I needed to have my final post for this class (before the real final post of our last thoughts) be dedicated to a person I idolized from a very young age – Kobe Bryant.
Kobe needs no introduction. But I’ll give him one anyways for those of you who don’t know. Kobe Bryant is not just any basketball player – he is a 5 time NBA champion, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, a one time NBA MVP, and is regarded as one of the best players to ever play the game.
Although he retired last season, Kobe Bryant began being active on social media in 2013. On January 4, he had his first Tweet:
He ended 2013 with over 4 million followers, ranking 6th amongst all active NBA players.
Fast forward to November 29, 2015. Kobe needed to announce that he was retiring at the end of the season. For most announcements, players call for a press conference. Check out Michael Jordan’s press conference in 1993 (or part of it…it’s almost an hour long):
But this wasn’t 1993. At the time of the announcement, Kobe had 20 million likes on Facebook and 8 million followers on Twitter. Kobe utilized this social media following to announce his retirement. Quite simply, he sent out links on his two social media channels to a letter he wrote on the Players Tribune on both channels.
The Players Tribune website was down for the rest of the day as more than 1.5 million people visited the link.
However, what kept this trend going was the response that Kobe received from others. For example, Nike sent out a response Tweet on August 11, after Kobe had played his final game in the NBA. Kobe’s letter titled “Dear Basketball” was responded to with a letter titled “Dear Kobe”. The letter acknowledges the amazing feats Kobe reached on the court.
There were some key things that allowed Kobe’s announcement to stand out:
It was unexpected
Although it was anticipated that Kobe had to retire at some point relatively soon, no one actually knew when. And it would be pretty rare to see someone accurately predict the announcement. This sort of unexpectedness allowed the Tweet to go viral relatively quickly. People had to talk about it because it was so fresh. Combine the fact that Kobe has had such a large impact on both the game and many different fans, this single Tweet allowed him to create a sense of virality that is hard to replicate.
It wasn’t conventional
Aside from Kobe’s announcement coming on social media, the announcement itself was unconventional. He used a poem where he spoke to basketball, talking about how he gave it his all. The letter said nothing of defeating multiple opponents, winning championships, or patronizing haters. Rather, it showed a human side – and seeing a human side to someone who is seen by millions as just a seemingly invincible celebrity allowed people to feel like they could connect with the Tweet.
Kobe Could Speak His Mind on Twitter
On multiple occasions, Kobe could speak freely about things you may not initially hear about in a post-game press conference. This goes back to seeing Kobe as both a competitor and a normal human being. Here we see Kobe shutting down any haters, alluding to his 5 championship rings:
He Was Trending
The wide impact he was able to have allowed a hashtag “#MambaDay” to reach the top of Twitter’s trending list. As the final day approached, multiple athletes showed their support. This USA Today article shows how many people saluted Kobe in the final days of his tenure in the NBA. Greats like Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, and Magic Johnson all gave their compliments. The NBA commissioner also posted a message on Twitter displaying Kobe’s accolades and thanking him for his time in the NBA.
All in all, Kobe’s retirement announcement goes to show how social media has completely changed the way athletes can interact with not only their fans but also the way they make any kind of announcement. His immense success on the court allowed for a large following on Twitter and Facebook, which he was able to utilize to create an announcement that lasted for multiple months. At each road game after his announcement, he would be honored by the stadium with gifts and videos, all of which (you guessed it) were Tweeted. This allowed people who didn’t know who Kobe was to get to know him some more and the impact he had on the game.
Although he began tweeting just three years ago, he has now accumulated over 10.8 million followers on Twitter with just over 1,000 Tweets to his name. He’s also third on the list for most followed players in the NBA – behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. How’s that for winning?