Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — Renowned global sports icon and all-time leading scorer in the NBA, LeBron James, embarked on his inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia. During his stay, he actively participated in two training sessions alongside Saudi national basketball team players, 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 delight at welcoming LeBron James, saying: “We are honored to welcome LeBron James to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today. The enthusiasm displayed by the players and the smiles on their faces upon his arrival to the court brought us immense joy. I would like to extend my gratitude to him for the passion he exhibited during the training session and for dedicating his time to inspire the next generation of athletes in our Kingdom.”
Tashkandi added: “LeBron is more than just an athlete, and his impact on the youth extends beyond the realm of 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 come to the Kingdom play a significant role in inspiring, unifying, and exciting the new generation of athletes in Saudi Arabia, and I believe LeBron is one of the best individuals capable of 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.
The player known as “King James” commenced his journey in the NBA 20 years ago, breaking numerous distinguished records. He has won four league championships, been awarded NBA’s Most Valuable Player four times, received the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award four times, and secured two Olympic gold medals. LeBron has also been named an NBA All-Star 13 times.
Saudi Arabia has emerged as a prominent destination for hosting major global sporting events. Notable international events held in the Kingdom include the FIBA 3×3 Basketball World Tour, hosted twice in Jeddah.
Players, both male and female, expressed their joy and amazement 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.”
Sport in Saudi Arabia has undergone significant transformations in recent years, 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 due 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.