Life is a big popularity contest, and Kobe Bryant is winning

Today, the NBA released its list of best-selling jerseys on the international market, and Kobe Bryant was the big winner. While he wasn't No. 1 stateside in 2011-12 -- he "tumbled" all the way to third -- outside the U.S. No. 24 jerseys flew off the shelves. Moreover, the Lakers star dominated in each of the three regional subsets tracked by the NBA. Bryant was the top seller in China (for the sixth straight year), along with Europe and Latin America.

None of this should shock anyone, given Bryant's incredible popularity globally. Any time he sets foot in a foreign land, he might as well be The Beatles. All four of 'em. People, grown-ups and kids alike, flock to him screaming like teenage girls.

Few American athletes have worked harder to make inroads across the globe like Bryant, and clearly it has paid off.

Interestingly, despite routinely disparaging Twitter and other forms of newfangled communication, Kobe is also a big winner in the NBA's inaugural Social Media Awards. Bryant won what appear to be the Best Picture and Best Director of the S.M.A.'s (do they call them that?) -- The #TrendSetter Award for the player receiving the most Twitter mentions this season, and the Thumbs-Up Award, going to the player who had the most likes, or whose Facebook posts received the most likes.

For the record, his Facebook page (which mostly promotes his charitable endeavors) currently has over 13.16 million of them.