Memes: A Sports Meme and Story No One Will Ever Forget

The term “meme’ was created by an evolutionary biologist known as Richard Dawkins, in his book called The Selfish Gene. It discusses cultural material and how Dawkins observed that fashion and customs evolve so quickly that they act in the way genes evolve. Due to the fact Dawkins was so interested in how such influential norms could change so rapidly, Dawkins broke down cultural products into units and called them memes [4]. These memes included: ideas, catch phrases, tunes, fashion, etc. and explained that “memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process that can broadly be called imitation” just like how genes propagate themselves by jumping from one body to the next [5]. Other marketers and theorists use the term “meme” as a description for specific Internet trends. According to Dawkins, certain memes will be more successful than others because they fulfill a cultural need or are focused around a specific situation [4]. The fate of memes depends on the selective forces that act directly on the physical platforms that embody them [2].

In today’s media, contemporary memes are separated into two groups: viral videos & memetic videos. Viral videos, for example, the song “Gangnam Style” which became a huge hit from its origin country Korea and world-wide. Memetic videos are simply extensive creative user engagement that come in different forms such as parody, pastiches, mash-ups and other derivative works [4]. While some memes are only trendy photos or videos that get passed around, others encourage a type of imitation and satire that can spawn thousands of variants. Only then, can memes become raw material for innovation. Memes tackle the key logics of online culture: sociability, replicability and participation; while they spread through an affective bond and circulate through everyday communication channels [4].

The most common type of meme that people see on the internet is referred to as an image macro, which consists of text superimposed on an image. This makes each individual element easy and accessible for modification. Any person can make changes to stock image macros, but only original, funny, creative and or surprising contributions will be shared, liked and spread [6]. The meme I will be discussing is the Lebron James and J.R. Smith NBA finals meme.

This is a meme that has been modified countless times over and over again with different text linked with the image. The origin of this meme derives from the first game of the 2018 NBA Finals. The matchup was between the Cleveland Cavaliers, James’ and Smith’s team, and the Golden State Warriors. The score was tied and the Cavs had possession of the ball, there was 4.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the game when JR Smith got a rebound of the ball from a missed free throw. Instead of Smith shooting the ball to potentially win the first game, he dribbled away from the basket because he thought that his team was up a point and that Cleveland had already secured their victory. Unfortunately, the game went to overtime and Cleveland fell to the Golden State Warriors 124-114 [3]. Smith’s teammate James, immediately displayed total exasperation towards Smith, and his reaction quickly became viral [1]. Smith admits his blunder to being an honest mistake, but James the Internet felt otherwise.

This meme has undergone many modifications with text and other witty idioms/concepts that people can relate to. The whole idea around Lebron James’ reaction that turned into a meme is the face he made at the time which illustrates a feeling of disbelief.

Even a bunch of NBA players who were watching from afar, commented their reactions about this blunder on their social media platforms [1].

Although in the end, all have forgiven J.R. Smith for his misunderstanding/unawareness of the score, the Internet and no other person will be able to forget what happened.

  1. Bieler, Des. “JR What are you doing!: NBA Players were stunned by J.R. Smith’s Game 1 gaffe.” The Washington Post. June 1, 2018.
  2. Dennett, Daniel C. “Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48, no. 2 (1990): 127-35. doi:10.2307/430902.
  3. Gleeson, Scott. “Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith opens up about NBA Finals blunder: It was an ‘honest mistake’.” USA Today. September 26, 2018.
  4. Marwick, Alice. “Memes.” Contexts 12, no. 4 (2013): 12-13.
  5. Holdcroft, David, and Harry Lewis. “Memes, Minds and Evolution.” Philosophy 75, no. 292 (2000): 161-82.
  6. Zenner, Eline, and Dirk Geeraerts. “One Does Not Simply Process Memes: Image Macros as Multimodal Constructions.” In Cultures and Traditions of Wordplay and Wordplay Research, edited by Winter-Froemel Esme and Thaler Verena, 167-94. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018.