More specifically, narrative focus has shifted to how and when the Lakers star should and shouldn’t use Twitter.
As covered just about anywhere ending in a .com, Bryant live-tweeted during the Lakers' 91-79 loss to San Antonio on Sunday. Bryant was engaging, insightful and everything you'd expect from one of the league's smartest players during the game. He responded to fan comments, made observations the average viewer wouldn't see and relentlessly cheered on his team.
It was, for lack of a better term, awesome. Bryant’s live tweets were the most captivating thing to happen on social media not involving the self-destructive downfall of a former teen star in recent memory.
Unfortunately, by now we all know there will be no encore performance from Coach Vino. Bryant took to Twitter after the game and said he would not be joining his followers with a live commentary for Game 2.
The reason? Well...all of our big mouths:
In the moments following Bryant’s announcement, the disappointment was understandable. His feed was engaging—not just for Lakers fans, but for NBA diehards who have long wanted to know what is in Bryant’s mind when watching basketball. It was as close to a Being John Malkovich as fans were ever going to get.
And in the days leading up to Wednesday’s game, the disappointment has turned to First Amendment high horse riding. Yes, Bryant has the right to say and do whatever he pleases within the law on Twitter. He’s choosing not to. And he’s making the right decision.
(Note: Even if the Lakers were to ask him to lay off, they would be well within their rights as his employer. All of us—even Kobe Bryant—have bosses.)
What made Kobe such an interesting follow on Sunday is exactly the reason he made the right move shutting the whole thing down. He was just as insightful enough, just as fervent enough with his opinions, just as Kobe enough, to be a distraction.
By the time the clock struck zero on Game 1, everyone had already forgotten what happened in those 48 minutes. The entire NBA world—media, fans, probably David Stern himself—were more enthralled by and focused on those 140 characters coming from Bryant's fingers.
While he spewed nothing but positivity about his teammates, it’s fair to say his comments could be construed as undermining to coach Mike D’Antoni. Bryant had a string of strategical thoughts on how the Lakers should be playing rather than how they were.
Here is a snapshot of a few of his most notable strategical observations:
After the game, D’Antoni seemed less than pleased with his fallen star’s use of social media.
“It’s great to have that commentary,” D’Antoni said (per Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver). “He’s a fan right now. He’s a fan. You guys put a little bit more importance on that kind of fan. He’s a fan, he gets excited, I’m sure he wants to be part of it.”
Notice how D’Antoni called Bryant a fan four times in five sentences? Bryant did too, and he was equally dismissive of his coach in return:
As of now, the perception of the relationship between Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant is tenuous at best. All it takes is a quick Google search to show just how many online publications are asking the same question: Is D'Antoni to blame for Bryant's Achilles injury?
Bryant had played extensive minutes down the stretch, D'Antoni keeping his star in for more than 41 minutes in each of the guard's final seven games. That was certainly the case on that fateful night against Golden State, where Bryant had noticeably been hurt multiple times without being pulled once from the game. When Kobe went down, blaming D’Antoni seemed well within the logical realm of reactions.
The conclusion most came up with was the most logical. Achilles injuries are usually freak accidents, but the wear and tear placed on Bryant's 34-year-old body by D'Antoni couldn't have helped matters.
If you're saying that Bryant's injury and his in-game tweeting are only tangentially related, you'd be right. But that would be ignoring just how easy it is to tie two seemingly non-related narratives into an overarching macro narrative about dissent between the two men.
Had Bryant continued to tweet during games, one of two things would have happened: The collective we would have gotten used to it and the story would fade, or Bryant’s tweets would take a life of their own, causing the Lakers to become “distracted.”
With Phil Jackson, the only coach who has ever truly reached Bryant, “itching” to return, could Kobe quietly be angling for a Zen Master return via his tweets? Boom. Triple narrative'd.
Of course, it would all be as ridiculous as it sounds. Bryant tweeted on Sunday not to undermine D’Antoni or to become a distraction for his teammates, but simply because he was “bored.” This is a man whose entire adult life has been about one thing, and that’s been unceremoniously ripped away from him. Tweeting during games is a rare chance for him to interact with fans and to keep himself active in the game.
That’s it. There was nothing more, nothing less to Bryant’s decision.
Simplicity is frowned upon in this narrative-driven 24/7 news cycle. Bryant’s tweets were a distraction because the media needs something to write about and fans need something to Gchat with their friends about. It’s the world we live in, and it’s arguable that Bryant should have seen the potential distraction before ever logging into Twitter on Sunday.
So before we go about vilifying D’Antoni, the Lakers or Kobe himself, we should probably realize the Fun Police is staring us all right in the mirror.