Xi catches a Lakers game, gets new shoes from Kobe

Updated: 2012-02-19 08:41

By Wang Jun and Chang Jun (China Daily)

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Xi catches a Lakers game, gets new shoes from Kobe 

Vice-President Xi Jinping, center, chats with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (right) as they watch an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday. [Photo/Xinhua]

LOS ANGELES - Vice-President Xi Jinping showed his passion for basketball before wrapping up his five-day visit to the United States on Friday evening local time.

Xi attended the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center, across the street from the JW Marriott at LA Live, where he was staying. Xi watched the entire third quarter and part of the fourth and met Magic Johnson, a former star point guard of Lakers.

According to an LA Times report, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa invited Xi to the game.

In an interview with The Washington Post published on Monday, Xi said that NBA is now hugely popular in China and that he himself is a fan of American basketball.

"I do watch NBA games on television when I have time," he told The Post.

Villaraigosa said Xi is a fan of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' star player.

Watched by Xi, Bryant scored 18 of his 36 points in the third period and had a pair of autographed shoes sent up to the Chinese guest.

During the game, Villaraigosa presented Xi with a Lakers jersey that had his name on the back.

Johnson came up to the suite to meet him, as did Los Angeles Galaxy footballer David Beckham.

During the warm-up session before the game, the Lakers' Andrew Goudelock was spotted wearing a pair of sports shoes with hand-written Chinese characters that said "Welcome Chinese Vice-President Xi".

Goudelock said he hopes Xi has a good time in LA.

Spectator George Olivo, who sat among the audience, was surprised to learn that Xi was also in the audience. "I hope Mr Xi enjoys the game," he told China Daily.

"We were delighted to learn that Vice-President Xi is a fan, and we're extremely honored that he was able to attend tonight's game," said NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 111-99.

AP contributed to this story.

China Daily