April 30th, 2013
For a man who usually lets his game do the talking, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant, sure had a lot to say during the team’s first playoff game this weekend. Sidelined by a torn Achilles tendon, the 15-time NBA All-Star took to his Twitter account to share his thoughts on the Lakers performance versus the San Antonio Spurs. While not particularly venomous in nature, the Black Mamba’s tweets did manage to slither their way to the attention of his coach and the commissioner of the NBA.
The controversy surrounding professional athletes tweeting is nothing new, as athletes have been known to get themselves into trouble on social media. But Bryant’s commentary seemed more like an attempt to coach from afar rather than take a stab against his team. Should a player of his caliber, who has been an integral part of the L.A. organization, be strongly advised to stifle his opinions? Or are his comments justifiable?
During the course of the game, Bryant proceeded to send out 11 tweets, a few of which are included below for your reading pleasure.
I’ll admit it. I’m a huge Kobe fan. Say what you want about him, but from where I stand, the man’s work ethic and drive are unrivaled among professional athletes, and it’s hard to argue that he isn’t one of the greatest to ever play the game. Chances are most Bryant enthusiasts would deem these comments tame and dare we say, insightful? Kobe has never been known to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to basketball. In fact, many crucial game decisions, including his playing time, are decided by the Black Mamba himself. Often praised for his leadership, teammates and coaches typically welcome his insight and are quick to lean on Bryant for guidance. While having Kobe physically present on the bench to provide these remarks would be ideal, it’s unrealistic that he should have to hold his tongue while forced to sit at home and watch from his couch. His commentary consisted of inoffensive observations of the game and the players, and as teammates attested, didn’t contain anything he wouldn’t say straight to their faces.
When asked about the tweets, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni rolled his eyes and sarcastically stated, “It’s great to have that commentary. He’s a fan right now, he’s a fan, you guys put a little more importance on that kind of fan. He gets excited, he wants to be a part of it, I don’t blame him, it’s good.”
One can imagine that comment didn’t sit well with a player who has dedicated his life to the Lakers. Kobe, took to Twitter again tweeting, “A fan?? Lol. #microphonetalk”
While Kobe may not agree with his coach, apparently NBA commissioner David Stern does. Stern and the NBA League Office released a memo saying, “It is in the best interest of our organization that all players, including all those currently on the team roster refrain from use of all social media during the game.”
The NBA claims to be all about the fans and Kobe Bryant is without a doubt one of the biggest talents it has ever been graced with. So when the league publicly advises a fan favorite to pipe down, I can’t help but wonder if they’re missing the boat. With all the emphasis placed today on brands’ engagement with consumers via social media, shouldn’t the NBA be grateful that a big star is doing just that? From a PR perspective, what made the organization look bad wasn’t Kobe’s tweets, but D’Antoni’s snarky comments to the media. Through his Twitter feed and recently created Instagram, Bryant has not only been sharing game time commentary, but allowing fans a peek into his daily life on the road to recovery. Bryant could’ve used his season-ending injury as a chance to take a break from the public eye and basketball as a whole. Instead, he is staying relevant and involved during the Lakers playoff journey, even taking the time to personally respond to fans’ comments.
For Kobe Bryant, vocalizing opinions on basketball and the Lakers isn’t just something he can turn on and off, and quite frankly, he shouldn’t have to. Instead of being criticized for his actions, the organization should be thankful to have such a devoted player who genuinely wants to help the team succeed.