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NBA star James Harden makes young Taiwanese players' day

KAOHSIUNG--Houston Rockets star James Harden caused a stir yesterday when he appeared at the Kaohsiung City Youth Basketball Court in Southern Taiwan.

Harden, a first-time NBA all-star in 2013 whose popularity in Taiwan has soared since teaming up with fellow Rocket Jeremy Lin, the first NBA player of Taiwanese descent, arrived in Kaohsiung earlier in the day for a three-day visit.

The 24-year-old shooting guard responded enthusiastically to his screaming fans, performing an impromptu robotic dance in the paint to the accompaniment of lively music.

Visiting Taiwan at the invitation of a sportswear brand, he coached members of the High School Basketball League (HBL) in the Euro step, which helps players attack the basket, and the drop step, which helps players on the post break free from defenders.

Harden, who was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, also demonstrated his superb basketball shooting and dribbling skills.

At the end of the rare one-hour training session, Harden presented autographed basketball shoes to the two HBL players who got top scores in two rounds of a shooting contest.

Kao Chien-yi, one of the winners, said he felt nervous at the start playing in front of a big NBA star.

“I felt more at ease after seeing Harden doing his robotic dancing to entertain his fans,” Kao said, adding that he was impressed by Harden's good rapport with the fans.

Before his departure, Harden gave away four signed basketballs.

He later traveled to the famous Love River in the southern port city to watch a dragon boat race being held to mark Dragon Boat Festival.

Kaohsiung was the second stop of Harden's current Asian tour. He had just ended a visit to Guangzhou in southern China, where he attended a Nike-sponsored basketball training camp.

He held a chat session with Taiwanese fans on Google+ Wednesday evening.

Harden will play with Taiwan's national basketball team in Taipei Thursday before departing the following day.

Lin, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit Taiwan again in August. It will be the third consecutive summer that Lin has hosted a youth basketball camp in Taiwan.

Local fans will be able to see Lin and Harden play together in Taipei Oct. 13 when the Rockets will encounter the Indiana Pacers in a warm-up game ahead of the opening of the 2013-14 NBA season.

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NBA Houston Rockets guard James Harden, right, offers a few basketball pointers at the Kaohsiung City Youth Basketball Court in southern Taiwan, yesterday. As a first-time NBA all-star in 2013, Harden's popularity in Taiwan has soared since teaming up with fellow Rocket Jeremy Lin, the first NBA player of Taiwanese descent. He arrived in Kaohsiung yesterday for a three-day visit. (CNA)

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