Social media: LeBron is Tweeting again

LeBron James said he stopped Tweeting to focus on the NBA playoffs. Well, he's back!!! AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to claim the NBA title on Thursday night, marking a moment LeBron James’ fans have been anxiously awaiting. The win means the superstar can finally return to social media. (Were you thinking something differently?)

James hadn’t tweeted since April 27 when he took a break to focus on the postseason. He returned to the site a champion, posting a thank you tweet early Friday morning.

Fortunately for fans, the NBA has no shortage of coverage when it comes to social media. The NBA (league, team and player accounts combined) hit 100 million fans on Facebook and Twitter during last year’s playoffs. With the 2011-2012 season officially in the books, that number stands at 280 million.

The NBA grew its following during the lockout-shortened season and continued to expand its social media reach. Want to see the nerd glasses LeBron and everyone else were sporting this postgame? Try Pinterest. Want to see sports photography at its finest? Check Tumblr. Looking for something more candid? Miami is one of the many NBA teams using Instagram. You’re using Google+? The NBA’s there, too.

“[Our social media] is constantly evolving,” NBA vice president of marketing Melissa Rosenthal Brenner said. “But it’s about how we’re helping the fans engage with us on a global basis.”

On that front, the NBA has become the most followed sports league in China on social media, with accounts on Sina and Tencent. Almost half of the NBA’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube followers are from abroad.

Stateside, NBA broadcasts generate more social media discussion than any other program on a consistent basis. Case in point? Game 4 of the NBA Finals generated 2.6 million comments on social media, according to SocialGuide Intelligence. That is 10 times more comments than any other program airing that night and three times more than the rest of the top 10 programs combined. There’s no question Game 5 surpassed that mark.

Through the first four games, the NBA Finals generated more than 450 different trending topics. And that was before @KingJames and the #Heat dominated Game 5 -- both on the floor and in the Twitterverse.

With 350 players on Twitter (up from 220 a year ago) and 110 on Facebook, the NBA has the greatest percentage of players on social media of any sports league. James’ soon-to-be five million Twitter followers and 10 million Facebook likes make him the most-followed active NBA player. (Michael Jordan -- a player James knows a thing or two about being measured up against -- holds the top spot.)

Given the intersection of the NBA and social media, it was fitting that 24 hours before the Miami Heat hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy and James received his Finals MVP award, the league handed out some other hardware: its first social media awards. James was edged out there, but that’ll just give him something to shoot for now that he can check winning an NBA title off his list.

If you like infographics …

The Score had a cool look at Twitter and the Stanley Cup.

Brandwatch broke down what England’s Euro 2012 lineup would look like if social media mattered most.

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban lost a little cash after investing in Facebook.

College basketball coaches now can contact recruits via private social media messages.

Louisville will keep Cardinals fans engaged this summer by providing a daily dose of social media. (H/T @ChrisHaddadSD)

Facebook launched the Explore London 2012 page to connect fans and athletes ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games.

Kansas City will have a social media command center during All-Star Week, similar to the model Indianapolis used for the Super Bowl.

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