NBA star James motivates Chinese youth
Updated: 2014-07-22 15:30
By Sun Xiaochen (chinadaily.com.cn)
James (left) passes a ball to a young player during an exhibition game on the outdoor court of Hi-Park in Beijing on Monday. [Photo provided to China Daily]
For LeBron James, the city of Akron where he was born and raised will always hold a special place in his heart, no matter where he plays or how far he travels.
The close ties with his hometown in the Midwest US State of Ohio played a major part in James' decision to leave the Miami Heat, where he won two NBA titles, to join his home state team the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month.
The two-time NBA champion explained the move at a basketball promotion in Beijing on Monday.
"For me, grown up from a small city, it allows me to always say to myself that I want to figure out a way to give this city a name in a good work," said the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, dubbed King James in China, during the Nike Rise event at Hi-Park in Beijing on Monday.
"For me and my friends, we always want to put our city on the map by sports or anything. We found sports allowed us to have that dream about how we could make this small city become big in people's eyes and we didn't stop until we are able to accomplish it."
However, the move is a far cry from what James decided in the summer of 2010.
After becoming an unrestricted free agent in July 2010, James did not renew his contract with the Cavaliers, for which he was a first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but announced he would sign with the Miami Heat to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Ohio fans responded fiercely to his departure, posting videos of themselves burning James' jersey in public. His decision also drew criticism from sports analysts and former players including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, who condemned him for joining Bosh and Wade instead of trying to win a championship as a leader.
Now that James is returning home, it seems fans are willing to forgive.
Fans in Ohio started to post welcome photos wearing his old Cavaliers' jersey and all 12,000 season tickets for the Cavaliers' home games in the 2014-2015 season were sold out within eight hours following his announcement he would return, according to nba.com/China.
The basketball star's Chinese fans also support his decision.
"He gave all he could at that time (from 2003 to 2010) to try to drive Cleveland to the championship but that team didn't allow him to do so. He shouldn't be blamed for hoping to win a title (after signing with Miami). Now he is back and stays committed to win a title back home, which I believe is from his heart," said Qiao Jian, a high school player from Beijing participating in the campaign on Monday.
The Nike Rise campaign, which was launched on June 27, will select the three best young players from China out of 30 nominees after training and competition to represent China at the Nike International Basketball Festival in Barcelona from Sept 5 to 7.
James, a special guest of the campaign, told Chinese fans about his journey from obscurity in his low-profile hometown to stardom globally through hard work.
Renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who is an avowed fan of James, also appeared at the event to motivate Chinese youngsters.