- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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On Tuesday afternoon, Kobe Bryant took to his new Twitter handle (@kobebryant) and live-tweeted his 81-point performance that was being shown on NBA TV in commemoration of its seventh-year anniversary.
Although it didn't captivate all of Twitter the way Howard Stern did when he live-tweeted "Private Parts," Kobe dropped enough insight (like how Lamar Odom told him he couldn't score 60 and later 70 points) that it made following along worth it.
Everyone loves themselves some classic sports moments. The problem networks always have is that there aren't enough natural times to play these games. Anniversaries make sense ahead of a rematch. But many times, networks just run great games to fill holes and hope you stumble on it and have a connection to it.
While Kobe Bryant was live-tweeting the game Tuesday, I realized that live-tweeting these games could provide the archival footage -- an integral part of filling air time on these 24-hour sports networks -- with a relevancy they haven't ever seen.
The idea of having a star of a particular game, or maybe even the goat of a big moment, isn't new. If you're old enough (older than 25), you can probably recall when ESPN Classic used to play a game and have the star in studio taking the fans in and out of breaks. Or more recently, great games have been replayed on the Big Ten Network with commentary from the game's players interspersed throughout the production.
What's different about having a guy like Kobe tweet while a replayed game is being aired is that he can be the director. He can decide what the fan should know at what point. There's no interruption in the game and nothing left on the cutting room floor.
If executed perfectly, it can do what the TV visit for the classic game or the documentary-style interviews at various moments never did: involve the fan.
What was he thinking there? Why did such and such a player make that particular move at that time? What was said at that moment? Fans can ask their favorite star and he can interact with them.
There's also a sustainable business model to this. The network knows that its classic game will become more relevant, so it can get creative and offer players money to live-tweet with bonuses for ratings above a certain average. As the model becomes more developed, players who tweet could perhaps be part of a revenue share on the advertising dollars.
Then look at it from an advertising standpoint: New advertisers can be developed given the fact that perhaps a sponsor of that player wants to sponsor the tweets with an on-air graphic like Nike Basketball had when the production team Tuesday flashed up what Bryant was tweeting at the time as if it was a pop-up video.
The dream scenario? Imagine a classic game in which five to 10 former players in the game are tweeting at the same time. Twitter could develop classic game groups in advance so that fans can watch. The broadcaster can stream all the tweets and then the big revenue idea: Create a commemorative item from that game and sell it QVC style in between the breaks.
A Michael Jordan signed Gatorade bottle with a special wrap that says "The Flu Game." Team-signed retro programs or tickets in frames. How about getting the players in a room or in an arena and have fans watch them live-tweet while they watch the game and have a meet-and-greet after? The opportunity is endless and fans are so impressionable.
There is a catch to all this: Tweeting a classic is only as good as the tweeter himself. Not everyone is good at it. But since some of these athletes have been asked at various moments throughout their lives what happened in their most classic games, I'd suspect this would be easier to do than being a decent tweeter day in and day out.
Tuesday on Twitter, I asked my followers what games they wanted to see live-tweeted and by whom. Here are the top 10 answers:
10. David Wells, perfect game, May 17, 1998 versus Minnesota Twins. Tweeter: Wells
No-hitters and perfect games are ideal for live-tweeting. This might be the best one to pick if only for the guy behind the keyboard.
9. Hulk Hogan versus Andre The Giant, WrestleMania III, March 29, 1987. Tweeter: Hogan
Classic wrestling match at a time when the sport was arguably at its height. Would be great if Hogan would let fans in on the planned parts of every move.
8. Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers versus the New York Knicks, May 7, 1995. Tweeter: Miller
Sure, the frenzy at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals -- in which Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks -- will be the most exciting part of the broadcast. But this was one of the most intense rivalries of all time, and we know from his work as a TV analyst that Reggie knows what to point out.
7. Malice at the Palace. Pacers versus Pistons, Nov. 19, 2004. Tweeters: Metta World Peace, assorted other Pacers and Pistons
In the midst of a fight between teams, a fan threw a cup on the artist then known as Ron Artest and the rest is history. He leaps into the stands in Detroit and the nastiest fight in sports history -- between players and fans -- takes place. World Peace has never been filtered so this has big potential.
6. Bill Buckner, World Series, Game 6, Red Sox versus Mets, Oct. 25, 1986. Tweeters: Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson
An intense game, with Boston having a chance to win it all for the first time since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The guy who hit the ball for the last play and the guy who misplayed it will have the inside perspective on that moment as well as the whole game leading up to it.
5. U.S. Open final round, June 16, 2008. Tweeters: Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate
Tiger's most recent major win seemed to be the one fans picked. Not only is it an 18-hole playoff that ended in a tie with Rocco, who lost in the first sudden-death hole, but Tiger is battling his own body. It would be the last time we'd see him on the course that year. As an aside, I think golf allows more big moments with bigger payoff over a longer period of time.
4. Duke versus Kentucky. NCAA men's basketball tournament, semifinals, March 28, 1992. Tweeters: Christian Laettner, Jamal Mashburn
The best buzzer-beater of all time has to be included on the list. It was a tremendous game that would be great fodder. Get Coach K and Rick Pitino to live-tweet this one, too, and it's gold.
3. Tyson-Holyfield II, June 28, 1997. Tweeter: Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield
Boxing could have great potential for live-tweeting: the boxers, the referee in the ring, and the judges who could dig down for their scores of the fight and retweet them. Unfortunately, the ref for this fight, Mills Lane, has health issues and wouldn't be able to participate, but Tyson and Holyfield are gold.
2. Miracle On Ice, Winter Games, ice hockey semifinals. U.S. versus USSR, Feb. 22, 1980. Tweeters: Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and other teammates; Al Michaels
One of the greatest sports moments of all time -- and it was tape-delayed. Now watch the tape as the improbable happened when the U.S. beat the Russians smack in the middle of the Cold War. We'll throw in Al Michaels here for some added oomph to the tweet-fest.
1. The Flu Game. Game 5 of 1997 NBA Finals. Chicago Bulls versus Utah Jazz, June 11, 1997. Tweeters: Michael Jordan (we know it’s a long shot), Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton
A weakened Michael Jordan steps onto the court and scores 38 points in 44 minutes even though he's barely able to muster any strength. The Bulls win 90-88 and, of course, go on to win the series. There's renewed interest in this one because of the Gatorade commercial that honored the moment.