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NBA Star Kobe Bryant Encourages 'Healthy Competition' in Youth Sports

In a sit-down discussion with former president Bill Clinton on Monday evening, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant suggested that "healthy competition" needs to remain in youth sports, per ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.

"There's a lot of people out there who don't believe in having healthy competition," Bryant said. "I think we have to make it enjoyable and for kids to understand that there's a certain spirit of competition that's fun. It's not nasty, it's not aggressive, it's just fun competition, and I think when you have that kids will go out and enjoy themselves. They'll pick up their activity instead of just plopping down in front of the TV."

Bryant and Clinton took part in the opening of the third annual Clinton Health Matters Conference in La Quinta, Calif., a three-day event focused on "activating wellness in every generation." The NBA star and the former president specifically focused on youth sports during their conversation, which was moderated by ESPN's Mike Greenberg.

"This may be the least active generation of young people in history," Clinton said, per Shelburne. "The problem is that this can have lasting, damaging effects on all of them and actually wind up shortening their life expectancy. So we're doing this because there are simple solutions to this problem that will pay massive dividends."

According to research presented at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in November, children across the world are approximately 15 percent worse off in terms of cardiovascular fitness than their parents were back when they were young. Between 4 and 6 percent of all U.S. youth are "severely obese," according to an American Heart Association scientific statement published online in the journal Circulation back in September.

About one-third of U.S. children ages 10 to 17 are considered either overweight (15.6 percent) or obese (15.7) percent, according to the latest National Survey of Children's Health from the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.

Bryant doesn't believe that warning children about long-term health risks will incentivize them to become physically active, however. Instead, he told Clinton that promoting good-hearted competition among youths will get their competitive juices flowing.

"As a kid growing up, it was fun trash talking with your buddies and competing with your friends," Bryant said. "That's what made getting out and being active fun. I certainly wasn't thinking about health issues 30-40 years from now."

Along with the Clinton-Bryant conversation, a panel discussion involving former NFL star Herschel Walker, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp tackled a host of youth-sports related topics. The evening's affairs will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Feb. 9, per Shelburne.

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