2013: Social Year of the Mamba

Kobe Bryant's 2013 on the court wasn't great, but it was all thumbs-up for the Mamba in social media. Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It'd be hard to make the case that 2013 was one of Kobe Bryant's better years in the NBA. When it began, the Los Angeles Lakers' superteam was struggling to come together. Bryant led a late playoff push, only to be sidelined by a ruptured Achilles tendon and be forced to watch as the Lakers were swept in the first round. Dwight Howard bolted, and a makeshift Lakers roster awaited Bryant's return, only to see the star suffer a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for the next few weeks.

But in the space of social media, 2013 was nothing short of the Year of the Mamba. Prior to 2013, Bryant had maintained an official Facebook presence and his wife had been active on Instagram, but his social presence exploded quickly after he joined Twitter on Jan. 4.

Bryant quickly endeared himself to fans when he responded to reports of a heated locker room exchange between himself and Dwight Howard with a comical photo tweet.

In late January, NBA TV re-aired Bryant's 81-point game to coincide with the game's anniversary, and Bryant live-tweeted the event.

Bryant had some fun with his on-court image after averaging 11.2 assists per game in a five-game stretch spanning January and February.

After Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested the Lakers should consider using the amnesty provision on Bryant in the offseason, the All-Star guard dropped 38 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists on the Mavs, and he had the last word on Twitter.

He also used Twitter to give himself a new nickname.

After getting hurt in a game against the Hawks when he rolled his ankle on the foot of Dahntay Jones, Bryant gave his honest assessment of the play and gave fans an inside look at his rehab to quickly return to the lineup.

But Bryant's season came to an abrupt end on April 12, when he ruptured his Achilles against the Warriors. Despite the injury, he remained in good spirits on both Twitter and Facebook.

Post by Kobe Bryant.

While out, Bryant live-tweeted his observations on one of the Lakers' playoff games against the Spurs.

After the game, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was asked about Bryant's tweets and said "He's a fan right now," prompting this response from Bryant.

After the Lakers' season ended, Bryant continued to update fans on his rehab via multiple social platforms.

As the offseason approached, Bryant turned his attention to the Lakers' roster.

On July 5, Dwight Howard announced he was leaving the Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets. Bryant quickly unfollowed Howard on Twitter and posted his immediate response on his Instagram account.

When ESPN's Summer Forecast predicted the Lakers would finish 12th in the Western Conference, Bryant took notice.

Not content to be a sensation just on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Bryant sent his first Vine on Aug. 29, giving fans a first look at a #vinovine and another inside look at his progress in rehab.

When the Lakers opened training camp, Bryant still had ESPN's offseason prediction on his mind, as well as comments by Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who had said Bryant "stole" parts of Jordan's game.

Bryant then changed his Twitter avatar to "1225," which he said was a reference to his pet's birthday, but many speculated was a reference to ESPN's 12th-place projection for the Lakers and Bryant's placement of 25th in #NBArank.

Fans continued to attempt to interpret Bryant's avatar changes when he switched to his current all-black avatar and sent this tweet.

Though there was speculation that Bryant's use of the #blackout and #bearhunt hashtags meant he would be returning in the Lakers' new "Hollywood Nights" jerseys for a Nov. 15 game against the Memphis Grizzlies, but that did not turn out to be true. The jerseys debuted Nov. 27 in Brooklyn, and Bryant's debut didn't come until December.

Before he hit the court at all in the 2013-14 season, Bryant signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him in Los Angeles through the 2015-16 season.

The contract was widely criticized by both fans and pundits, and Bryant took to Instagram and Twitter to respond.

On Dec. 6, the Lakers and Bryant announced his pending return with a Facebook video titled "Seasons of Legend."

But Bryant's good feelings wouldn't last long. He injured his knee on Dec. 17 against the Grizzlies, and it was announced he would miss four to six weeks.

Despite not having joined the service until the start of 2013, Bryant finished the year with more than four million Twitter followers, ranking sixth among active NBA players behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. He leads all active NBA players with more than 17 million Facebook fans.