Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant will serve as a global ambassador for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The Black Mamba shared the announcement on social media last night, revealing that he will join Yao Ming, who became an official ambassador for the event in December 2016.
As ambassador, Bryant will help promote the World Cup, which will tip off in China on August 31, and take part in activities leading up to the event, according to FIBA, which said Bryant is the most followed NBA player on Chinese social media with 6.84 million followers.
In FIBA’s press release, Bryant discussed his longstanding passion for helping to grow basketball internationally:
“Growing up in Italy and spending many years visiting China, I have always appreciated the global impact that basketball has had on the positive development of young people. I’m honored FIBA has invited me to serve as an ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. I hope my participation inspires and motivates the best players from the 32 participating teams to represent their respective country on the world’s biggest stage. I look forward to seeing who will lift the trophy next year.”
The group stage in the 2019 FIBA World Cup will expand from 24 to 32 teams. The top 8 teams, including Japan as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics (where 2 teams each come from the Americas and Europe; and the top teams from Africa, Asia and Oceania), will qualify for the men’s basketball event in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.