Women’s Basketball: An oral history of how Northwestern went viral on TikTok


Screenshot from @byrdyb

A scene from Northwestern women’s basketball’s viral TikTok. The video found internet fame last week, collecting more than 800,000 views.

Ella Brockway, Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

Northwestern broke the internet in more than one way last week. Just a few days before the No. 22 Wildcats (17-2, 7-1 Big Ten) cracked the AP Poll for the first time in four years, a TikTok featuring a group of NU players reenacting the iconic “Potter Puppet Pals” YouTube video went viral. The 42-second video is up to more than 800,000 views, 145,000 likes and nearly 500 comments.

This is the story of how the Cats became the most famous college basketball team on TikTok.

These answers have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

SYDNEY WOOD, sophomore guard/Severus Snape: It was Byrd’s idea, I’m pretty sure. We were sitting at the same table on the Indiana road trip and just said “Oh, we have a TikTok idea.”

ABI SCHEID, senior forward/Albus Dumbledore: Byrdy brought that (video) up and was like, “I think this would be funny. We should get a few people to do it.”

BYRDY GALERNIK, senior guard/Ron Weasley: I’ve been into TikTok recently, just making some goofy bits with the buds. It’s really popular right now. You can go on it for like three to four hours, and it’s addicting. So honestly I was just thinking of that (Potter Puppet Pals) video, and I was like, “Hey, we should make a TikTok!”

COURTNEY SHAW, sophomore forward/Hermione Granger: I honestly hadn’t even seen the video we were remaking.

“Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise” is a two-minute video uploaded in 2007 as part of a puppet show web series based on the characters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The original video currently has more than 190 million views on YouTube.

DAVE JORGENSON, Washington Post video producer/writer who tweeted out the TikTok: I really like sharing TikToks that the audience will understand. This one was especially good because it’s a video from a generation ago. I remember watching Potter Puppet Pals almost a decade and a half ago. It’s an OG internet meme, so it was fun to see an updated version for 2020.

WOOD: The rest of us had seen the video, so we were watching it. And then everybody started calling parts.

BROOKE PIKIELL, junior guard/Harry Potter: I was just told I should be Harry Potter, ’cause I’d be good at it. We were laughing the entire time.

SCHEID: Whoever was standing around us just kind of jumped in. And then we all added our own little move to it.

WOOD: It took maybe three, four tries, but we went through a couple runs, everyone adjusted their parts a little and that’s how it came.

JOE MCKEOWN, Northwestern coach: I’m surprised they didn’t put me in it. They really owe me. We were doing it in the hotel in Bloomington, and we were crawling up on curfew, and they were like, “Coach, we’re almost done, we’re almost done.” They got in about two minutes under.


Travel vibes #fyp #potterkids #dumbledore

♬ original sound – skajsnabns

Galernik posted the video to her TikTok feed on Jan. 16, the same day NU upset No. 15 Indiana in Bloomington in its biggest win of the season. The video didn’t go viral right away.

GALERNIK: We only got, like, 100 views (after) two days.

PIKIELL: I’m in a few others of Byrd’s (TikToks), but they hadn’t really blown up. They got, like, 10 views.

But by the weekend, TikTok’s magic algorithm had gone into effect.

GALERNIK: I came back from practice and I got these texts like, “Dude, your thing is going viral.” And I was like, “What?”

SHAW: We’re very confused, to be honest.

WOOD: One of my friends from home sent me the video, and I was like, “Oh my god, how did you see it?” So we all got back on and we saw it had so many views, so many likes. It started popping up everywhere.

GALERNIK: After practice that day, it was at like 46,000, and I was like, “Wow, this is sweet.” Wake up (the next day), it’s like 200,000. Every two minutes, it was going up by 2,000. I’m like, “This is legit.”

The fame only increased when Jorgenson, the Post’s “TikTok guy” who has 33,000 Twitter followers, tweeted out the video on Jan. 18.

SHAW: We didn’t know how people were even seeing it, so it was pretty cool. Now it’s like just under 800,000 views or something like that.

AMIT MALLIK, assistant director of athletic communications: Plus 40,000 on Twitter.

JORGENSON: It grabs your attention right away and it keeps you interested. There’s just more and more to take in as you watch it. Just like the original Potter Puppet Pals video, you feel a need to watch the video from every character’s perspective. And after rewatching it a zillion times, you’re ready to take a step back and watch it all over again.

MCKEOWN: They think they’re funny, and they are. So the way it’s exploded, we’re just going to have fun with it.

SHAW: There’s comments like, “Oh my gosh, Hermione!” Everyone had their own little fan section in the comment section.

PIKIELL: I got “Harry Potter girl fumbled the bag.” They were either really mean or really loved it. There was no in between.

GALERNIK: It just kept going. So yeah, I guess I’m famous now. I expect to go to class and get some high-fives.

The team’s next TikTok, a short clip of the team dancing after practice to Roddy Ricch’s “The Box,” hasn’t yet gone viral, but the Cats say the videos will continue.


Post practice vibes #fyp #northwestern #gocats

♬ original sound – byrdyb

WOOD: There’s definitely more TikToks to come.

GALERNIK: The best part about TikToks is that making the videos is so funny. It’s so hard to make them because everyone’s laughing, and that’s the best part.

WOOD: It shows the character of our team. It’s a certain type of humor, so it’s funny, but it’s a fun thing that we did together.

MCKEOWN: Maybe they’ll call me in for the encore at the end of the year. They would be like, “Coach, just stand there and shut up,” so I would probably be in the silent movie part. But I’ve still got some moves.

Peter Warren contributed reporting.

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