LeBron James ignites Saudi basketball enthusiasm during landmark visit


LeBron James, the iconic figure in global sports and the all-time leading scorer in the NBA, made his inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia. During his stay, he actively engaged in two training sessions alongside members of the Saudi national basketball team, including promising young talents and female athletes from the national women’s team.

Dr. Ghassan Tashkandi, President of the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation, expressed his excitement at welcoming LeBron James, stating, “We are honored to welcome LeBron James to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today.

The enthusiasm displayed by the players and the joy on their faces upon his arrival to the court brought us immense joy. I extend my gratitude to him for his dedication in inspiring the next generation of athletes in our Kingdom.”

Tashkandi further emphasized LeBron’s impact, saying, “LeBron is more than just an athlete; his influence on the youth goes beyond sports. I am confident that his visit today and his interaction with the players have created lifelong memories and fulfilled their dreams. Star athletes who visit the Kingdom play a significant role in inspiring, uniting, and exciting the new generation of athletes in Saudi Arabia, and LeBron is undoubtedly one of the best at achieving this.”

As part of his three-day stay in the Kingdom, participants in the training session, organized by the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation at the Al-Azem Academy in Riyadh, had a unique opportunity to benefit from LeBron’s diverse expertise in dribbling and shooting.

LeBron, often referred to as “King James,” began his NBA journey two decades ago, setting numerous records and achieving accolades such as four league championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player awards, four NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards, and two Olympic gold medals. He has also been named an NBA All-Star 13 times.

Saudi Arabia has become a prominent host for major global sporting events, including the FIBA 3×3 Basketball World Tour, held twice in Jeddah.

Both male and female players expressed their delight and astonishment at LeBron James’ visit to Riyadh. Sixteen-year-old player Ibrahim Qattan said, “LeBron has played a pivotal role in my life. I can’t describe how happy I am today.

My aspirations since childhood were to become like him.” His teammate Abdullah Basha added, “Since childhood, I’ve been watching LeBron consistently on TV and on my phone, so seeing him here today playing basketball is incredibly wonderful. I thought I was in a dream and wanted to wake up.”

Aseel Falatah, a player at the Academy, said, “As women, we’ve had many opportunities to engage in various sports in the Kingdom. Today’s experience feels more like a dream than reality. I learned a lot from him and his skills.”

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has witnessed significant transformations in its sports landscape, with a 50% increase in sports federations over the past four years and a rise in adult sports participation and physical activity to 48%, up from just 13% in 2015.

Basketball, in particular, has seen remarkable developments, with a 54% increase in participation since 2018, thanks to dedicated programs across the Kingdom. The first generation of Saudi female basketball players now comprises 240 players, and the number of registered teams has significantly increased from 45 teams in 2018 to 105 teams this year, including 28 women’s teams.

The Kingdom is also represented by six national teams, both male and female, in regional and international tournaments.

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