L.A. Times: 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.”