Was the Miami Herald Punked By Fake Russian Basketball Fans?

UPDATE: Yes, they were punked.

They seemed like the perfect illustration of the NBA's growing global appeal: Two born-and-bred Russian hoops maniacs outside the American Airlines Arena before yesterday's Heat vs. Moscow game. They painted their faces, wore ridiculous socks, used Yakov Smirnoff accents and made a hilarious Napoleon-analogy sign about "Leebron."

But were the "brothers Pavel and Yuri Kopeche," featured in the lead of the Herald's story today, actually fake Russians? Deadspin thinks so. The Herald is still trying to sort it out.

Here's the lede from Linda Robertson's column this morning:

While driving to AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, brothers Pavel and Yuri Kopeche listened to Russian rap music to get into the mood for the Heat's game against CSKA Moscow.

The rapper, Don Zagru, is known for satirizing the state of Russian society and wearing LeBron James jerseys.

We know that King James has worldwide appeal. Here was confirmation that LeBronsky is the ultimate symbol of cool in cool-hungry Moscow.

Somewhere, basketball salesman David Stern is smiling.

``The NBA is the new vodka in Russia,'' said Yuri Kopeche, a Russian native who has lived in Miami for five years. ``People cannot get enough basketball. If you're wearing a LeBron James shirt or a Knicks or Lakers cap, people know you are Americanized.

``Of course, Russia is usually about five years behind the United States. Britney Spears is very popular right now.''

A few hours after the column ran, someone took to a football message board and announced that the Herald had been punked.

"For the record, they are both 100% American and born and raised in South Florida," the poster said. "They spoke with fake accents and cheered for the Russian team all game long."

The poster included this photo of the "brothers" and their fantastic sign:

Deadspin soon picked up on the story, but as of yet, the Herald hasn't changed their online version.

Riptide emailed Linda Robertson to see if she could clue us in on whether or not the paper had been duped. She says they're still investigating, since what's on the web so far is "hearsay."

Are you the possibly fake Russian fan? Email us!