Team USA ‘nets’ support
Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 4:21 pm
BEIJING (AP) — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the U.S. basketball arrived in Beijing amid near pandemonium today after fans waited hours for a glimpse of their basketball heroes.
Players left Beijing’s airport by a side door and boarded a bus in a secure VIP area before driving into the city.
Dozens of fans, most wielding cell phones or digital cameras, mounted a spiked iron fence to get a closer look at the Americans, many shouting “Kou-bi-er” — the local rendering of Kobe Bryant’s name — in hopes of getting his attention.
The Los Angeles Lakers guard waved and smiled, looking pleased and vaguely amused by the display.
“I try to see American players every time they come to China, but this time is the most special because of the Olympics,” said Manny Chen, a spikey-haired college student dressed in a USA jersey with Bryant’s name stitched on it.
Asked whom he would back in the U.S. team’s opening game against Yao Ming and the rest of China’s team on Sunday, Chen answered without much hesitation: “China, of course.
“But America has the best chance of being the champion,” he added.
The Americans have something to prove as a team after failing to win a major world title since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The squad failed to impress in Tuesday night’s warmup against Australia, winning 87-76 despite shooting just 3-of-18 on 3-pointers.
“We just broke down. We gambled a couple of times and allowed them to make the extra pass,” James said after the game. “We can’t have those types of mental breakdowns because these teams can really shoot the ball.”
The U.S. and China are joined in a tough Group B by Germany, European champion Greece, Angola and world champion Spain.