Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Lakers star Kobe Bryant gets tribal welcome in Taipei

AP , TAIPEI

NBA star Kobe Bryant received a tribal headband from an Aboriginal teenager yesterday, and was told his gift of a basketball court to a mountain village lifted the boy from also-ran to local hero.

"Xiao Fen" from Wufeng township (五峰鄉) in Hsinchu County told Bryant that after the Los Angeles Lakers guard donated the court during his first visit to Taiwan last year, his play had improved significantly.

Scoring double digits

"I was only averaging about five points a game before the court was built," the junior high school student told Bryant at a press conference in Taipei. "But now I'm scoring in double digits."

Bryant donned the headband, a gift emblematic of leadership in the Aboriginal group.

Many young people in Aboriginal communities see basketball as an escape from the poverty and isolation that characterize many of their villages.

At the press conference, Bryant viewed a film about his court, which was constructed from scratch in an abandoned building in the village.

The film showed the "81" figure in the center of the court, signifying Bryant's highest ever NBA point total.

Asian tour

Bryant, who is on a five-stop Asian tour, said Taiwanese players had to push themselves beyond levels they thought they were capable of achieving if they were to reach the top.

"After that, you open the door to many possibilities," he said.

But Bryant cautioned against taking things too far, and foregoing the spirit of the game.

"The important thing is to have a good time," he said.

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