As the 2011 LeBron James Greater China Tour reached the halfway mark today in Chengdu, LeBron James started his day at the Sichuan Sports University coaching a select group of local high-school basketball players. These players have qualified for a spot in the 2011 Nike Summer Ballers Network Basketball Tournament championship at the World Festival of Sport in Shanghai next Thursday. The tournament, which started in July, has seen over 100,000 players register from 21 different cities.
After warming up together, the 48 players were split off into four groups to work on individual fundamentals with American and Chinese coaches, such as stationary dribbling and passing, as well as slash-and-kick and pass-and-move drills.
Two days ago in Taipei, James eventually relinquished his symbolic role as coach, opting instead to take a more active role by putting on a jersey and taking to the court. In Chengdu he alternated seamlessly between the two responsibilities, participating in drills one minute before stepping aside to explain and demonstrate concepts the next. Making sure to spend time with all four groups, James taught players defensive close-out techniques, footwork out of the triple-threat position and transition offense concepts.
“I really learned a lot today,” said one player after the clinic. “Defensive skills, offensive skills… It was really intense.”
At the end, James sat down in front of the entire group to answer questions from individual players. Most questions centered around ways to become a better basketball player. James, citing his personal experiences, stressed that hard work and repetition are the only ways to improve.
“I always tell players to work hard,” said James. “For me, I try to work on all parts of my game so I can be a good all-around player. I always feel like I can get better.”
Participants were impressed with the whole experience.
“It was perfect, awesome,” described Yang Yizhen, a guard who played with LeBron for more than ten minutes during a half-court game. “The whole thing was just amazing.”
And the best part?
“Playing four-on-four with LeBron James,” answered Yang. “I hope he comes back to Chengdu next year.”
Following his skills clinic, James was able to take some time to see Chengdu before he heads off for the second half of the tour in Xi’an and Shanghai. On the afternoon tourist agenda was a visit to two of Chengdu’s most famous attractions: WuHou Temple and the Giant Panda.