Basketball legend Kobe Bryant has spoken of his excitement about visiting the UAE for the first time.
The Los Angeles Lakers talisman is preparing to jet off to the emirates later this month, to host the Kobe Bryant Health & Fitness Weekend in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Speaking to Time Out Dubai exclusively ahead of the date, the 35-year-old shooting guard said: ‘I’m excited to be coming, it’s going to be a great experience.’
But when faced with the question on every fan’s lips – will he be fit to start the new NBA season next month? – Bryant was less adamant.
Currently recovering from an injury to his Achilles tendon which has put Bryant off the court since April, the star said it was not yet clear if he’ll be fit to play in the opening clash against local rivals the LA Clippers on October 29.
‘I’m feeling pretty good,’ he said, ‘stronger than I was. I’m ahead of [my recovery] schedule.
‘I don’t know [whether] that means I’ll start the season – I hope so.’
Ranked as the fourth highest scoring player in NBA history, excitement for Bryant’s visit to the region has been building for weeks. A post from the player on his Facebook page announcing the visit in June has attracted more than 16 million ‘likes’, attracting a level of hype compared to Justin Bieber’s Dubai gigs earlier this year.
Thankfully the star known to fans as the ‘Black Mamba’ returns these sentiments, candidly describing his excitement to be hosting events in Abu Dhabi on Thursday September 26 and Dubai on Friday September 27.
‘I’m not sure what to expect – and that’s the fun part,’ said Bryant. ‘You go to a new country and you just try not to have any expectation, and to learn as much as you can – about the culture, the people – as much as you can.
‘That’s the aspect of the experience I love.'
As part of the weekend Bryant will be coaching a team of local celebrities – including Virgin Radio’s Kris Fade and DJ Bliss – in a live showdown against a side of Real Madrid basketball legends, at the American University of Dubai.
Bryant isn’t optimistic about his Dubai players’ on-court talents, but was confident he’ll be able to bring his 'Team Black Mamba’ to victory.
He said: ‘You just have to put these guys in a situation where you maximise their efforts. If a guy can’t dribble, hopefully he can just shoot.
‘I have to identify the [team’s] strengths and weaknesses. Bringing people together – that’s the crux of coaching, or any management.’
To read Time Out’s full exclusive interview with Kobe Bryant, pick up next week’s Time Out Dubai or Time Out Abu Dhabi.
For more information about the Kobe Bryant Health & Fitness Weekend Celebrity Basketball Game, or to buy tickets, starting from Dhs250, click here.