came on,” he says. “Everybody made plans to make sure we’d watch together.”
When it was over, that empty feeling began to set in. We all know the one: A beloved show runs out of episodes, leaving you to wonder what to watch next, and what to do with the odd free hour you find in the evenings or late at night.
Crabbe asked around, and his sister recommended Snowfall. He binged it right away. “I’m all caught up. It took me like a week. After practices and workouts, I came straight home to catch up.”
But as of Thursday, Snowfall is over for the year. The finale, says Chandler, was “a good cap on a great season.” Neither it nor Power will return for many months.
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For a while, the NBA season will provide drama of its own. But come next summer, when the playoffs are a distant memory, NBA players will return to their beloved programs. Chandler, Dinwiddie, Crabbe and others will likely log on to Twitter—like the rest of us—and dive deeper into the #TeamPower and #TeamSnowfall rabbit holes.
Or maybe someone will take his obsession a step further?
“A number of players have expressed interest in being on the show,” says Gary Lennon, the co-showrunner of Power. “But of course, we can’t name names, because that would be a spoiler.”