The curious case of Vivian Flores, Lakers catfish queen
Every once in a while, something happens on NBA Twitter that makes people question everything.
On Sunday, Josh Toussaint, Flores’ co-host of “The Lakers Point,” posted on Twitter that she had gone missing and asked for help finding Flores. He added that Flores was battling leukemia. The situation appeared serious.
Flores is a well-known, well-followed voice on Lakers Twitter. Her account, @Butterfly_424, had thousands of followers. Word of her disappearance gained so much traction that Lakers forward Markieff Morris reposted Toussaint’s plea, as did actor O’Shea Jackson Jr.
The search for Flores built momentum, but the story soon fell apart. Twitter user @ItsKingsBruh was in a Twitter Spaces conversation discussing how he had been catfished by the same account posing as Flores. The woman claiming to be Flores had told him she couldn’t Facetime because she was embarrassed by her scars. He eventually broke off the relationship. Kevin Durant, of all people, happened into the conversation and asked how someone could be so easily tricked.
Toussaint revealed he had never actually met Flores in person. Their first conversation was via Twitter direct message in February 2020 when he checked in on her after the memorial service for Kobe Bryant at Staples Center. They remained in touch, but exclusively online. He said that even as they recorded the podcast together, she refused to video call him, citing her insecurities.
Twitter users were also examining the pictures that Flores posted to social media, saying that they were clearly photoshopped.
The Lakers lost their game against the conference-leading Jazz, which contributed to the laughs that people were having at the bizarre nature of the catfishing situation.
On Monday Toussaint said Flores had been found, but soon deleted many of his posts, including his initial plea for help in search of Flores. In response to accusations that he was guilty of catfishing the public, a frustrated Toussaint insisted that he was a victim like the rest of the internet.
That same day, someone posted to Flores’ account sharing her side of the story.
“I have people on here that can verify who I am,” the since-deleted tweets said, according to the New York Post. “I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. ... As for me going missing, yes it happened. I passed out from my treatment.”
A woman also appeared in a video that was posted to the account on Tuesday. Despite the attempts to prove that Flores is a real person, it only fueled the catfishing flames further as the woman held up a sign that said “Vivien” with an “e” instead of an “a.” The account is now inactive.
Lakers fan account @LAKERFANATICS shared an apology for their association with Flores, who supposedly worked for them. Their now-deleted post asking for her safe return was the one that had been shared by Morris.
But it appears that Lakers fans weren’t the lone targets of Flores. One user claims her friend had been catfished by Flores in 2019 and Twitter pulled up posts from what appears to be an old account of hers with a similar “butterfly” username that she used to engage with Las Vegas Raiders fans.
Frustration and confusion mingled with Twitter-wide amusement. The Timberwolves’ Twitter account posted a picture of center Naz Reid holding up a piece of paper with his name spelled “Raid” and a caption trolling Flores.
Catfishing, of course, is nothing new in the sports world. Most famously, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was catfished during his senior year of college. In the fall of 2012, Te’o shared the story of Lennay Kekua, whom he had met online and started dating before she died of leukemia that year. The story was amplified by the success of Te’o, who would be a Heisman Trophy finalist, and his team, which made a surprise run to the national championship game. Shortly after the national title game in 2013, Deadspin published an investigation revealing Kekua to be a hoax, which Te’o and his family had already learned. (Te’o is now married to a real woman.)
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