In the year 2013 it's hard to find a star athlete who isn't an avid user of social media. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was one of the final holdouts, but even he couldn't resist stepping foot into the wonderful world of Twitter, where voices are amplified and opinions are heard loud and clear.
Whether it's by interacting with fans, apologizing for poor performances or responding to criticism, Twitter has allowed athletes to become more in touch with the public than ever before.
Ever since Kobe burst onto the social media scene, the basketball public has enjoyed the entertainment the five-time champion has brought to the table, with his off-court actions serving as media fodder just as often as his on-court play.
With tensions running high after the Lakers started the season a disappointing 15-18, Kobe brushed off a report from the New York Daily News that said he and newly acquired center Dwight Howard were involved in a postgame altercation, responding with this satirical interpretation of the proceedings:
The mamba vs d12 !! It's on lol twitter.com/kobebryant/sta…— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 7, 2013
In case you doubted his character, Kobe has shown through his use of social media that he has quite the sense of humor.
How did Kobe follow up his impressive social media debut? By posting a picture of himself donning Boston Celtics gear in an image that made fans from Los Angeles to Boston cringe in disgust.
Ah, what could have been. Boston wound up selecting Kentucky's Antoine Walker at No. 6 overall in the 1996 NBA draft, while the Charlotte Hornets snagged Bryant with pick No. 13 before dealing him to the Lakers. Everything's 20-20 in hindsight, but man, wouldn't that have been something?
Through the medium of Twitter, Kobe has shown us that he's quite adept at addressing controversies in a light-hearted manner, doing so at this year's All-Star Game by poking fun at the NBA's decision to veto the proposed trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers before the 2011-12 season.
With Pau Gasol slated to move to the Houston Rockets in the proposed deal, I can't imagine the Spaniard was all too happy about this one.
From there, we move to arguably the greatest tweet by an athlete to date.
Leading up to a nationally televised Sunday showcase against the Lakers on Feb. 24, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a comment that sparked fierce debate throughout the NBA universe, suggesting (via ESPN Dallas) that the Lakers could amnesty Kobe Bryant:
If you look at their payroll, even if Dwight (Howard) comes back, you've got to ask the question: Should they amnesty Kobe? You just don't know, right?
Being the clever mind that he is, Kobe let the comment simmer, and after torching the Mavericks to the tune of 38 points (13-of-21 shooting), he tweeted two simple words.
Amnesty THAT— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 24, 2013
Concise, precise and humorous, Kobe's response to Cuban showed that he can handle criticism just as well as he handles the basketball.
The Black Mamba has made his presence felt on Twitter, but Kobe appears to prefer a new, more age-appropriate nickname over his classic snake persona.
Now dubbing himself "Vino," Kobe's new epithet reflects the fact that he's only getting better with age. For a guy who spent most of his childhood in Italy, the new nickname couldn't be more apropos.
Lastly, we see Kobe using Twitter as a way to foreshadow some spectacular fourth-quarter heroics. Nearly 24 hours before the Lakers took on the New Orleans Hornets on March 6, Kobe tweeted a legendary line from the the film Wedding Crashers.
"Rule number 76. No excuses. Play like a champion" Vince Vaughn. Wedding Crashers.— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 6, 2013
With the Lakers down 25 points to the Hornets in the second half, Kobe led a massive surge that ended up with his team emerging victorious by a score of 108-102.
Bryant poured in 42 points (14-of-21 shooting) en route to a crucial victory that pushed the Lakers to within 1.5 games of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.