LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant has finally joined Twitter (Reuters)

LA Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant, 34, has finally given in and signed up to Twitter, announcing his presence to the world with the opening line on Friday: "The antisocial has become social #mambatweets". The "mamba" is of course a reference to his longstanding nickname, "Black Mamba".

As of Saturday morning the notoriously grumpy NBA star, who has previously been dismissive of Twitter, had more than 412,000 followers on his account - which as of yet doesn't even carry his picture - but, typically, was following no one.

The new account, @kobebryant, has been verified as authentic, and it has emerged the player previously had a stab at the social network via an account used by Nike's basketball wing.

The move is Bryant's latest attempt to soften his public image, after his starring role with footballer Lionel Messi in a television advertisement for Turkish Airlines. The advertisement has received over 100 million hits on YouTube.

Bryant followed up his opening line on 5 January, when he responded to his doubters:

"Thoughts of self doubt Am I done? Is this how my career will end?? I REFUSE to give in to these thoughts. #strongwill".

The second effort was re-tweeted by some 13,000 users within three hours.

The new arrival still has some way to go before catching up with other NBA big names, however; for example Miami Heat's LeBron James (@KingJames) is tracked by some 6.8 million.

Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin) and Chris Paul (@CP3), both of whom starred for the LA Clippers as they beat Bryant's Lakers 107-102 in the LA derby Friday night, have 1.2 million and 1.6 million followers respectively.

Among those shocked at Bryant's change of heart were former sprint star Ato Boldon, who told his followers:

"Checking the sky for pigs and hell for ice. @kobebryant has finally joined twitter".