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Quake teen in hoop heaven - thanks to Kobe
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08:52, March 24, 2009

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Li Anqiang is a hero in his school and his community for saving the life of a classmate during the Sichuan earthquake.

He has a hero, too: NBA star Kobe Bryant.

And even though the 17-year-old student of Beichuan High School in Sichuan has lost the use of both legs, he hasn't lost the passion for basketball because he adores the Los Angeles shooting guard's skills.

Now, he has a basketball signed by Bryant - and words of admiration and encouragement from his idol.

On Feb 27, Li emailed Bryant through the popular portal Sina.com, expressing his admiration and asking for a signed basketball.

He asked if "Uncle Kobe" had heard about the quake that claimed nearly 70,000 people - and said he still loved basketball because of Bryant.

"I can no longer stand up or run but I can still shoot hoops from my wheelchair

"I will not give up, but will keep on playing because you are my idol."

Li sent a picture of himself playing basketball from his wheelchair, saying: "I will keep the basketball in my room and look at it everyday. It will give me strength I want to be a real man, a man useful to society."

In his reply, Bryant said he was moved, hailing Li as a "strong boy whose attitude toward fate was amazing".

He said he was happy that Li still loved basketball and added Li looked cool shooting a hoop from the wheelchair.

Bryant said he knew about the earthquake and hoped that all the people in the quake zone could be as strong as Li.

The teen's resolve is there for all to see.

"I have to study harder to enter a good university, to support my family. We are poor. I have a grandmother in her 80s and a younger sister who is in sixth grade," Li told China Daily.

"And I can never do heavy, manual labor," Li said.

Li comes from the mountainous ethnic Qiang village in Xiaoba town. He lost his legs in the 8.0-magnitude quake that struck the region on May 12 last year, when he made room for a classmate who was trapped with him under the rubble. She was unscathed as a result of his act but during aftershocks, Li's legs were buried under the rubble and had to be amputated.

Li was good in sports like table tennis and swimming before he lost his legs.

Standing 1.74m tall before the quake, the teen now reaches 87cm without his artificial limbs - but that has also not stopped him.

"He plays basketball and table tennis very well on his wheelchair," said Wang Zhihang, 53, a volunteer from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, who has helped look after Li since last July.

Li's mother Wang Fengqiong, 36, told China Daily her son has been in high spirits ever since receiving Bryant's letter and autographed basketball.

With his mind on good grades, Li gets up at 5:30 am every day to prepare for school.

School principal Liu Yachun said: "After a hectic schedule in school, Li, who has never met a foreigner, also studies English before going to bed."

That's because Li has heard that Bryant might visit China this year, said Huang Peng, an editor at Sina.com.

"He is studying English so that he can talk to Kobe," said Li Yong, the student's 38-year-old father. "Kobe told him that like playing basketball, one has to practice to become perfect."

Source: China Daily

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