Kobe Bryant gets all the attention off the court

Society Materials 11 August 2008 23:48 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US basketball superstar Kobe Bryant remained the focus of a lot of attention at the Beijing Olympics Monday, even if he did not play with the Dream Team.

Argentine football players - all quite used to being in the media spotlight themselves - were thrilled to meet Bryant shortly after they arrived in Beijing, ahead of a game against Serbia on Wednesday.

"When we were going for lunch, we ran into Kobe Bryant. It was really great, because he approached us and spoke in Spanish to wish us luck in the Games," said striker Sergio Aguero.

The Atletico de Madrid star - also the boyfriend of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona's daughter - admitted that he had his photograph taken with his idol.

Midfielder Javier Mascherano had already said ahead of the encounter that he would try and meet Bryant in Beijing.

"I had my picture taken with Kobe Bryant, it was a great moment. I think Kobe is an example of the true sportsman, besides being a very pleasant and quiet man," Mascherano said.

Hours earlier, Bryant made the most of a little free time in his packed Olympic agenda to watch a beach volleyball game that saw defending champions Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego of Brazil make it to the next round.

The Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard told reporters he liked to watch other sports at the Games, "particularly when they involve the best."

Dressed in the Dream Team uniform, the basketball star cheered the Brazilians' two-set victory over Renato Gomes and Jorge Terceiro, who were also born in Brazil but now compete for Georgia with the names Geor and Gia.

Bryant had been invited to the match by Brazil's beach volleyball coach. Still, Ricardo Santos admitted he was surprised to see the superstar a day after the United States basketball team crushed host China 107-70. "I did not know he was coming," Santos told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.

"Bryant greeted us from the stands as we were warming up. I would have liked to talk to him personally, and even to have a photo taken, but it was not possible at the time. I was glad he was there, mainly because it helps publicize our sport," Santos added.