Few things in the NBA that find their way up onto a pedestal are not overrated. There are a few: LeBron James is not overrated. Kevin Durant is not overrated. JaVale McGee is not overrated. And Kobe Bryant’s fledgling Twitter account is certainly not overrated. Between hashtagging everything with #mambatweets -- it’s called building a brand, look it up -- turning ice bath pictures into the new planking, and casually revealing that he’s a self-taught pianist, Kobe’s foray into social media has been one of the few bright spots in the most disastrous Lakers season. As with most things Kobe, it feels jarringly alien and artificial while also seeming doubly authentic for that.
Of course, that wouldn’t matter much if Kobe wasn’t as weird and great as he is. This is, after all, the player who scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. No video footage of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game exists, nor even any concrete play-by-play account; it feels more like legend than fact. Kobe’s big game, on the other hand, is right there on video, and sometimes on NBATV. On Monday, Bryant announced that he’d live-tweet a rerun of his crowning individual achievement, and Twitter got psyched.
How many Smush Parker jokes would there be? Would Kobe strategically leak tracks from his tragically unreleased rap album Visions over the course of the game? Would he provide play breakdowns so in-depth they’d necessitate the first Sulia links anyone’s ever actually felt compelled to click? No, as it turned out. None of that. Something stranger.
I can't believe I've never watched this game till now — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 22, 2013
Not sure I believe that, either, Kobe. Given Kobe’s legendary appetite for game tape (and himself), could anyone to take him at his word that, out of every game he’s ever watched and studied, he always just said “Nah, I’m good” every time the opportunity arose to revisit the game in which he scored the second-most points in NBA history? We don’t believe you. You need more people.
12:00: The starters for the Raptors are Jalen Rose, Mike James, Morris Peterson, Matt Bonner, and a young Chris Bosh. For the Lakers, it’s Kobe, Smush, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown, and Chris Mihm. Spectacular.
10:22: “Nice job by Smush Parker, attacking off the dribble,” says Lakers color commentator Bill McDonald. I frantically refreshed Kobe’s Twitter page. There’s nothing. Smush is safe. For now.
9:48: Kobe scores his first two points on a nice up-and-under move to tie the score at five.
After my first bucket I realized their rotations weren't sharp or early — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 22, 2013
So, this is kind of awesome. His first tweet isn’t an easy Smush Parker joke, it’s insight into Toronto’s defensive rotations. Kobe can break down plays as deftly as anyone in the game, player or coach. This isn’t what I expected, but I’m not mad at it.
8:15: Smush makes a layup. Still no acknowledgement of his existence from Kobe on Twitter. This is almost more of a diss, actually.
6:35: Pretty hilarious sequence: Kobe bricks a jumper, which Bosh saves under the basket to Charlie Villanueva for a breakaway dunk. Phil Jackson’s face on the bench is priceless. At this point, the Raptors have opened up a 17-9 lead and the Lakers’ defense is effectively nonexistent. If Twitter existed when this game was broadcast, @jose3030 would have made a “Phil Jackson Struggle Face” GIF within 30 seconds.
5:38: Chris Mihm blows an easy layup. Smush is the easy target, probably because his name is “Smush.” But the idea that Kobe went from Shaq in the middle to Mihm is equally laughable.
This is about as believable to me as Kobe having never watched this game before. What I’d be more curious to know is, did his grandmother watch the game after the fact when she heard about what happened? Or did she randomly decide to watch a regular-season game against Toronto in January when she had (supposedly) never watched any of his four NBA Finals appearances to that point? On the other hand, why would he make something like that up? He doesn’t need to give this game any more sentimental value. This seems like an exceptionally Kobe moment.
2:50: Here’s how low the Lakers had sunk by 2006: the obligatory montage of courtside celebrities was headlined by Joe Walsh of the Eagles. It’s understandable that Jack couldn’t be bothered to go to such an inconsequential game, but there was no one else? One of the Color Me Badd dudes? Tony Danza’s niece?
Now things are starting to get really interesting. Apropos of nothing, as Kobe is drilling the first of two free throws that would give him his 13th and 14th points at the end of the quarter, offered up that he ate pepperoni pizza and drank grape soda before the game. Could this be an explanation for his slow start? 14 points in the first quarter would be impressive under normal circumstances. But given that we know how many he’d end up with, he has a lot of ground to cover.
SECOND QUARTER: Coming in from the break, the Lakers commentators are playing “Which of these names does not belong?” with an infographic featuring the top five picks of the 2003 draft. People were already making Darko jokes three years into Chris Bosh’s career.
2:58: Most of the second quarter wasn’t shown on NBA TV, because it was the only portion of the entire game in which Kobe sat. Which is a shame, because Kobe might have tweeted something fine-worthy had he been forced to watch six minutes of unsupervised Devean George.
Kobe will never be like Jordan because he didn’t use these shoes as a portal for his basketball talents in a Like Mike sequel. SMH.
Kobe has an interesting definition of “easy shots.” Most of the looks he missed in the first half were contested long twos, which... actually, that’s the defining shot of Kobe’s career. If part of the reason he’s doing this live-tweeting is to mythologize himself, he can’t really lay off on the hubris.
THIS IS A BIG DEAL. I had just sort of assumed that Kobe would have blocked Shaq first thing after setting up his Twitter account. This is their first public interaction since winning co-MVP honors at the 2009 All-Star game and pretending not to loathe each other through the press conference, right? Maybe things won’t be as awkward as anticipated in April, when Shaq gets his number retired at Staples. Also, Shaq is the worst for using the #answermyquestionkobe hashtag. It’s a sad signifier of his fall from grace that the man who invented the concept of the must-follow Twitter celebrity has been lapped many times over by his estranged former teammate in just a month. Kobe should make a response to “Tell Me How My Ass Tastes” and post the video on Tout.
7:38: Kobe’s getting hot now. He hit a few threes in a row and has 38 with four minutes gone in the second half. The energy in the arena is palpable, as the crowd is starting to sense what they’re watching. Kobe is too.
6:20:Kobe drains a three to break 40 points and cut the Raptors’ lead to 10. Toronto takes a timeout.
Twitter Kobe is starting to get on a hot streak to mirror Seven-Year-Old-Game Kobe. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if he did this intentionally, tweeting sporadically and relatively forgettably during the first half and dropping solid gold bricks as Past Kobe started to go off.
The most interesting part about this, besides Kobe calling Matt Bonner the Red Mamba -- which really happened, it’s right there -- is that he seems to be deferring to Brian Scalabrine’s “White Mamba” nickname. Game recognize game. But what an honor for Matt Bonner.
1:10:A monster breakaway dunk gives Kobe 51 and the Lakers their first lead of the night.
Finally took the lead — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 22, 2013
Interesting, given that the entire reason this game is being shown on NBA TV in 2013 is because of how many points Kobe scored, that he chose to focus on the lead change rather than the 50-point milestone. Is there some sort of buried Jordan homage/reference in this? This is perhaps too fine a parsing, but it’s hard not to believe that every one of these tweets wasn’t run through about 50 handlers before it saw our smartphones.
48.8: Smush follows Kobe’s breakaway dunk with one of his own that’s more of a soft layup. And once again, Kobe remains silent. It’s actually sort of big of him to leave the bat on his shoulder as these hanging Smush-sliders float by.
Cryptic, vaguely philosophical, fully #shotsfired. It’s as efficient a tweet as he’s had. It’s the Twitter equivalent of scoring 81 points on 46 shots.
10:44:Kobe gets scraped across the eye by Mo Peterson. No call, and he gets T’d up for arguing. It was clearly a foul, and he was robbed of two free throws. This could have been an 83-point game.
Finally, Kobe acknowledges the present state of the Lakers, which grows more comically dysfunctional by the hour. This season is the first legitimate Lakers adversity since 2005-06. I wonder if part of Kobe’s motivation to bring this game back into the public consciousness was to point out that, as bad as the Lakers are now, they at least theoretically have good players.
10:16: To that point, Kwame Brown just fumbled an entry pass from Smush. Still no tweet.
Wait, isn’t that the exact opposite of his response to Shaq’s question? WHY MUST KOBE BE INCONSISTENT?
9:47: Mike James goes to the foul line for the Raptors, and the Lakers’ announcers discuss his player option for the upcoming season, which suggest that Mike James being a free agent was a noteworthy occurrence at one point. Their sources had him linked to the Knicks, which caused Stu Lantz to crack that New York has a tendency to assume everyone wants to sign there. That’s hard to believe, I know. And yes, James misses both free throws.
That question, now? Half the back issues of Sports Illustrated for Kids in existence have that answer. But if the public needs to do better, I must say I’m very impressed with Kobe’s social-media coach, who was thorough enough to teach him about putting periods before replies so people don’t follow the user he’s replying to can see his reply. Nobody who likes basketball and doesn’t have terrible taste in Twitter follows Shaq anymore, so this was highly necessary. It’s easy to imagine Kobe practicing this for hours, then watching video of himself doing it.
7:47: Oh, neat, Sasha Vujacic.
Look, I know what Kobe meant, but I’m going to pretend he’s a closet Simon and Garfunkel aficionado. This is that Nike commercial where LeBron is slow-jamming to Cyndi Lauper before a playoff game on his Beats by Dre’s. (Also, this would make Smush Parker Art Garfunkel.)
Finally, an actual story. I was hoping he’d dish on Kwame. This is the closest we’ll get.
6:01: After hitting three free throws, Kobe has now surpassed his career high. He has 63, and the Lakers lead the Raptors 105-94.
4:46: A deep three gives him 70. He’s confident enough in his storytelling gifts that he probably assumed everyone would react to that by saying, “I’ll bet Lamar told him he couldn’t get to 80 next, huh?” Still, not that compelling. If Chris Mihm had been the one daring him, on the other hand...
A jumper gives him 72, surpassing Elgin Baylor for the Lakers franchise scoring record. Next up is Wilt’s 78, the previous second-highest mark.
First of all, it’s jheri curl. Second, another slight to Smush and Kwame, as Luke Walton is the only scrub Kobe dignifies with a shout-out.
His most normal tweet of the night. Maybe a show of solidarity for embattled real-life @Everytweet_ever account Pau Gasol?
1:47: Kobe hits two free throws to reach 79 on the night, surpassing Wilt for second-most all time.
Should’ve gone with a Jerry curl.
43.4: Two more free throws give Kobe his 80th and 81st points.
Of course he was. He missed two free throws earlier. Between those and the no-call on Mo Pete’s eye jab, he could have been at 85 before you even count any of the “easy shots” he missed. Maybe 100 wasn’t actually that much of a reach.
4.2: Kobe exits the game to a rapturous ovation from the Staples crowd. I got chills, I won’t front.
Same here. Not only as a piece of basketball, which speaks for itself, but also as performance art and PR. The entire exercise was masterful. Beyond LeBron livetweeting The Decision, it’s hard to imagine anything coming close. #mambaout
Illustration by Maddison Bond