Skip to content

It was Kobe-mania with Lakers in China

Oct 18, 2013, 3:02 PM EDT

For years, every summer Kobe Bryant has gone over to China to build up his brand — he’s done clinics, media interviews, appearances, he has even set up his own charity to help specific causes in China.

The result is he is loved there — during the Beijing Olympics LeBron James and other Team USA players were taken aback by the level of Kobe mania. That hasn’t died, if anything it has grown in recent years.

The Lakers (and Warriors) found out about that first hand this past week around a couple of exhibition games.

The video above is just a taste. Watch the games and you could hear the crowd chant “Ko-be, Ko-be” despite the fact he was in a suit on the sidelines. Check out what Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report — who was in China for much of the Lakers trip — wrote about the experience.

It was asked in the postgame news conference of both Pau Gasol and Golden State star Stephen whether they were offended by the Chinese fans repeatedly chanting Kobe Bryant’s name while they, not he, played.

A lot of Chinese basketball reporters approached me for interviews or casual chats Tuesday, and it was interesting how they wondered whether Bryant is offended or put off by how rabid his fans in China are and how over the top some of them act…

I’ve written essay upon essay trying to explain Bryant’s immense popularity in China, and you know what it boils down to? His Chinese fans admire and deeply respect how hard he tries. They are also fascinated by how unafraid he is of failure, a rare trait in Asian culture.

That last paragraph is an interesting insight. I’ve long thought we tend to admire and even idolize people who do what we can’t — not just physically in the sports world, but mentally. I am drawn to the hard-boiled detectives of Raymond Chandler novels because they are radically different than me. We admire Michael Jordan because if we were given his physical gifts we wouldn’t have gotten as much out of them as he did. His competitiveness and single-minded obsessions does not make for a well-rounded person, that’s not who you want to chat with at a cocktail party, but it makes for a person who wins sporting events. We admire those different than us (in some ways, at least).

Whatever the reason, Kobe is wildly popular in China.

  1. djveal - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    Its a damn shame that the man has to go to another country to get the respect he deserves. Why are you stumped by the way the fans act, as if he doesnt deserve it.Yet you still find a way to bring up MJ when this article had nothing to do with him. If we isolate Kobe Bryant as a player seperate from Mj he would get the praise he deserves. He never got his due, now ppl compare Bron to MJ as if Kobe never existed. You wont appreciate him until he is gone.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      He gets respect he doesn’t deserve in China. He gets that there because there is something critical lost in translation that Americans understand fully.

      • kb2408 - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        No, most Americans let there biases and envy get in the way of reality. Basketball fans in China obviously only see greatness.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        Yeah… okay. That’s why they treat Jeremy Lin and even Kevin Ding like rock stars? They only see greatness!

      • musician0785 - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:16 PM

        the hate you spew on every article that mention’s Kobe makes me think you might have a crush on him….going out of your way to hate on the man at every turn….its actually quite creepy

      • antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:27 PM

        I’m not “hating” on him. Offering a fresher, clearer perspective free of attachment or bias.

      • kb2408 - Oct 18, 2013 at 8:08 PM

        Of course they’re going to worship Lin, he is a rarity in the NBA. But as it pertains to Kobe, they simply recognize greatness. Why can’t we appreciate greatness here…unless it’s on our favorite teams? I may criticize certain players (Lebron) but I acknowledge their greatness. Take Larry Bird for example. I absolutely hate Boston. But I absolutely love Larry Legend. I will admit though I didn’t truly come to love and appreciate his greatness until he was nearing retirement. The whole LAKERS (Magic) vs Boston (Bird) rivalry was just too intense while Bird was still in his prime. I set aside my biases and grew to appreciate Bird’s immense talent. Maybe you numb skulls will eventually do the same with Kobe.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        “But as it pertains to Kobe, they simply recognize greatness. Why can’t we appreciate greatness here.”

        That’s a pretty lame attempt at rationalization, bruh.

      • musician0785 - Oct 18, 2013 at 10:35 PM

        free of bias? lmaoooooooooooooooooooooooo i just saw u wax poetic about the miami heat….and u expect me to believe that you have zero laker/kobe bias…yea sure…no bias there…..

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:42 PM

        “He gets respect he doesn’t deserve in China. He gets that there because there is something critical lost in translation that Americans understand fully.”

        Wow, this comment is not racist or anything.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 19, 2013 at 9:42 PM

        It isn’t. Is the film “Lost in Translation” racist? There are language barriers and cultural barriers. Things get misinterpreted all the time. In this case misinterpretation is the rule, not the exception.

        What we know of the Chinese, and more so what they know of us (because of very active CPC censorship), is only what is seen through a peephole.

      • rey02mie - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        No doubt, Kobe’s jersey will be hanged along with the great LAKERS players. His name will be written in the game’s history as one of the greatest offensive players. He will join the other greats in the basketball hall of fame. Even great players will respect him and recognize his achievements. Only dumb people will think I’m wrong. I know we admire different players and we hate some, and it will blind us from seeing the reality, but believe me, Kobe will be there. You can never blame the Chinese if they admire Kobe. Not only one among the Chinese Basketball players are dreaming to be in the position where Kobe is right now. Every great player have different characteristics. Wilt Chamberlain scored a hundred, Bill Russel did not but Bill Russel collected more rings. Result? Both of them were considered great. Micheal Jordan did not score more than Wilt, nor won championships more than Bill but again considered to be great. All of them are different but we must respect what they did to the game. How they immortalize their name. Lebron may win more championships than Kobe or any other player, but you can’t take out what is due for Kobe. Only a fool will not recognize his achievements.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 22, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        Yes, he’s the 17th best player of all time. I’ve never said differently.

      • rey02mie - Oct 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        17 best player of all time, that would make LeBron 50th of all time as he is one of his successors if he manages to stay on top until he retires. I think there’s no such thing as number one because all of them play differently. They set records differently. I think no player now could beat Wilt’s 100 or Bill’s 10 rings. Who’s your bet to be number 1? I thing you’re just afraid to mention because you don’t have the guts to. You your player will be criticized and will be put on the hot spot. I bet he hasn’t achieved something yet and still chasing the others accomplishment wise. Name your bet then let’s see. I know somebody could become great along with Kobe and the other greats ahead of him, but they still have a long way to go. May be they still have to be in the league for 8 to 10 years, that’s tough if they stay fit and maintain consistency until that moment.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 26, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        Heh. Well, I agree with the growing contingent that includes the likes of Oscar Robertson, Jim Boeheim, Pat Riley, Jon Barry, Stan Van Gundy, Scottie Pippen, Udonis Haslem, Alonzo Mourning, etc. LeBron James is probably the greatest player of all time.

        Kobe is too inefficient and too much of a team cancer to rank any higher than 17th. He’s lucky I have him in the top 20.

      • rey02mie - Oct 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        17th best player of all time? That would make LeBron 50th of all time as he is one of his successors if he manages to stay on top until he retires. I think there’s no such thing as number one because all of them play differently. They set records differently. I think no player now could beat Wilt’s 100 or Bill’s 10 rings. Who’s your bet to be number 1? I think you’re just afraid to mention because you don’t have the guts to. Your player will be criticized and will be put on the hot seat. I bet he hasn’t achieved something yet and still chasing the others accomplishment wise. I challenge you to name your bet then let’s see. I know somebody could become great along with Kobe and the other greats ahead of him, but they still have a long way to go. May be they still have to be in the league for 8 to 10 years, that’s tough if they stay fit and maintain consistency until that moment.

      • rey02mie - Oct 29, 2013 at 6:56 AM

        “LeBron James is PROBABLY the greatest player of all time.” LOL!!! “PROBABLY” It clearly shows you’re not even sure. Well me too. We don’t know if the most promising player now will have injuries in the future like what happened to TMAC. Well as of now, he still have to chase the championship rings of Horace Grant to be as successful. Like what you think, he will PROBABLY be included in the list of great players but he still have to earn it. PROBABLY YES…

      • antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 5:10 PM

        How can anybody be sure? God wouldn’t even be sure. That’s like asking who the greatest artist of all time is. Good luck trying to answer that one.

        Sometimes I think Kareem is the greatest. Sometimes I think LeBron is the greatest. Sometimes I think Jordan is the greatest. I’m leaning more towards LeBron more often.

        But as Pat Riley said, “All you really want is to be in the argument. Picasso. Matisse. Donatello. Pollock. LeBron is already in the argument.”

  2. monkeyhateclean - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Someone should warn them to be very cautious when escorting him to his hotel room.

    • kb2408 - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      Over a decade later and the same stale, dumb joke.

  3. chargerdillon - Oct 18, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    What player in the last decade has been more successful than him both commercially and in the sport of basketball?

    How many current players have 5 championship rings?

    Lebron will be Kobe in China. He’s alreayd making inroads for that spot.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:10 PM

      He’s already taken that spot, I believe… by certain metrics. It’s hard to compete with a group of rabid fans in new clips, but LeBron sells more product in China.

      • musician0785 - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM

        he hasnt taken that spot, you’re making stuff again

      • antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        He sells more jerseys and shoes than Kobe in China. He ranks higher in social media popularity. How else are we supposed to gauge these things?

      • musician0785 - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM

        he hasnt taken that spot, you’re making stuff up….. again

      • sportsfan18 - Oct 20, 2013 at 2:05 AM

        musician0785

        Please back up what you are saying with something…

        Per this Oct 4th article from this yr, LeBron is #2 in China sales behind D. Rose. Kobe was 3rd for the 2012-2013 season.

        http://blogs.marketwatch.com/behindthestorefront/2013/10/04/lebron-james-tops-u-s-nba-jersey-sales-but-not-in-china-europe/

        LeBron James tops U.S. NBA jersey sales, but not in China, Europe
        October 4, 2013, 5:17 PM
        By Andria Cheng

        So he HAS taken that spot. You said the other poster was making up stuff again.

        No, YOU were making up stuff, most likely again.

      • musician0785 - Oct 20, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        you morons, if a player 1 sells the most jerseys in a country of 1 billion people for a decade, and then 1 year player 2 sells more, you think player 2 is more popular……how about the fact that most basketball fans ALREADY OWN KOBE JERSEYS BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN BUYING THEM IN DROVES SINCE 2003……simple logic…you think people who already own kobe jerseys are going to buy the same one again?

      • antistratfordian - Oct 20, 2013 at 4:36 PM

        Jersey sales alone do not determine popularity – it’s just one point of data. So the ranking of 1st, 2nd or 3rd etc is not going to decide popularity level absolutely – you have to take other things into consideration (which I have endeavored to do).

        In any case, jersey sales are driven by new fans. When your jersey stops moving units it’s not because all of your existing fans already own it, it’s because you are no longer creating as many new fans.

  4. antistratfordian - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    I think Kobe’s Chinese reputation is now being a little overblown. We continue to say things like “Kobe is the NBA’s biggest star in China” as if it’s still 2009 even though it’s no longer supported by certain metrics. At one point it was certainly true – and I DO think Kobe has some very die hard fans in China that hound him and get a lot of publicity – but I don’t think Kobe is overall the most popular player in China anymore. A few points:

    • Kobe doesn’t have the best selling jersey in China anymore. Derrick Rose does.
    • Kobe doesn’t even have the 2nd best selling jersey in China. LeBron James does.
    • Kobe doesn’t top China’s celebrity social media rankings. The top spot there goes to LeBron. Kobe ranked 9th!
    • LeBron was not only ranked as the most popular athlete in China by social media metrics, but as the most popular Western celebrity, period.
    • I don’t think Kobe sells the most shoes in China either. The AP reported in 2012 that LeBron had the best selling shoe in China.

    Michael Wilbon wrote in June: “According to a person with knowledge of the product moves, LeBron sells as much product in China as he does in the U.S.” Well, LeBron sells $300 million worth of shoes alone in the US compared to Kobe’s $50 million. Kobe’s shoes have never sold that well and I doubt they’re doing that much better in China.

    In 2012 Dunkin Brands did a study to find out which NBA player skewed the best in China – they said they found that it was LeBron James. They then asked James to be the face of their brand in China, and all of Asia.

    • musician0785 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:26 AM

      anything to hate on kobe…..no matter how intelligent you try to make it sound…its still trolling

      • Anoesis - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        Cut him some slack. Years ago his Bryant blow-up doll arrived damaged and the company never replaced it.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:13 PM

        My original post here is only pleading for more accuracy in reporting.

        At some point Kobe is positively not going to be the most popular player in China, but Americans are probably going to be the last to know (because of the fog between the US and China). Has it already happened? It may have, and I there is information that suggests it.

        Reasonable people should not have a problem with this sort of argument. Reasonable people should be intrigued by information that challenges popular perception. Reasonable people are the ones who spearhead change when they recognize the inaccuracy of popular perception.

        I don’t troll.

      • musician0785 - Oct 20, 2013 at 1:54 AM

        so your response is more trolling, you come on EVERY laker post, even tho you’re a Miami heat fan, with some kind of negative and mostly inaccurate comment….and im supposed to believe you’re not trolling? All you do is laker bash and kobe bash. You are not a reasonable person, you are a Laker troll….

      • antistratfordian - Oct 20, 2013 at 5:02 PM

        Look… you need to chill. This is not even a case where I’m criticizing Kobe Bryant – I’m criticizing media/public assumptions, even in the face of data that refutes it.

        Somebody (a bigger name than I) is going to bring this up eventually in a much larger forum i.e. one day you’re going to see a story on ESPN (or NBC) about Kobe no longer being the most popular player in China and you’re going to think of this conversation and say, “gee whiz, antistratfordian saw this trend a year ago and I argued with him about it and said he was biased and bashing. Maybe I should apologize.”

        And I’d appreciate it if you did.

      • musician0785 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:22 AM

        what data, because u just told me jersey sales werent the ultimate barometer, so where can i find this “data” or “social media metrics” ……and you’re right one day another player will be more popular than kobe, but unless that day is today, than it has no relevance to THIS conversation

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Lakers, Celtics among lottery bound teams
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (4463)
  2. B. Lopez (4150)
  3. D. Rose (3877)
  4. E. Payton (3815)
  5. J. Lin (3811)