Eight reasons why Kobe Bryant is a rock star in China

ByThomas Neumann Via <a Href="http://espn.go.com/" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
April 12, 2016, 8:13 AM

&#151; -- The illustrious career of Kobe Bryant is coming to an end.

The Los Angeles Lakers' superstar guard revealed in November that this NBA season would be his last. Now, the ultimate game in his basketball journey will be staged Wednesday, when the Utah Jazz visit Staples Center.

But you already knew that.

What many observers in the United States don't know, however, is that the 18-time All-Star's absence from the game will probably be felt just as significantly in China, where he is second only to native son Yao Ming in terms of basketball popularity. Thanks in large part to the emergence of Yao, China's NBA viewership exploded during the early 2000s. Conveniently for Bryant, he was in his prime -- and Michael Jordan was finally retired for good.

Kobe's brand has been aggressively marketed in China, and his rise there was swift. He became China's Jordan, and he has earned a handsome supplemental income because of that status. To wit, here's what LeBron James said before the Beijing Olympics in 2008: "I thought I was famous until I got here with Kobe."

There are myriad reasons why Kobe is a rock star in China. With that in mind, we match Bryant's original jersey number by examining eight connections between Kobe and China:

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