Sunday 26th May 2019

The Inside Story of How House of Highlights Scored 10 Million Instagram Followers

The Inside Story of How House of Highlights Scored 10 Million Instagram Followers

The Inside Story of How House of Highlights Scored 10 Million Instagram Followers
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat attend the NBA Championship victory rally at the AmericanAirlines Arena on June 24, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

Among the 10 million followers to House of Highlights’ Instagram account are some of the NBA’s biggest names—LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Russell Westbrook—and other transcendent sports superstars like new Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

The account’s creator, Omar Raja, wakes up to more than 500 direct messages per day, some 10,000 new followers, and endless comments, but the notification for a new A-list follow carries a certain protocol.

“The first thing you do is screenshot it and try to send it to as many group chats as you can,” Raja said with a laugh. “You’re waiting for somebody to respond so you can celebrate with them.”

LeBron’s unstopppable move. ?

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

Such is the unique position House of Highlights’ creator is in. The 24-year-old Raja still maintains youthful exuberance when reflecting upon his star interactions, while also producing content that is appealing enough that the account attracted its 10 millionth follower on Sunday night and marketable enough that Bleacher Report acquired the account in January 2016.

In fact, Bleacher Report is expanding its plans for Raja and House of Highlights by sinking in resources to launch more original content (details are scarce) and launching a new Twitter show.

Raja grew up a Heat fan in Miami. When James returned to Cleveland after delivering back-to-back NBA titles to South Beach, Raja was feeling nostalgic and wanted to celebrate the team’s great run. The moments atop his mind weren’t always available online—funny interactions between teammates and some great on-court plays that were cataloged on YouTube.

“When I started House of Highlights,” Raja said, “it was all about content that me and my friends enjoyed that wasn’t being covered out in the marketplace.”

Raptors fans realizing they have a legit shot to win the East with Kawhi in Toronto and LeBron in the West. ?? (via @raptors)

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

That wasn’t his first foray into mass social media. After the Heat’s NBA title in 2013, a photo of Dwyane Wade pouring champagne on his knee resonated with Raja. “For me, that was a really big iconic photo,” he said. He did some editing, filtering and color tweaking.

“I thought that looked sick, and I made that my iPhone wallpaper,” Raja said. “I was like, ‘Man, I want more people to have cool images like this.’”

Raja’s very first Sportsposter (Courtesy of Omar Raja)

He posted that as the first image on an instagram account called Sportsposters. Raja later had the opportunity to meet Wade and thank him, explaining that his passion for the NBA and these accounts would not have happened “without Dwyane Wade putting the city of Miami on the map, basketball-wise.” Raja said that Wade replied, “Damn, man, now you’ve got the whole league following you, so I’m going to take some credit for that.”

Less than a year later in January 2014, Raja started a second account, FilthiestCrossovers, whose theme is self-evident from the title. House of Highlights followed that summer. All three eclipsed one million followers, and Bleacher Report acquired all three.

Managing a trio of accounts, however, was cumbersome. The filthiest crossovers could be included in House of Highlights. And the necessary work to make the sportsposters was tedious. Raja reached for a Heat analogy, likening his three Instagram children to the Heat trio of James, Wade, and Chris Bosh, who had an obvious pecking order.

“It was pretty clear that House of Highlights was the LeBron of that group,” Raja said of focusing on that account. “I personally had more fun because it required me to watch every single game instead of sit in photoshop for an hour and mess around photos.”

There’s no formula that governs which clips Raja posts, but there are a few guidelines. About three-quarters of the clips are NBA-related, and only NBA and soccer can be ‘grammed all year-round because of their athletes’ cultural relevance. He has recorded a few clips of his own, particularly from offseason pick-up and one-on-one games involving NBA players in Los Angeles. A recent video with Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, and Stanley Johnson accrued nearly three million views.

Melo, Brandon Jennings, and Stanley Johnson trash talking during 1-on-1s. ?? (via @cbrickley603, @wave.tv, @harrington1313)

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

He has discovered that what fans find “mesmerizing” aren’t just great dunks, but also difficult ball-handling drills, players sinking 20 straight three-pointers at a workout, an athlete squatting 1,000 pounds or doing four consecutive backflips. Raja and House of Highlights are largely credited for popularizing the Instagram fads of #RunningManChallenge and #DriveByDunkChallenge.

That said, great dunks still reign. When James posterized Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic back in March, the clip set HoH records for likes. James himself liked it. Curry, Wade, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and the rapper Quavo all chimed in too. Raja says that is his favorite highlight in the account’s four-year history.

OMFG LEBRON. ???

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

Raja’s personal instagram account is littered with photos of him with star athletes, but his life isn’t always glamorous. He hasn’t taken a day off in four years and works late to keep an eye on games. (On the flip side, he said part of the reason for all those overnight DMs and notifications is that he sleeps until 10 a.m. most mornings.) Bleacher Report has hired an assistant, Drew Corrigan, who incidentally was the first friend to reply to Raja’s screenshot about Ronaldo following the account.

When he was a little burned out earlier this year, Raja happened to meet retired superstar Kobe Bryant, whose work ethic is legendary. Bryant told him, “The grind doesn’t stop until you’re six feet under. You’ve got to keep going every single day and find a way to have that energy when you’re home or at work.”

A Jun. 1 throwback video Raja posted of Bryant jawing with Allen Iverson drew more than three million views. That was also his 10,000th post, which inspired a heartfelt comment from Raja who said, in part, “I was a college kid a few years back and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. You guys followed the page, helped start my career … Just wanna take the opportunity to thank you guys for your support throughout the years.” That comment got 31,000 likes—the most any House of Highlights comment has received.

“We call the House of Highlights a community of 10 million people,” Raja said, “and that community has embraced me and changed my life.”

Kobe and Iverson always went at it. ??

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

Related

  • Twitter, Uninterrupted Stream Live Halftime Show for NBA Finals Games

  • NBA Unveils New AR Playoff 360 Portals

  • YouTube Touts LeBron James-Produced Basketball Docuseries

  • Twitter Deepens Sports Content With ESPN

  • Bleacher Report Covers NFL Draft With Free-Flowing Facebook Live Show

Must read×