In many cases, a viral post on social media is created in the immediate moments after something big happens. For 23-year-old Jared Gaon, it was more than 12 hours after the fact.
Like many born in the 1990’s, the New Jersey native is a student of the Internet. A graduate of the University of Maryland who majored in communications and minored in technology entrepreneurship, Gaon has become quite familiar with the in’s and outs of social media throughout its rapid rise in the 21st century.
“I’ve just always been fascinated by new ways the world is changing,” Gaon said. “I feel like through technology and through social media, it’s like the biggest change. So I’ve always stayed on top of the news related to new tech and new social media, and I’m just always on the platforms because I’m interested and because I feel like I have a good knowledge of [them].”
And, like millions of others across the country, Gaon was watching the final two episodes of The Last Dance, ESPN’s documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Or, as he said, he was in “the right place at the right time.”
“Being born in ‘97, I didn’t really have an opportunity to watch [Jordan’s] games,” Gaon said. “I used to be a big sneakerhead, obviously had lots of pairs of Jordan’s, and that’s really what showed me the history of Michael Jordan. I never really sat down on YouTube and watched his highlights, so The Last Dance was a great option for me to see firsthand what he accomplished.”
During the two-hour stretch of episodes on May 17, one 11-second clip caught the attention of some viewers amid all of the groundbreaking, behind-the-scenes access that fans were bearing witness to.
It wasn’t footage from a game or a practice, nor did it originate from the Bulls locker room or one of the countless interviews that producers were able to land to make movie magic.
It was a clip set on the Bulls’ team bus on the way to an NBA Finals game against the Utah Jazz, featuring a calm and collected Jordan listening to music with headphones on.
Little did Gaon know, those few seconds of footage would lead to the creation of a social media phenomenon, simply known as “Jordan Jamming.”
He took to Twitter the morning after the finale, and stumbled upon a conversation centered around what Jordan was jamming out to with those headphones on that multi-colored bus.
“Someone just posted the GIF with no audio and said, ‘I’m curious what he was actually listening to?’” Gaon said. “There was a thread going on and people were debating. Someone said it was confirmed it was Kenny Lattimore. Based on that, I’m like, ‘Wow, this may be a good idea just to throw audio on top and have people guess what he was listening to.’”
Gaon started an account with the handle @JordanJamming, and it was time for the social media magician to put on a show.
For his first trick, he decided to turn to one of his favorite songs: “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers.
“It’s just one of my favorite songs ever,” Gaon said. “I also knew that so many people collectively thought it was one of the best songs ever. From there, I just did the instant classics. I also sprinkled in some songs that Michael Jordan definitely wouldn’t be listening to.”
As the Brooklyn Nets fan put out versions of the video with songs like Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” and Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” @JordanJamming took off in ways that Gaon couldn’t have ever imagined.
Posts began to generate thousands of retweets and views, and Gaon said the account hit around 3,000-4,000 followers by the end of its first day Then, he began to get requests from numerous high-profile sports media personalities.
“That Tuesday is when a lot of mainstream people tweeted it,” Gaon recalled. [ESPN’s Mina Kimes] was one of the first major accounts that Tuesday to engage with it. She actually tweeted @JordanJamming for a song request and I took it. She retweeted it after I posted that song that she requested, and she has like 700,000 followers.”
“I think by the end of that Tuesday, I was at around 25,000 followers or so. From there, more and more celebrities engaged and it grew.”
Big names like The Kid Mero from Showtime’s Desus and Mero were reaching out with ideas, Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast and professional golfer Justin Thomas were sharing Gaon’s content to hundreds of thousands of people, and even Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour was singing @JordanJamming’s praises.
Gaon posted a version of the video with Drake and Future’s “Jumpman,” a song centered around Jordan himself, and found Chicago Bulls legend Dennis Rodman as one of the tweet’s tens of thousands of likes.
Others even began to take inspiration from Gaon’s idea, with professional sports teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and more making their own versions for their franchise’s fans.
Gaon continued with his own rapid cadence, posting the short clip with a variety of songs to help reach a widespread audience.
“I was never really satisfied,” Gaon said. “Like, I just wanted to build an account that kept growing and growing and continuing to get bigger.”
Gaon said @JordanJamming had 40,000 followers within two days, with the account’s first few posts reaching 20 million users.
“I don’t think I expected it to reach the peak that it did,” Gaon said. “I kind of just went with it and hoped it would take off. But, I think my knowledge of the platforms helped me out a lot.”
Gaon had built up a large platform based on a small chunk from the worldwide phenomenon that was The Last Dance, and kept things going throughout some of 2020’s biggest moments.
As the Miami Heat battled the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals, Gaon posted Jordan jamming out to “Miami” by Will Smith.
When votes were being tallied during the 2020 Presidential Election, Gaon had a video of Jordan listening to Europe’s “The Final Countdown” ready to go.
But, Gaon also knew when it was time to get serious. As the sports world intersected with societal issues related to racial equality, he used the @JordanJamming platform to spread messaging related to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“Obviously Michael was a big role model or the perfect image of the black man,” Gaon said. “I chose a song that I felt was good for the times and I tweeted it. Probably got like 40,000 views, so just, if a couple of people here and there took that heart.”
Anyone who has worked in social media knows how hard it is to replicate success. News becomes old in an instant, and popular trends can fall by the wayside at a rapid pace. So, it’s not surprising that things have dissipated since the account’s creation in May of 2020.
Still, the account has more than 48,000 followers seven months later, and its impact is still being felt long after the moment’s airing.
Gaon was able to propel himself into a new role with Ogilvy, a New York-based advertising and marketing agency, and was able to experience social media fame shortly after his 23rd birthday.
He may give credit to the fact that he was in the “right place at the right time.” But, it was Gaon’s own social media expertise and the wherewithal to pursue and perfectly execute an idea that all led to a life-altering experience.
“If I thought to myself like, ‘Nah, this is stupid. I’m not going to make this account, what’s the point?’ I never would be in this place,” Gaon said. “I got to do some crazy things because of it, I was able to speak to Michael Jordan’s manager…I was able to connect with so many cool, bright people.”
And, like Jordan himself said at the end of “The Last Dance,” “all you needed was one little match to start that whole fire.”
“I learned just to shoot your shot,” Gaon said. “If you have an idea, just to go for it.”