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Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant unveils NBA China academy plans

Former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, seen during a visit to Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, in November 2016 © AFP/File

SHANGHAI, China, Sep 12 – Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant announced plans on Tuesday for China’s first NBA basketball school, a development the 18-time All-Star says will improve the game in the country.

The NBA Basketball School-Mission Hills Haikou will be open to male and female players from junior up to professional level after its completion in 2019 and could help unearth the next Chinese basketball star.

Along with football, basketball is the most popular sport in China and Bryant said the new facility — construction begins later this year — will be a boon to the Chinese game.

“The Chinese youth will benefit from a complete approach to player development that combines NBA-quality coaching with NBA-level training,” said the retired five-time NBA champion.

“I believe this partnership will lift the game of basketball to a higher level in China.”

The 39-year-old was in the city of Haikou, on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, to unveil the project.

Mission Hills Group will design and build the school and its six indoor courts, but it will be operated by NBA China.

The NBA already has three training academies in China for top male and female prospects.

NBA China chief executive David Shoemaker said in a Mission Hills press statement: “This groundbreaking NBA Basketball School in Haikou further builds upon our commitment to developing young basketball talent in China.

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“We are delighted that Mission Hills Group shares our vision and are thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the government’s pledge to grow a sporting culture in Hainan Province.”

Hainan, sometimes referred to as China’s equivalent of Hawaii, already hosts a Barcelona football academy, also in partnership with Mission Hills.

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