He did it, Jennifer.
CJ McCollum did win an NBA playoff game, just as Jennifer Williams, a business administrator at City Colleges of Chicago, challenged him to do last summer on Twitter.
Williams is now a minor celebrity, thanks to a 27-character tweet. McCollum was expressing some discontent about an old quote in which he seemed to take a shot at the Warriors’ method of team-building attributed to him during the dog days of the NBA offseason. Williams decided to respond.
“Win a playoff game, then talk,” she tweeted at McCollum.
“Im [sic] trying Jennifer,” McCollum surprisingly responded.
Within moments, NBA Twitter latched onto the interaction. The tweet went viral almost instantly.
Before she decided to tweet at McCollum, Williams had only a couple hundred followers. Now, she has a couple thousand, plus a T-shirt business, a blog, plans for a podcast and an appearance on ESPN’s NBA show, “The Jump” on Thursday, where she and McCollum finally came face to face.
Williams still can’t believe it’s happening.
“I have all these different people in my ear, like you should do this, you should do that and I’m like, ‘Dude, I work, I have children, I have a high octane, full-time job.’ ” Williams said in a phone interview.
Williams, a 38-year-old mother of four, admitted to being a bandwagon Warriors fan. And she said that her response to McCollum was one of exasperation, having reached something of a breaking point after years of constant Warriors hate on Twitter.
“In the past, I had seen different things about CJ saying stuff about the Warriors having a super stacked team, so when that tweet came up, I was just like, ‘I’m tired of this guy saying stuff and they haven’t even won a freakin’ playoff game,’ ” Williams said. “That was literally what I said in my head, so I tweeted it, put my phone in my desk and went to a meeting.”
Since the interaction, McCollum and the Trail Blazers have played like men possessed. Not only did they fulfill Jennifer’s request and win a playoff game, they’ve won two postseason series for the first time since 2000, thanks in no small part to their dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and McCollum.
McCollum is averaging 25 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 45 percent and hitting just under 40 percent of his three-pointers in the playoffs. He’s attributed Portland’s playoff resurgence in part to his social media interaction with Williams, along with the embarrassment he and his teammates felt after having been swept in the first round in each of the past two postseasons.
“I appreciate her,” McCollum said following the Blazers’ 104-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference first round matchup.
“We got swept last year. It was really embarrassing and everybody talked about it,” McCollum said after Portland’s Game 4 win over the Thunder. “It was on TV every day and they talked about us getting swept, they talked about me getting traded, talked about how we can’t win together. All that stuff, we remember it. We understand that feeling of going home early.”
With each Blazers win, the phrase “Im trying Jennifer” reverberates throughout the Portland community. At the Moda Center, where the Blazers play their home games, vendors sell T-shirts featuring the popular tweet.
“Let’s say you’re at work and one of your co-workers says, ‘Hey man can you get on that’ or ‘where’s that report?’ You actually hear people say, ‘Hey, I’m trying Jennifer,’ ” Rip City Radio 620 host Chad Doing said in a phone interview. “It’s just become one of those things that when it’s said in this town people know what you’re talking about and everyone gets a chuckle out of it.”
NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio producer Eric Ringering said the tweet has become a rallying cry for Blazers fans.
“At first people made fun of it, but now it does seem to be used that way,” Ringering said in a phone interview. “This city and franchise has had to deal with a lot this year . . . and it’s not necessarily that the quote was so great, as much as this community just needed something to rally around and in a way the quote kind of presented that opportunity.”
Williams hopes that the combination of the tweet’s popularity, McCollum and the Blazers’ success and her appearance on ESPN will allow her to parlay her 15 minutes of fame into something a bit more sustainable.
“This is an unreal, a once in a lifetime moment, so I really want to capitalize” she said.
Regardless of how things end , CJ McCollum now has a lifetime fan in Williams . . . well, sort of.
“Seeing the way that McCollum has improved and the way that entire team has responded to all the criticism that they’ve faced has been so inspiring,” Williams said. “I’ll always be rooting for CJ to play well, but all of that goes out of the window whenever he’s going up against my Warriors. Then it’s time to get serious.”
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