Instagram account takes Mason rec basketball by storm

Mason Rec Basketball Instagram account posts updates and game pictures.

Divy Bose | The Chronicle 

An anonymous Instagram account has taken Mason recreational basketball by storm, and transformed it from a casual Sunday activity to a microcosm of professional sports leagues.

For years the Mason community center has hosted a recreational basketball league for students of all ages, but an anonymous social media account has led to a spike in popularity with its upper high school division consisting mostly of 11th and 12th graders. In the past, teams have utilized creative names and custom jerseys to add to the fun of the league, but this year each team has its own Instagram account along with the anonymous league wide media account, officialmccrecleague.

The account describes itself as “the official media for Mason Rec Basketball.” It was first created to upload post game photos and give the teams a forum to engage before and after games, but now it has turned into a much bigger platform with over 300 followers.

The account releases weekly power rankings, game predictions, and even has started releasing virtual trading cards with player ratings akin to the popular basketball video game NBA2k. Senior Laila Shaikh creates content for the account as a correspondent for the account. Shaikh’s role is to conduct pre and post game interviews as the official account’s reporter, interviewing the top players in each game to post along with final scores. Shaikh said she does this to have a good time with her friends who have teams, and it gives her a chance to inflate the competitive atmosphere of the league.

“I make sure to talk with the account before releasing any ranking, logo, or interview because of how serious some teams take each game,” Shaikh said. “But at least on my end, what I produce is all for fun and I make sure that each interview will make viewers laugh.”

As efforts from the account continue to put more emphasis on the entertainment aspect, leagues are focusing on fighting for stardom. Senior Mahith Surrapaneni, a member of the Southside Elite team who as of February 12 is 3rd in the power rankings with a 7-1 record, is one of the league’s top scoring guards. He was given a 94 overall diamond player card and averaged 13 points and had four assists per game. Surrapaneni said that the league now has a much more competitive atmosphere than previous years due to the account’s mystery and publicity. 

“The anonymous account has made almost every team go crazy,” Suraapaneni said. “The account consists of interest eaters who know exactly what they are doing.” 

With the increase of media production and posts from the account, players are starting to amp up their game as opposed to messing around or playing purely for amusement. The performance of each league determines what power ranking they will receive, which makes each team even more competitive. In addition to its game previews, results, and power rankings, the account has started putting out weekly recaps that include awards like most valuable player, most improved player, and defensive player of the week. 

Junior Zack Adleta, a member of the Sea Men who as of February 12 are ranked fourth in the power rankings, was named the league’s MVP of week 4 when he scored 22 points. Adelta said that the account has motivated him and his teammates as well as brought them closer with their friends on rival teams. 

“It’s really about playing for your own bragging rights,” Adleta said. “Bragging to your friends who are your opponents at times that you beat them playing a sport you love is the best part.”

Being able to take the heat after a loss is also something that each team has to deal with. . With each weekly recap or new power rankings, players debate over the performances of the week and where their team should be ranked. Surrapaneni said that a loss can stir up “smack talk” on social media and has added intensity to rivalries.

“The comment section just adds fuel to the fire ,”Surrapaneni said. “There will be at least sixty comments just arguing who is better and who falls short.” 

As the rankings continue to change weekly from one loss of a matchup, each league remains cautious of their own performance. Three teams have made it to the top of the power rankings thus far and each has found a target on its back because of it . Shaikh said that the fight for this spot ensues as each game determines each ranking. 

“People are on their toes this year because if you reach the number one spot, you want to secure that spot,” Shaikh said. “Teams want to be highlighted and shown attention as much as possible to show off and earn that level of respect.”

The individual team accounts have generated a mixture of both an enthusiastic and cutthroat attitude. More than prior years, teams and now fans are trying to treat the league more significantly to balance out recreational basketball’s inherit goofiness. Shaikh said said she has noticed that the publishing of game results has caused teams to take wins and losses seriously,

“If your team ends up winning, you just end up winning for yourselves,” Shaikh said. “But if you do lose it ends up being publicized all over the account and that is where the backlash starts to make an appearance.”

Winning the game is a reward, even if there is no real trophy at the end. Adleta said that he appreciates how the account has embraced the casual spirit of the league by personalizing the games and treating the players like they are NBA superstars.

“It’s all about pride,” Adleta said. “Going up to my friends in the hall and getting to joke around with them or getting to repost my game card on my Instagram story with me on it is such a good feeling.”

With the new all star team on the come up, the anonymous account has taken it upon themselves to let their followers decide who gets placed on the team. Whoever has the most votes, gets put on a “super” team together and are placed according to their position in basketball.  Players who receive fifty votes are automatically a guarantee on the team, as there are two teams that go against each other to compete for the final trophy.

Last season, the league had to be scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many games were canceled due to cases. Shaikh cited losing much of their junior season as key motivation for current seniors to leave a legacy on Mason recreational basketball, and have as much fun as possible their last year of high school. Shaikh said the players wanted to create lasting new traditions like the social media accounts, and give the league spectacle before they graduate.

“Every team this year just wanted to go out and have a blast,” Shaikh said. “I think this year the account also played a huge factor into the seniors wanting to be competitive, but also make it their own production.”

Photo by @officialmccrecleague