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Joe Bryant, father of the NBA star, is coaching life lessons in Asia
Joe Bryant is justifiably proud of his son Kobe's achievements on the basketball court, but he is just as thrilled to be helping Thailand youngsters.
The 57-year-old was one of the most popular figures at the third Asian Beach Games in the coastal city of Haiyang, Shandong province, as he coached the Thailand men's beach basketball team.
The Thais won only two of their six games and finished sixth in the event. However, Joe Bryant, who took charge of Thailand's Bangkok Cobras in January and became the coach of the beach basketball team two weeks before the competition, was not disappointed with the result.
The coach said the future of Thailand was with its youngsters.
"I see a great opportunity for growth, especially for the young children - 15, 16 years old, Thailand (basketball) has not been to the Olympics since 1956, so it's a challenge, and I like challenges," Bryant told China Daily during the games.
"Kobe is my son and I taught him when he was young. What you teach a young child he will do as he gets older. That's why it is important to educate children at a young age and teach them from now.
Thailand's men's basketball team has only made one appearance at the Olympics, in 1956, and has missed out on the FIBA Asian Championship since 2001. Thailand has no professional basketball league, but two professional clubs have been founded since 2009 to participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Basketball League, which started that year and features eight teams from six countries.
Thailand's Chang Slammers claimed the league title in 2011, and the Cobras also joined the league last year.
Bryant said his current goal is to lay the foundation for Thailand to compete strongly not only in Southeast Asia, but also Asia.
"Probably the most important thing for the kids is to dream. A lot of kids just don't dream what they could do, they think 'I am not tall enough, not big enough', and my job is to make them believe they can do it," he said.
"Even Kobe, he had his dreams, and his fantasy was to play in the NBA. Now you see kids in China have that dream, especially when you watch players like Yao Ming go to the United States and play there. I want to do the same thing for Thailand have that dream, you can do it, and you must believe."
He has also advised the Chinese players to work harder and gain more international experience.
"The biggest challenge for China now is to perform well at the Olympics and on the world stage. Look at the US, Spain, Argentina, those teams are good. What China should do is compete with these teams consistently," said Joe Bryant, who also coached in the Japanese league from 2007-11.
"China has some big, tall and very talented kids. The important thing is they continue to dream, and they have to put the work in. For example, a good player will come to practice and he practices one or two hours, a great player will come and work before the practice starts, a great player will stay after practice. That's what has to happen here in China for those players to be great. A great player has to be arrogant."
Kobe Bryant is the perfect model for what his father is preaching. The 33-year-old NBA star is the youngest of three children and the only son of Joe, who used to play for the Philadelphia 76ers and coached the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA.
"I watch (Kobe Bryant's) every game. He is over 30 and still playing at a high level. He's still dangerous," Joe Bryant said. "I think people still respect him, even while there are players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Kobe is still the most dangerous player."
Kobe's Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the NBA's Western Conference finals by the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in May and Joe said his son needs help in the form of a shooter.
"I think the Lakers were missing some pieces - they have Kobe, but the Lakers really don't have a true shooter. If you don't have someone who can shoot the ball, the defense will focus on Kobe," he said. "For example, if you watch the games, there are always two or three people guarding Kobe because there is no one else who can shoot the ball. If someone can shoot the ball consistently, then that would free up Kobe.
"Look at Miami, LeBron has shooters. If LeBron played with the Lakers and they have no shooters, they will put two or three guys on him. If you draw a painting, you have to have the right colors or it won't be complete. In basketball you have to have the right positions ... or you can't win the championship."
(China Daily 07/13/2012 page24)