Basketball greats teaming up for youth

Updated: 2016-01-26 11:28

By May Zhou in Houston(China Daily USA)

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You could call it a double team move made in basketball heaven.

NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and Chinese basketball legend Mengke Bateer have created the Olajuwon Bateer Dream Academy (OBDA). Its mission: to train young basketball players on an international scale, Olajuwon announced on Monday in Houston.

More than 20 Chinese middle school and high school students from Rizhao, Shandong province, and the City of Shenzhen, as well as scores of students from four local schools in the Houston area, attended the kick-off party for the International Elite Basketball Tournament of OBDA.

The tournament serves as the debut of all OBDA international programs, said Dilinuoer Jumahong, CEO of OBDA and the wife of Bateer, who was currently in China on OBDA business.

"We're just getting started, and this is the first group from China," said Jumahong. "We will also send American kids to China for competitions. Eventually we will duplicate the model and expand it to other countries. We want to offer the opportunities to all kids who dream of playing basketball."

Olajuwon, originally from Nigeria, led the Houston Rockets to two championships in 1994 and 1995, earning the nickname "The Dream".

Bateer played in the CBA as well as the NBA and was with the San Antonio Spurs when they won the NBA championship in 2003. Bateer, along with Yao Ming and another Chinese NBA player Wang Zhizhi, were once dubbed the "Walking Great Wall".

Citing a shared background of being international players in the US and coming out of a nomadic lifestyle in their childhoods, Olajuwon and Bateer believe the game of basketball changed their lives and gave them opportunities to influence others.

Now, they want to offer youth around the world who love basketball the chance to challenge themselves through international competitions, and embrace other cultures through the game, according to a statement that accompanied the announcement.

Chinese students from Rizhao and Shenzhen are the first group of Chinese youth to experience what OBDA has to offer in a two-week program in Houston that began on Tuesday. They will get advanced training from OBDA coaches, view two NBA games at the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, and play a few games with the teams of four local schools as well as one game with the University of Houston Cougars.

"The international elite tournament is a big opportunity for all of us," said Olajuwon. "Tonight we gather here to see the Chinese students coming to the US for the first time, and can see their excitement. They also meet with the American players and exchange culture through basketball. I think we can do a lot for youth on a global level."

Congressman Al Green and Chinese cultural consul Yang Song also attended the event and praised the two former NBA stars for what they are doing for the youth.

"I wish the young Chinese students will have a great experience here in the US," said Green. "My hope is, when they leave, they will take a little bit of America back with them. I hope some of our young people will go to visit China and bring a little bit of China back."

"With two famous NBA players working together, I believe OBDA will help to popularize basketball and provide professional training for youth in China," said Consul Yang.

 Basketball greats teaming up for youth

NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon (right) joins Chinese students at the debut event of the Olajuwon Bateer Dream Academy on Monday in Houston. May Zhou / China Daily