Well he’s loved by basketball fans in China. Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant is being treated like a rock star in China during the Beijing Olympics.
Kobe Bryant rules China
Chinese fans adore the Lakers star, whose commercial appeal has had quite a rebound.
It’s Kobe’s team, in China, anyway.
The U.S. basketball team, entirely made up of superstars, isn’t really anyone’s, but one of them — Kobe Bryant — stands alone, at least as far as 1.3 billion Chinese are concerned.
If LeBron James is still King James in the U.S., Bryant is the new emperor of China.
Bryant gets the loudest cheers in pregame introductions. Fans chant “MVP!” when he’s at the free-throw line. Late in Saturday’s rout of Spain as he sat on the bench, they started chanting, “Kobe! Kobe!”
As teammate Carmelo Anthony joked, “Kobe might want to think about moving here — to live.”
On this, his fifth trip to China, he’s protected by the U.S. team’s security people, several of whom were hired off the Lakers staff.
On past trips, where every place he went hadn’t already been secured as they have been here, he would have needed the People’s Liberation Army.
“Oh, they’ve broken through security before,” Bryant says. “I’ve lost earrings, chains and all kinds of stuff. This time I tuck ’em in when I go into crowds.
“Last year when I came here, I lost an earring. . . . A kid found it on the floor and held on to it for three hours and came back and gave it back to me. That’s crazy.”
It got crazier than that. Once Bryant landed in a private jet at a Chinese airport, where a large crowd was waiting, but he was told to stay on the plane.
It turned out the general who ran the airport was waiting for his son to arrive to get an autograph.