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The LeBron James tweet that changed everything for Josiah Johnson

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LeBron James follows 182 accounts on Twitter, and Josiah Johnson is one of them.

Johnson (@KingJosiah54 on Twitter) is a social media savant who has built a lucrative career using sports and pop culture satire, ultimately winning over professional athletes, entertainers, and hundreds of thousands online.

His comedic efforts include sending witty tweets in real-time, often paired with memes that reference movies, TV shows, and other moments in pop culture.

On Monday, he used a meme of Vice President Kamala Harris to troll the Nuggets after the Warriors took a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Johnson, who calls himself a one-man band when it comes to crafting comical tweets, doesn’t shy away from more serious topics, such as the vaccination status of Nets guard Kyrie Irving, or the Ben Simmons saga with the Sixers.

But what happens when the superstar athletes you’re tweeting about join your list of followers? In Johnson’s case, that includes Hawks point guard Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz, and of course, Lakers superstar James, among other high-profile sports figures.

Johnson, a former UCLA basketball player, told The Post he approached his job much differently in 2019, when athletes started to notice his tweets and his following soared.

At the time, Johnson posted a clip from the movie “Get Out” to represent Antonio Brown meeting Josh Gordon after he signed with the Patriots in Sept. 2019. Jordan Peele, the film’s director, replied to the tweet, writing, “You win, Josiah.”

That moment catapulted him to Twitter stardom. But there was one moment that trumped all of his previous social media success.

“But to get a cosign from LeBron James honestly meant the world to me,” he said of the time when James, “his favorite player ever,” followed him on Twitter. And on June 10, 2021, a day Johnson has since immortalized, the Lakers star called him “the goat.”

“I’ll never forget it. Throw like a Josiah holiday party for me. I probably will take off work for the rest of my life just in celebration of it,” said Johnson, whose Twitter following increased by 9,000 in a matter of 24 hours.

What separates Johnson from most social pros is that he hasn’t limited himself to just tweeting about the NBA.

“Everybody’s just glued seeing what’s going on [in the world], right? For me, NBA Twitter taught me how to create memes, but now I’ve learned you can take those memes and apply them to anything — politics, NFL, MLB, music, culture. Anything trending in the world, there’s a meme for it,” Johnson said.

“Crazy enough, I actually did my biggest surge last November. I put on like 20 to 30 thousand followers just during the election cycle with NBA Twitter-style memes.”

LeBron James called Josiah Johnson the “goat” in a June 2021 tweet
Twitter

As Johnson’s list of Twitter followers became a sea of blue checkmarks, he realized he had to approach his satirical tweets with caution.

“LeBron following me… now I got to be super selective in how I move and the type of content I post, which is another thing I learned as I’ve grown in this space, like the people that I’m talking about know me now,” Johnson said. “Now, I always try to be respectful, try to do stuff that when they see, they’ll laugh about and share with their teammates and things from that side.

“But it definitely has changed the way that I approach social. I’m a lot more respectful of these guys. Believe me, I’ll be satirical and I’ll comment on different things going on socially, but having respect for athletes as men and women — I think we’ve seen a lot of people kind of dealing with mental health. We put these athletes on a platform pedestal and don’t really recognize and realize that they’re human, just like us. The things people say are out of pocket and they wouldn’t say those things if you saw [athletes] on the street.

“Whatever you say, you’ve got to be able to defend whatever you’re putting out there. And that’s how I try to approach this thing from a level of respect and understanding that they’re human beings just like me. They make mistakes. They have feelings. They have family.”

Before he became “a lot more grounded” on Twitter, Johnson said he was “definitely a lot more ridiculous and out of pocket.”

“Obviously, I’m getting older now. I’ve got a family and kids and just trying to show them the right way to do it,” he said.

“With stories that are now coming out today, I just bite my tongue out of respect for the parties involved. So, I let these things fly, or then there was the Aaron Rodgers situation. I have a ton of respect for Rodgers as a man and things he’s done in the NFL, but when you lie about being vaccinated, especially with all the crazy stuff going on in the world, you deserve to get clowned. And I will be the one to do it.”

Johnson’s followers call him “the king of #NBATwitter” — a nod to his handle, KingJosiah54, which boasts over 200,000 followers. That made for a smooth transition to a reoccurring host seat on “NBA Twitter Live,” the app’s NBA show, which is also broadcast by Turner Sports.

He also juggles co-hosting the “Outta Pocket” podcast on Wave.tv, and the “No Chill” podcast with Gilbert Arenas, along with a rotating portfolio of brand deals.

Most recently, Johnson landed writing roles on the Netflix series “Colin in Black and White,” based on the life of the former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and OWN Network’s “Cherish The Day.”

Before all of that, though, Johnson was working “18-20 hours a day” as a writer, producer, and creative for networks including Comedy Central and Fox Sports. There were also stops at NFL Network and other desk jobs along the way.

Beyond social media, Johnson has also made appearances on NBA programs
Beyond social media, Johnson has also made appearances on NBA programs
YouTube

He co-created Comedy Central’s animated sitcom, “Legends of Chamberlain Heights,” which lasted two seasons, all the while growing the cable channel’s social media platforms.

Johnson has always had a foot in the sports world. In fact, he’s the son of NBA alum Marques Johnson, who spent over a decade in the league — mostly with the Bucks and Clippers. The elder Johnson was selected third overall by Milwaukee in the 1977 draft and now works as an analyst for the Bucks with Bally Sports.

Johnson bonded with Kaepernick about his father’s playing career one day in the writer’s room for the Kaepernick-produced Netflix series.

Johnson, a Trenton, N.J. native, has carved his own path, making a pretty penny doing things his way and pushing the boundaries on social media. But becoming an internet sensation wasn’t originally in the cards for him.

“I was a history major on scholarship at UCLA,” he said. “I wanted to kind of exist in the shadows. My dad is a color commentator and an analyst. He’s an actor and he’s done a ton of stuff… I kind of joke with my friends about it now. You don’t have to be a former NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer to be able now to really exist and operate in this space.”

Johnson also appeared on the NBA on TNT in March 2022
Johnson also appeared on the NBA on TNT in March 2022
Twitter

Johnson has made such a name for himself in the NBA social media and broadcast spaces that he goes by his own rules now.

“If I put up the appropriate meme that gets Jordan Peele’s attention, I know people will come to me. So now I’ve learned I want to bring these people to me. I don’t ever go out now and seek gigs anymore, seek any of that type of stuff. It’s extremely validating and just shows that all the hard work and effort that I put into it, it’s starting to pay off,” he said.

“Social [media] is like a drug. I’m not going to say like clout chasing, but when you see things working it’s that instant gratification of being able to drop a tweet and automatically and it has a thousand retweets within a couple of minutes. It’s a really gratifying experience. And I crave it, and I really stick it out now and have become so good at it now that brands reach out to me. Sometimes, they’re like, ‘Oh, make our [social media] hot. Grow our numbers.’ I’m just happy to be a part of. S–t I would have never imagined, you know, being able to make money off of it because it didn’t exist when I was a kid. So to be able to thrive in these spaces is f–king awesome.”

Johnson wants other social media users to know that they too can profit from their own content.

“I’ve embraced it. I really take great pride in trying to lay that foundation and help other people, especially those who look like myself, realize the value and equity that they have in this situation to be able to monetize their own social in their own platforms,” Johnson said.




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