Chinese NBA fans got a nice surprise on Valentine’s Day: Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star guard, created a personal account on Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.
His first message on his new account, which Sina Weibo administrators confirmed was authentic, read: “Valentine’s day sneaks ready to break Clippers hearts. Big game tonight.”
Bryant has already gained more than 360,000 followers
One problem? Many of them don’t speak English.
One Weibo user named Hong Liu wrote in a post: “Finally, you [Kobe] set up your micro blog account, I am so excited. The furthest distance in the world is not between you and me, but when you open a micro blog and I cannot speak English.”
However, even the language barrier can’t stop fans from expressing their happiness and support.
The Home of Kobe, a public page on Weibo with over 210,000 followers created by Bryant’s Chinese fans in 2010, posted a Weibo saying that they will help fans translate their messages to Kobe into English and forward the translations to Bryant’s account.
Michael Chin, a Weibo user whose message was translated by The Home of Kobe, said: “I am so glad that I could leave a message to you. Although I hardly have a chance to watch your live games, wherever you are, we would be with you. I hope you could travel to other beautiful cities in China, and it would be the best feedback to each fan that keeps supporting you.”
Some netizens just translated their messages on their own. Shuai Zhang, a fan of Bryant, said simply: “Kobe, Kobe!!! MVP!!! MVP!!!”
Another Weibo user added: “I will always love you.”
Late to the game
Before Bryant, several other NBA stars had already joined China’s social media to interact with their Chinese fans. There are about 69 NBA players or former NBA players with Weibo accounts.
Basketball is growing more popular in China, largely thanks to the pioneering Yao Ming, a seven-foot-six-inch center from China who played for the Houston Rockets from 2002-2011. Several American stars played in China’s professional league during last year’s NBA lockout, and the former Knick’s guard Stephon Marbury joined the Chinese league in 2010. Marbury even led the Beijing Ducks to a championship in 2012.
Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese-American who plays for the Houston Rockets, has the most followers on Weibo with an astounding 3,140,000. (Weibo currently has about 400 million users, making it every Western marketer’s dream). Lin writes every post in Chinese, though he sometimes makes mistakes. His first Weibo was posted on May 8, 2011: “Welcome to my Chinese micro blog.” But Lin misspelled “blog” as “fight” in Chinese. Oops!
Some American players also write their Weibo in Chinese to better interact with their Chinese fans (we assume with the help of a translator). Dwayne Wade, the Miami Heat point guard, and Ron Artest, a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, both started writing posts in Chinese beginning in October of 2012.
In Wade’s latest Weibo, he said, “Nothing else to do in OKC but work on my skills…its a piano kinda night.” Along with the words, there is a picture of him playing piano.
Tiana Yang, a Weibo user, commented under his post, “[The Oklahoma City] Thunder are a tough opponent which you gotta treat with caution. Go for it! PS: Artistic Flashman–Dwyane Wade.”
If Lebron James wants to keep up, he better get on Weibo fast.
Want to know which NBA players have the biggest social media following in China? Read on and follow the links to the see the player’s Weibo profiles:
Most popular NBA stars on Sina Weibo
- Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets: 3,140,000 followers, joined Weibo 5/8/2011
- Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: 2,540,000 followers, joined 7/28/2011
- Tracy McGrady, Qingdao Eagles: 1,920,000 followers, joined 6/9/2011
- Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: 1,780,000 followers, joined 7/22/2011
- Jason Kidd, New York Knicks: 1,350,000 followers, joined 8/3/2011
- Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76’ers: 1,120,000 follower, joined 12/26/2010
- Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: 1,060,000 followers, joined 8/1/2010
- Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers: 930,000 followers, joined 11/11/2009
- Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: 730,000 followers, joined 1/19/2011
- James Jones, Miami HeatL 600,000 followers, joined 5/26/2011
Props to Garnett and Bynum for joining Weibo well before other NBA stars, especially the latter. No offense to the big center, who does have two championship rings, but his level of play doesn’t really match up with the other phenoms on this list, with the exception of Miami’s back-up guard James Jones. We’re guessing shout-outs from his buddy D-Wade helped launch him into the top ten.
Kobe already has 1.3 million followers on Twitter. Do you think he’ll end up having more on Weibo?