On January 26 2020, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna (as well as Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and his daughter Alyssa; Harbor Day School basketball coach Christina Mauser; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; and Bryant’s private pilot Ara Zobayan) were killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California.
Among the viral content circulating immediately thereafter was a tweet from user @dotNoso ostensibly from the year 2012, in which they “predicted” Bryant’s manner of death:
In a tweet that appeared to be dated November 13 2012, @dotNoso wrote: “Kobe is going to end up dying in a helicopter crash.”
The first thing that we found is that news about Kobe Bryant’s use of helicopters was commonplace, going back many years. In February 2012, KNBC published an article titled “Kobe Takes a Helicopter to Work,” subtitled “If you could use a helicopter to avoid traffic, wouldn’t you?” It began:
This is how the 31-year-old co-captain of the Lakers, the eleven-time All-Star, the four-time world champion, the most prolific and accomplished scorer currently drawing breath and an NBA paycheck, commutes. He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game.
That same month, ESPN published “In the helicopter with Kobe Bryant,” which began:
Writer J.R. Moehringer — he of The Los Angeles Times, then “The Tender Bar,” and Andre Agassi’s memoir “Open” — has written an amazing Kobe Bryant profile that appears in the March issue GQ (and online — a tad PG-13) … The profile tells the story of Bryant’s career through the various injuries he carries with him. It also takes us into the helicopter Bryant uses to get to work from Orange County, where Bryant lives in a house that Derek Fisher says he has never been to.
Which takes us to November 13 2012, when USA Today reported:
Kobe Bryant takes Steve Blake to doctor in his helicopter
… Kobe Bryant did not speak to reporters after practice [on November 12 2012] because Lakers point guard Steve Blake suffered an abdominal strain and could only get an appointment with an Orange County doctor in the early afternoon, so Bryant flew him there in his helicopter to avoid any irksome traffic on the 405. Given the events of the past 72 hours, this explanation sounded perfectly reasonable.
Of particular note is that USA Today‘s article and @deNoso’s tweet were published on the same day. Date stamps for tweets depend on time zones, but the article itself was published at 3:26 PM Eastern Standard Time. The tweet appears to be dated in Eastern Standard Time at 4:32 PM, likely just under an hour after the article.
Possibility #1: @deNoso read the article — which was in part about Bryant’s frequent use of helicopters — and “predicted” Bryant’s death in 2020 (nearly eight years after the article and tweet.)
However, others pointed out that the tweet’s only responses were from after Bryant’s 2020 death:
Still other people pointed out what appeared to be indication @deNoso used a Twitter client called Carbon for Android. Moreover, they claimed that the version of Carbon visible to some users (we did not see it on a desktop version of Twitter) was released years after 2012:
On February 13 2013, tech site The Verge reported on the long-awaited release of Carbon, an android Twitter client; a “preview” of Carbon for Android was available at some point in 2012:
Carbon Twitter client released for Android smartphones
Carbon, a long-awaited third-party Twitter app for Android, is finally here. App developer Dots & Lines has been working on getting Carbon out for a while now; it originally estimated that the app would be out for Android as a free download last July, but that didn’t happen. The company was held back last year when it discovered that it couldn’t submit Carbon as a paid app to Google Play from the United Arab Emirates, but it’s still taken much longer than expected to release after the original delay.
That notwithstanding, the same user and another pointed out “Carbon v2.5” was visible (to them) on @deNoso’s older tweets, suggesting that some sort of feature of the Carbon app automatically appended it to all old tweets:
Possibility #2: The Carbon for Android badge was a clue that the tweet was somehow faked.
Still others shared screenshots of the same tweet posted on or around January 26 2020, but reported being unable to find the “original” tweet:
Some people maintained that Carbon for Android contained a bug enabling date changes:
Possibility #3: Carbon for Android, a Twitter client, contained a bug enabling date changes.
Yet another person linked to a December 2015 blog post about interfering with dates using Carbon for Android:
Carbon trick: set now() time to whatever you want
… There’s a function called Carbon::setTestNow() where you can set the parameter of whatever you want. Examples:
$knownDate = Carbon::create(2001, 5, 21, 12);
echo Carbon::now(); // will show 2001-05-21 12:00:00
In that example, it appeared to describe a way in which to backdate code to the year 2001 — five years prior to Twitter’s creation. However, confusing issues still more, the linked post seemed to have to do with a completely different product also called Carbon, a “simple PHP API extension for DateTime.” Blogs for coding described it as a tool for coders — and it seemed to be completely different from the Twitter client called “Carbon” seemingly due to its then-novel “dark mode.”
Possibility #4: People were conflating two products with the name Carbon, one of which was an Android app for Twitter and another which was a modality for coders to work around date limitations respective to their databases.
It is true that Twitter user @deNoso sent a tweet saying that “Kobe is going to end up dying in a helicopter crash,” which appeared to have been published on November 13 2012 and was live on the site. The tweet appeared to have been posted on the same date as several articles about Kobe Bryant’s use of a helicopter for work commuting and running everyday errands. We were unable to verify any way to change the datestamp on a tweet, but could not rule it out. Nevertheless, the proximity of reporting on Bryant’s use of a helicopter to ferry a teammate to the doctor seemed just as plausibly a prompt for the tweet as did an arcane Twitter hack.
Ultimately, without further evidence available we have to rate the veracity of the tweet’s date as Unknown — but despite that, it is not out of the realm of possibility.