Enthusiasm and anger greets NBA’s Kobe Bryant in Beijing


Kobe Bryant called his basketball-playing trip to the Great Wall of China one of the most memorable events of his life, but some Chinese felt otherwise: When the NBA star didn’t show for an appearance in the city Sunday afternoon, they got mad. Fans who had been waiting for hours in blistering temperatures grew agitated when the Los Angeles Lakers guard was more than 1 1-2 hours late for a gig at the Millennium Monument in western Beijing. Some hurled bottles at organizers, pushed at barricades and criticized Adidas, the sponsor. Police dragged off one offender by his hair and quickly dispersed the crowd of about 1,500, though it wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was detained. Beijing police would confirm no arrests. The event was abruptly canceled — apparently because the fanfare caused so much traffic that authorities wouldn’t allow Bryant’s car to enter. “Kobe Bryant was not allowed to come to the site by China police. He was blocked on the way,” said an Adidas spokeswoman who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The police said there were too many fans.” The spokeswoman said she did not know of any arrests. She said Bryant’s appearance may be rescheduled for Monday at a Beijing middle school. Earlier, at a news conference, Bryant rhapsodized about playing hoops at the Great Wall. “It’s an experience that’s very difficult to capture in words,” he said. The 22-year-old Bryant, whom Chinese fans call “ke bi,” also joined kids Saturday at a basketball clinic near the Great Wall, north of Beijing. “Kobe’s Big Great Wall Slam Dunk,” the Guangzhou Daily News enthused Sunday at the top of its sports section — over a picture of same. At the news conference, which drew more than 50 Chinese journalists, Bryant took questions about Michael Jordan, the Lakers and NBA intricacies. He predicted bright futures for Chinese players who wind up in the pros, such as Wang Zhizhi of the Dallas Mavericks. “As long as they work hard and continue to practice, they’ll be OK in the NBA,” he said. Bryant said he was impressed with the kids who joined him at the clinic Saturday — especially one who did a reverse dunk with a T-shirt over his head. “I loved watching them play. They were having so much fun,” he said. “They had some pretty good hops. They were jumping pretty well.” Bryant makes US$11.8 million a season and is in the second year of a US$70.8 million, six-year contract extension with the Lakers.