The 2011 LeBron James Basketball Tour makes its first stop in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
Located in the western part of this geographically diverse region, Chengdu is considered by many Chinese as one of the best travel spots in all of China for its relaxed pace and friendly people. Having just arrived today, but already having a sense for the what the city has to offer, James said “It’s definitely the people. It’s great to be here.”
The tour commenced in the early afternoon with a visit to a local Nike Store to unveil the new Nike Max Air Ambassador IV and new releases of his Nike Sportswear line. On arrival, James was presented with a gift from the city of Chengdu – a hand painted scroll depicting one of the area’s most treasured icons, the panda bear.
After receiving his gift and thanking his hosts, James sat down in front of a crowd of journalists to discuss the release of his shoes and clothing collection. Joining him was Jason Petrie, who has worked with James in designing several shoes over the years, including these latest Ambassadors. The two talked at length about how their working relationship has evolved over time, and how the two cooperate during the creative process.
“We just hit it off with each other,” said James. “It’s like a teammate. You have to be able to work together and try to figure out the best way for the product to look good.”
“He inspires us,” added Petrie. “Everything that LeBron does blends into the product.”
Once things were wrapped up inside the store, James walked over to the adjacent Chengdu Houzimen outdoor basketball court to take in the Nike Summer Nights King of the Court finals, played between two of the best local Chengdu youth squads. In the end, the Blue Team came out on top against the White Team and as a reward for their victory, the team was awarded a spot in the Nike Festival of Sport in Shanghai next Thursday. As a bonus they also received fresh new pairs of Nike Zoom LeBron Soliders.
Immediately following the game, nine players were selected from three other local youth teams to compete in a shooting contest for a trip to Shanghai. The Nike Summer Nights ended with a dunk contest, which James judged beside four local celebrities.
Fans in Chengdu came out in force to welcome James to their city. To show his appreciation, James threw several t-shirts into the crowd before eventually throwing himself in there to give some people high-fives. Before leaving, James signed and gave out a handful of basketballs to people standing in the crowd.
“It was great,” said James afterwards. “To see the basketball courts and everyone having fun with the game of basketball, it’s unbelievable. It’s very humbling to come here all the way from the US and see the reception I get from these fans.”