Kobe Bryant’s Dominance…On Twitter?



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 result?

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?



  1. Nice penultimate analysis. Of course, part of the reason Jordan’s was such a shock was that he was still relatively young and close to the top of his game.

  2. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great post! I feel like more and more athletes are turning to the Players’ Tribune to pen their retirement letters and their decision to change teams like David Ortiz and Kevin Durant, respectively. It’s again because of our reliance on Twitter for news. I personally spend more time on Twitter than watching ESPN. As a result, it’s easier for me to get my information about athletes and their decisions on social media. However, do you think athletes, not doing press conferences as much as in the past for these types of decisions is because of society’s lack of social interaction? Since we have become so used to our interactions on a hand held device, its easier to say “Goodbye” via a letter on Twitter than in person.

  3. sandytanny · ·

    Awesome post! It’s refreshing to see how unifying and uplifting the power of social media can be as opposed to the more frequent reporting of online bullying and harassment in recent times. Platforms like Twitter are a great place for people to gather collectively to pay respects to a basketball legend like Kobe. It’s a great space to pay homage and validate his legacy in knowing that some many other Twitter users and athletes are also paying their respects by using hashtags like #MambaDay. There’s a similar sentiment when someone incredibly talented passes away. When Prince died, people turned to Twitter to remember his musical legacy, and in a way, to also be comforted by the fact that so many other people across the interwebs were also touched by his music and life.

  4. Great post! I feel that technology and social media really alter the sports and celebrity worlds. We know more upfront then we would if we had to wait for press releases or even newspapers. Kobe released that he was retiring and I feel it made his whole last season a remarkable one. He was from Pennsylvania and I got my brother tickets for the 76ers game and the whole scene was remarkable unlike any other basketball I had been to before. He is a legend and I feel social media aided him in leaving the league in a great way.

  5. polmankevin · ·

    Interesting post. I think anyone could have predicted that his retirement announcement would go viral on Twitter. With so much activity on the site anything that is important to pop culture or sports communities seem to open up a viral conversation on social media. But, as you said, what allowed him to generate a sustained social media buzz was the way that he announced the retirement. It was very human and artistic in nature. He was appealing to his fans who supported him through every step of his career. They watched him celebrate his championships and agonized as he was helped off the court with a ruptured achilles. Kobe’s career was a rollercoaster, with extreme highs. He retired from the game by giving his fans an intimate look into his relationship with the game, and he did it in a place where his true fans have the opportunity to connect with him. Well done, Kobe.

  6. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great post. Although, as a Celtics fan, I was definitely glad to see him retire so the C’s don’t have to deal with him anymore, it was definitely a sad day for the game of basketball when he decided that it was time for him to step away from the game. I especially like the difference of the times you noted. Social media wasn’t a really a thing back in 1993 when Jordan retired. I can only imagine what would happen on social media if he had access to things like Twitter and Facebook back in the day.

  7. dabettervetter · ·

    Cool post! I have recently found it interesting to see which celebrities have a large social media presence and which channels they choose to express themselves. Some love Instagram for the visual aspect, but if I were famous I would follow in Kobe’s footsteps and use Twitter. Facebook is Facebook and with the algorithm, it is harder to see posts from people you have liked if there is not money behind the posts. On Twitter there is a variety of content one can post and all of the posts and short and sweet. Also, in my opinion, Nike has an incredible social media presence and I am not surprised that they had the letter to Kobe up their sleeve.

  8. Is interesting to see how social media has become the main point of meeting between the famous people and the general public. I think that the key of the good bye of Kobe is that it is personal, and that is mainly due to social media. That tweet and the goodbye letter look like he is reading it to you, that is the real power of social media. I doubt that the response would have been so immense and intense if the same Kobe read that letter on national television, assuming that he still was unannounced etc… What it makes it powerful, and personal is the fact that you could respond, and react to what Kobe said. Most of us didn’t read the twit first, we saw the hashtag on twitter or the reactions. This is what makes social media so powerful specially for famous people it gives them back humanity.

  9. Great post on the Mamba! I really like the way athletes and other celebrities are using social media in lieu of traditional media outlets to share their news. It feels far more personal without a cold institutional intermediary. These icons share pieces of their lives with us and connect with fans in a way that is far more genuine (at least in contrast to traditional media).

    I also like that social media can be a source of revenue for these public figures and that they can capitalize on the web traffic they create. I imagine they’re able to capitalize on this to a greater degree without so many intermediaries like news networks.

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