New Orleans rookie guard Buddy Hield – a native of the Bahamas, one of five international players on the Pelicans’ preseason roster – provides the second Pelicans.com “postcard” from the team during its week-long visit to China. Hield was a guest of honor at the brand-new NBA Play Zone, essentially a Chuck E. Cheese-type restaurant and facility for children who love the game and the NBA.
What’s good, Pelicans fans? It’s Buddy Fresh, coming to you from our Global Games trip to China.
We’ve now been here for a few days, and it’s been amazing to visit China for the first time, seeing all the love the people here have and passion for basketball. We’d heard about it before, but now you get to see it for yourself up close and connect with the fans. The fans here obviously don’t get to see you every day, because it’s a long ways from America. It’s great for us to be able to give back in this way to the game of basketball.
On Friday, I joined Eric Gordon of the Rockets at an event for kids at the first-ever NBA Play Zone, which opened earlier this year in Shanghai. It was unbelievable to be around the kids – the majority of them were under 10 years old – because you see how much they keep up with basketball, and to realize that they even recognize us at such a young age. It shows how connected they are with the players in America. We are role models, so we’re trying to do whatever we can to inspire them. It’s great to see that the game is growing so much.
When I was growing up, I remember seeing famous athletes come and spend time with us in the Bahamas. Now it’s my turn to do the same, because kids look up to us. They were excited just to be in our presence, and it made it so much fun to spend some time with them.
When we were at the NBA Play Zone, I saw local kids who were only 5 or 6 that had incredible ballhandling skills, especially for someone that young. That’s great, because it shows the intense level of training they get here. Kids want it. They want to be the next Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade of the world. Like kids everywhere, the young players here just want to follow in those footsteps.
I’ve also been meeting many, many fans in Shanghai. They’ve been so friendly and so supportive. Outside our hotel, there are always people waiting for autographs or to take pictures, so I’ve stopped by and said hello as much as possible on my way to practices and events. I’ve even gotten some of them to shout out the Bahamas in videos I’ve taken with my phone… 242 to the world!