Kobe to be Honored by Asia Society

Kobe BryantAs provided by the Asia Society:

Asia Society Southern California will honor Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Olympic Gold Medalist and the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player, on June 30, 2009 at its annual gala dinner in Los Angeles. Bryant’s popularity extends beyond the United States and Asia.

As a consummate bridge builder, Bryant’s popularity has risen along with the growth of basketball worldwide. Last summer, Nike China launched a reality TV show called Kobe Mentu or “Kobe’s Disciples.” The finalists traveled to the U.S. and their experience learning about basketball from Bryant became a six-episode documentary. Bryant’s jersey is the most popular piece of NBA licensed apparel in China.

In announcing Mr. Bryant’s selection, the Chairman of Asia Society Southern California, Donald Tang, noted, “Genuine understanding between people begins at the grass roots level. Kobe Bryant has done wonderful work connecting the youth of Asia with America. He is committed to continuing and expanding that work in the U.S., in China, and throughout the world. The Asia Society Southern California “Global Ambassador Award” recognizes Kobe Bryant as an outstanding humanitarian building global bridges of good will through sport.

“I am honored to receive this award from the Asia Society Southern California,” Bryant said. “It has been a privilege to work with so many young Chinese athletes, and young people around the globe. Sports truly is a universal language, and bringing together the youth of China and the United States through basketball is extremely rewarding.”

That same night, Timothy J. Leiweke, President and CEO of AEG, the Los Angeles-based company that also owns STAPLES Center, will receive the Asia Society “Global Corporate Leadership Award.” Under his leadership, Leiweke has built AEG into one of the world’s most innovative and successful sports and entertainment organizations. Recently, in partnership with the NBA, AEG announced plans to build and operate ten new arenas in China in the coming years. As part of this initiative, the joint venture has begun management of the Wukesong arena, site of the 2008 Olympic basketball games in addition to having begun construction of an arena in Shanghai and breaking ground on another in Guangzhou.

Past Asia Society honorees include philanthropist Eli Broad, PIMCO’s Bill Gross, News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, Viacom’s Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The sponsors and one thousand anticipated guests of the 2009 Asia Society Southern California Gala will enjoy a silent auction filled with exclusive sports memorabilia followed by an awards ceremony paying tribute to the evening’s honorees. The Gala will be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, the Asia Society provides a forum for building awareness of the more than thirty countries broadly defined as the Asia-Pacific region – the area from Japan to Iran, and from Central Asia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Through art exhibitions and performances, films, lectures, seminars and conferences, publications and assistance to the media, and materials and programs for students and teachers, the Asia Society presents the uniqueness and diversity of Asia.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1985, Asia Society Southern California is an independently funded regional Center that creates its own programs and activities. Home to the largest Asian population in the United States, Los Angeles is a vibrant microcosm of Asian and American relations. Asia Society Southern California is supported by contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.