NBA star Kobe Bryant, who is hugely popular in China, shared motivational words with Chinese technology start-ups and other small businesses at a forum in the country on Friday.
A range of speakers, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton and executives from Lenovo and Alibaba, two of China's top IT companies, also spoke at the forum for small and medium businesses in Hangzhou, the scenic city where Alibaba is based. Each shared advice on how to succeed.
"There are so many metaphors between basketball and life," Bryant said on stage with Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba Group, which runs China's top e-commerce Web sites.
"When you win, you have to constantly look for ways to get better," said the shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the NBA playoffs this year. "That's what drives me in competition."
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China and the country is trying to raise the profile of its own professional league. But the NBA remains far more popular. Its games have been shown on Chinese television for years.
Bryant and Ma talked about the importance of ambition and leadership in their jobs. The crowd burst into applause when Bryant, who towered over Ma, gave the skinny CEO a pair of oversized Nike sneakers.
"I think it's a little big," said Ma, holding up one of the shoes.
Fans outside the venue surrounded Bryant, who has a Chinese-language blog with more than 21 million hits on local portal Sina.com.cn. Chinese fan comments stretch far beyond the end of each post about Bryant's family, the Lakers and mentions of Chinese NBA players such as Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
Bryant would be willing to consider playing in a Chinese basketball league, he said at a later press event.
"I love playing, it's something I'm open to," he said.
Former NBA players began streaming onto teams in the Chinese Basketball Association after the league lifted some restrictions on foreign players last year.