Jeff Bellone isn’t a basketball player. He’s a nerd who loves basketball. He has two master’s degrees in economics and systems engineering, and takes pride in being a voracious learner. When he started playing basketball as a kid on the playground, he became obsessed—he wanted to learn everything about the game.
Over the years, Bellone read and watched as much as he could about basketball—scouting reports, game film, opinion pieces. Though he never coached or played competitively, he absorbed the game through the media. As he got older, he noticed coverage of his favorite team, the Knicks, didn’t go deep enough. He wasn’t learning as much as he wanted to. He wanted to understand the team better, inside and out.
So Bellone created Knicks Film School, where he covers all things Knicks. He breaks down film, writes up scouting reports, reports on players’ social media postings and just about everything in between. It was the perfect way to put his love for the team and the game to good use.
“I was always into basketball, especially the X’s and O’s, and that’s what led me to create the account, where I could actually do that for a team I was watching anyway.” Bellone says. “I figure if I’m wasting all this time watching the Knicks, I might as well be productive about it.”
Knicks Film School provides coverage tailor-made for Knicks fans. Bellone enjoys most of the writers covering the Knicks beat, but his sought to create a site (and Twitter account) that offered deep insider analysis and still felt like it was coming from a true fan.
“The media and the team both rely on fans to make money,” Bellone says. “They each have their own interest. I think an account like mine fills the gap between them.”
His account lives in the nexus of fan interaction known as NBA Twitter. It’s a wild place where rumors are spread, replays are shared, memes are made and opinions are offered. It includes everyone from national media personalities to local beat writers to average fans. Each team has their own hyper-localized sliver, and the instant connectivity provides the perfect outlet for fans.
“I really think social media has replaced sports talk radio to give fans that larger voice,” Bellone says.
The NBA has taken advantage of social media—particularly Twitter—like no other American professional sports league. It freely allows users to share license-free videos and highlights. Whatever the NBA may be losing in licensing, it gains in virality. Highlight-reel dunks and game-winning threes are available instantaneously on Twitter, regardless of whether you’re actually watching the game.
With that social media freedom and promotion, accounts like Bellone’s have taken off. He still approaches coverage like a fan, thinking of what he’d want to see and read from someone covering the Knicks.
“We as fans just want good, quality content, and a lot of it is not that difficult to do,” Bellone says. “I never envisioned it growing into something with any kind of following or influence, but I’m flattered it’s turned out that way.”
Covering the Knicks has been more fun for Bellone of late. The team appears to have committed to building through the draft and has a genuine star in 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. Unfortunately, the organization is plagued by poor ownership—James Dolan has been a league laughingstock and fan pariah for years.
Bellone is no Dolan fan, but he does have hope for the Knicks’ future. He agrees that the owner has done several things wrong, but likes the fact that Dolan is willing to spend. But he’s even more encouraged by the team’s recent strategy of prioritizing draft picks over flashy free agent acquisitions—something most Knicks fans hope will continue.
“It’s probably the only somewhat pro-Dolan answer in history, but that’s how I feel about it,” Bellone says. “That’s the big difference in what I see now.”