Kobe Bryant visits China on Nike tour

Greeted by a forest of upraised arms, Kobe Bryant received a warm reception Thursday in China.

Of course, Bryant gets this everywhere. When he enters and leaves a Lakers game at Staples Center. At the London Olympics. And, in the case documented in the photo above, at an event in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province as part of his yearly Nike tour.

Bryant told The Times in February that he found that the Chinese were especially welcoming when he hosted a clinic in 1998.

“I enjoyed being around that,” Bryant said. “I thought I’d come back every summer and help them out as much as I can.”

This is the seventh summer in a row that Bryant has visited China, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On this trip, according to published accounts, Bryant has hosted training clinics at Jinan in China’s Shandong province and in Wuhan in Hubei province. Bryant attended a charity dinner hosted by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, which raises educational funds for needy children in both China and the United States. And it’s also safe to presume he’ll participate in various events promoting his Nike sneakers.

Wherever Bryant goes on the rest of the tour, it’s likely he’ll meet the same enthusiastic crowds.

“I saw they were extremely passionate about the game,” Bryant said in February, reflecting on previous trips. “I had a great time over there. They welcomed me with open arms and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

-Mark Medina