It took Kobe Bryant a while to jump on the social media train.
Bryant finally got on Twitter at the beginning of 2013. He's racked up 3.3 million followers and been on a social media roll ever since.
A couple months later he joined Instagram, where he has 1.5 million followers.
And now he's taken his talents to Vine, where last week he made a big splash—literally, check out his first post—with his debut video.
The antisocial has become social #mambatweets— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 4, 2013
Through these various outlets the formerly private Bryant has been able to take us behind the scenes and into the mind of the Mamba.
The effect that opening up publicly has had on his image is palpable. Bryant has become even more adored by his loyal fans and gained credibility among many who used his hostile personality as justification to dislike him personally.
I myself used to have a hard time liking Kobe Bryant the person. I always told people that I admired Bryant as a player and respected the heck out of him as a competitor, but I wouldn't want to hang out with the man.
Now, though? I'm strongly leaning towards recanting that statement.
Bryant's online persona has been a revelation, even for Lakers fans. The thing I most admire about it is how positive his attitude is.
Peruse his Twitter page and you'll observe that the tone is light and even warm. Bryant never talks trash or rises to the bait of the haters. He's frank, honest, reflective, jovial and constructive.
Much has been made of how Bryant has interacted with his teammates over the years. All the yelling and head-shaking and furious glaring saddled him with a markedly negative image.
His social media usage shows a drastically different side of him, away from the heat of battle. He cheers his teammates on when unable to suit up, wishes them happy birthday and posts pictures of himself actually smiling in their company.
Whew!! Well done my dudes. Well done. UNO MAS #playoffs— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 15, 2013
Knowing that this softer side exists allows us to appreciate his competitive nature on the court, and not assume he's just a callous guy all the time.
Bryant's accessibility through social media has especially impressed me.
This is a guy who was well-known for valuing his privacy—hardly a surprise given some very public, very messy ordeals he had to go through as a young man nearly a decade ago.
Bryant hasn't just opened up a little bit, he's let us all the way inside.
Just look at how he's handled his injury through the lens of social media.
He gave his followers a remarkably candid look into his thoughts and feelings immediately after it happened with an epic rant on Facebook.
Since then he's allowed everyone to accompany him step-for-step along his road to recovery.
Walking in my "medical mamba" shoes made by Nike in 2 weeks with extra support for the Achilles… http://t.co/fmJLy8bBjG— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 31, 2013
From the initial MRI on his Achilles, to the moments before the surgery, to the rehabilitation process, to getting his stitches taken out—even his first steps after the injury—all were documented via Instagram and shared on multiple platforms.
It's refreshing for a superstar like Bryant to provide his followers with such exclusive access.
And that, more than anything else, exemplifies just how much social media has done to remodel Bryant's image.