x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

NBA’s Kobe Bryant hopes to inspire UAE youths to get healthy

The LA Lakers’ shooting guard arrived in Dubai on Wednesday for his first visit to the UAE at the start of the Kobe Bryant Health and Fitness Weekend.

Kobe Bryant, the American basketball star, arrives for a press conference on Health and Fitness Weekend in Dubai, as fans take pictures of him. He will be in the capital today to show his basketball skills. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Kobe Bryant, the American basketball star, arrives for a press conference on Health and Fitness Weekend in Dubai, as fans take pictures of him. He will be in the capital today to show his basketball skills. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Basketball star Kobe Bryant wants to learn about the culture of the UAE first-hand while he helps children lead a more active lifestyle.

The LA Lakers’ shooting guard arrived in Dubai yesterday on his first visit to the UAE at the start of his Kobe Bryant Health and Fitness Weekend, which starts today.

Bryant, 35, who is one of the biggest names in the NBA, will be visiting the Gems American Academy school in Abu Dhabi today where 40 pupils will join him in a basketball skills clinic.

The five-time NBA champion will be joined by players from the Real Madrid basketball “legends” team.

“It’s an honour to be here. When I told people I was coming to Dubai, everyone was trying to describe it for me,” Bryant said.

“I told them stop, don’t tell me, I want to see it for myself and take it all in. I want to learn about the culture here first-hand.

“I live by the idea of constantly challenging yourself. It’s important to try to inspire the youth, you work to be better and inspire others to be better.

“I hope that what I do on the court carries beyond the arena. The biggest gift we can give is to teach the game to the next generation by doing these camps.”

Bryant’s visit is about more than just basketball, it is about encouraging people to live healthier lives.

In the UAE, 18.9 per cent of the population live with diabetes and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke are up to six times higher in people with this condition.

A sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits have been cited as the main causes of the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Traditionally, type 2 diabetes is referred to as adult-onset diabetes. However, in recent years diabetes has reached epidemic levels worldwide, with children as young as seven affected.

“This is an incredible platform to raise diabetes awareness in the Mena region,” said Dr Ghada Aoun, medical director and specialist endocrinologist and diabetologist at Boston Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, which is sponsoring the event.

“Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and limb amputation in the region. Public awareness is a key factor in combating the disease.

“Such events help us to communicate with people, inspire a better lifestyle for children and adults and encourage early diagnosis of the disease. Most people with diabetes in the region don’t know they have it.”

Bryant said that both his grandfathers had diabetes but “I was young and didn’t understand”.

“I think the key here is to promote an active lifestyle. We want to show kids how to be active and have fun doing it – it can’t be like a chore,” he said.

“The hardest part is not the training. The hardest part is being able to change your diet and the way you see food. I made the change a little over three years ago. Now I eat for performance, recovery and purpose.”

The Health and Fitness Weekend will culminate in a celebrity basketball game tomorrow at the state-of-the-art Knights Arena at American University in Dubai.

Bryant, who is recovering from injury, will lead the warm-up and coach a team of celebrity players, called Team Black Mamba, which is Bryant’s nickname.

Playing against Team Black Mamba will be the Real Madrid basketball legends.

“I just want to be around the game and have fun,” Bryant said.

Addressing his Achilles injury, Bryant said he was getting stronger every day.

“Now it’s about cutting the recovery time, I should be OK [for the start of the season],” he said.

Ahmed bin Sulayem, the executive chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), also took the opportunity to present Bryant with a DMCC Free Zone business licence, which will enable the American sportsman and business mogul to operate a business from Dubai with 100 per cent ownership and no corporate tax.

As for what he plans to do with the licence, Bryant said: “For now, I want to listen and learn. I want to understand the culture here and see how my ideas can fit.”

“Kobe is looking great and with the way he trains and takes care of his diet, he can keep going for another five or seven years,” said Mr bin Sulayem, adding: “No pressure Kobe.”

Bryant is the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars, an American non-profit organisation that provides comprehensive after-school programmes to children in 13 US cities.

malkhan@thenational.ae