, left, has finally joined Twitter. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has joined Twitter after years of being the biggest NBA star without a presence on the social networking site.
Bryant's verified account --@KobeBryant -- was opened Thursday night and, he posted his first message on Friday morning: "The antisocial has become social #mambatweets".
The tweet, of course, references Bryant's preferred "Black Mamba" nickname. Within an hour of the message being posted, the account had accumulated more than 74,000 followers. Bryant's Facebook page, which is regularly updated, boasts nearly 15 million likes.
Nike Basketball's official account also reported the news on Friday morning. "We'd like to officially welcome 5-time world champion and 14-time All-Star Kobe Bryant to Twitter," the company wrote. "You can always #CountOnKobe."
Over the 2012 holiday season, Bryant commandeered the @NikeBasketball account to promote the latest edition of his signature shoe. Bryant posted photos of his family and the suit he wore to a game, among other tweets.
Back in September 2011, the @KobeBryant account was opened and then shuttered within the space of a few hours. At the time, it was reported that the account was opened "prematurely" and a return was promised, although no date was given.
Bryant, 34, is among the NBA's most popular stars. The five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympics gold medalist is currently the leading vote-getter for the 2013 All-Star Game, topping even LeBron James, and his jersey is the third most popular, trailing only James and Thunder forward Kevin Durant, according to numbers released by the NBA in November.
He'll have some work to do in making up ground to catch his fellow stars when it comes to Twitter followers. As of Friday, James had more than 6.8 million, former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal has more than 6.5 million, Heat
guard Dwyane Wade
has more than 3.8 million, Lakers center Dwight Howard
has more than 3.7 million, Clippers
forward (and Kardashian associate) Lamar Odom
has more than 3.5 million, Durant has more than 3.3 million and Knicks
forward Carmelo Anthony
has more than 2.7 million.