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NBA Star Debuts on Chinese Social Media, Fans Clamor: #I want to speak to Kobe#

Tea Leaf Nation editor David Wertime spoke on February 15 on Public Radio International’s The World about NBA star Kobe Bryant (@KobeBryant), who has recently opened an account on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. Listen to the full two-minute interview:

iconWeibo
Kobe Bryant’s Weibo profile picture, which appears to be a childhood photo of the star.

Bryant has been a beloved figure in China for years, and it is not surprising that his Weibo account has already amassed 200,000 followers since being opened just yesterday.

Many of China’s younger, more educated Internet users can likely understand relatively straightforward English language tweets, but they may lack confidence to reach out in that language. A Kobe Bryant fan Weibo account called “Kobe’s Home Weibo” (@科比之家微博), which has over 200,000 followers of its own, has volunteered to translate posts from Chinese into English to help netizens communicate with the NBA star.

Other American celebrities on Weibo often use English exclusively, or at least more than they do Chinese, so fans are not taking any chances, tagging their posts with the English-language hashtag #I want to speak to Kobe#. One wrote, “Finally, you set up your microblog 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.”

Time will tell how engaged Kobe chooses to become with his adoring online audience in China. Bryant has been tweeting from the official Nike Weibo account since February 9, and just hours ago issued his first tweet from his own account: “Valentine’s day sneaks ready to break Clippers hearts. Big game tonight.” That tweet alone, which accompanies an image of Bryant with a pair of red sneakers, has already been shared over 25,000 times. If early response is any indication, he will have little trouble finding eager interlocutors in Chinese cyberspace.

Topics: 
Tea Leaf Nation is an e-magazine founded in 2011 whose editors aspire to make it a must-read source for China experts of all stripes—journalists, diplomats, academics, analysts—while remaining fun...
David Wertime is the co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation, an English-language web site that analyzes Chinese media. Founded in December 2011, Tea Leaf Nation was acquired in September 2013 by the...

This story was originally published by Tea Leaf Nation.

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