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So, on Friday afternoon, this happened:
An hour and a half after it was sent, Kobe Bryant's maiden tweet has received more than 17,000 retweets and 4,100 favorites, and his @kobebryant account — up and running after he'd held out long past scores of his NBA peers — has well over 140,000 followers. (Predictably and perfectly, he is not following anyone.) To the surprise of nobody, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers guard is pretty popular on Twitter.
The decision to start communicating in 140-character bursts comes less than two weeks after Bryant "took over" the Nike Basketball Twitter account on Christmas Day; the takeover lasted a few days and included missives like Kobe suggesting that Santa Claus has nothing on him, win-delivery-wise, and a photograph of him in an ice bath. Apparently, he enjoyed the communicative experience enough to dust off the @kobebryant account on Friday.
And "dust off" is the right phrase here, because this is actually Bryant's second go-round with Twitter.
Let's join Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski for a trip down Memory Lane all the way back to Sept. 7, 2011:
For a few hours on Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant(notes) had finally entered the Twittersphere with @KobeBryant. Within three hours, his account had rapidly inspired over 36,000 followers.
And then, suddenly, @KobeBryant vanished. The account was suspended.
Well, it was Bryant’s account, but a source told Yahoo! Sports the release was premature and a decision was made to pull back the account. Nevertheless, it will return in the near future [...]
Apparently, in the Kobe System, "in the near future" means "in 16 months." You're welcome.
In the hours following the pull-back, as ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reported that night, Kobe's Facebook page continued to promote Bryant's introduction to Twitter:
The post on Bryant's wall, which was accompanied by the account's avatar — a Photoshop rendering of a snake head swallowing the blue bird that serves as Twitter's mascot — had more than 3,700 "likes" and more than 400 comments.
As you can see in the embedded tweet above, Bryant's gone a slightly different, less vicious route with his avatar this time around, opting instead for a still-fairly-disconcerting rendering of the blue Twitter mascot with a snake's forked tongue. I, for one, would've preferred Kobe using a tasteful picture of himself. Perhaps this one.
That brief, errant toe-in-the-water represented a shift in attitude toward Twitter from the Mamba. In a November 2010 interview with Wojnarowski, Kobe effectively brushed off the idea of joining the service:
He’s chasing his sixth championship, a second three-peat, and still, Kobe Bryant doesn’t want to talk about Twitter followers. [...]
“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me. I focus on one thing and one thing only — that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”
A lot can change in the space of two-plus years. The Lakers didn't get that second three-peat. The L.A. bench said goodbye to Phil Jackson, hello and goodbye to Mike Brown, and hello to Mike D'Antoni. Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum gave way to Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. And somewhere along the way, Bryant did get interested in using social media for brand-building — specifically, he's become quite invested in his Facebook page, which he personally updates with original posts and thoughts, as we learned from the Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
That increased interest in his own social media presence — and, one would guess, the fact that he actually kind of seems to like telling his own story this way — appears to have convinced Bryant to give Twitter another shot. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he becomes a regular in Eric's Days of NBA Lives column; I, for one, can't wait.
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