Abu Dhabi: Ever heard about the Pied Piper who mesmerised children with his magical notes and led them out of a town?
NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, aka the Black Mamba, cast a similar spell over kids attending his basketball clinic at the Gems American Academy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The session, scheduled to start at 2.30pm and part of Bryant’s two-day stint in the UAE, only got underway at 4pm. but no one was complaining — except the deadline-bound media.
Most of the kids assembled at the venue by noon and even underwent their training routine for a good two hours. An All-Star Real Madrid team players led by Joe Arlanckas, Juan Ittnriagra and Tonin Llorente tried to keep them engaged but they seemed uninterested.
Their eyes were cast at the entrance as they waited with bated breath for their demi-god to arrive.
Dressed immaculately in a white T-Shirt, black shorts and mandatory blue Nike Zoom trainers, Bryant made a charming entry greeted by huge roars from the crowd. And he wasted no time in taking centre stage. Every move from the legend was followed closely and why not? He exuded greatness.
The 40-odd aspirants between the age group of 5 and 17 clearly wanted to learn as much as possible from their hero.
And who else could have shown them better about how to dribble equally well with both hands?
Bryant exhibited his trademark deft ball-handling and knowledge of how to spread your fingers for ball control, as well as that flawless ability to shoot the ball into the hoop with precision that has left millions spell bound over the years.
Everything that Bryant did left you saying “wow!”.
A beaming 17-year-old Alyssa Paz of Gems American Academy said: “I still can’t believe that I trained with Kobe. I was here four hours in advance and let me tell you I could not sleep well last night. It has been so from the time I was informed that I was selected for this clinic. I wish could have managed a hug from him but I can’t be complaining having come this close.”
For Vinod Shravan from Our Own High School, it was a dream come true and he was quick to point out that it had taken him some time to make his friends believe that he had been chosen for the clinic.
“When my coach told me that I would be meeting Kobe, I couldn’t hide my excitement and wanted to share it with my friends. However, they were just not ready to believe me. Opportunities like these come once in a lifetime,” revealed Shravan.
The parents were also not far behind in expressing their excitement.
For mum Sebnem Sen, a lucky draw at her office DMCC allowed her to give the best gift possible to her daughter.
“I got an entry through the draw and, when I told this over the phone to my girl Elif. She was in her school bus and she, along with her friends, starting screaming with jubilation.”
Well that says it all — Bryant carries that aura and can light up hearts no matter where he is.
“I’m thrilled to see so much of enthusiasm and excitement among everyone who have turned up here. The response has been tremendous and so has been the support. The facilities here for basketball are also impressive. These kids are ably supported by their parents and hopefully my presence here for this brief clinic would do wonders,” said Bryant before being whisked away by this security cordon.