Word got out on the street. Suddenly it went public. Kobe Bryant said during the Nike Asia Tour press conference held at the Manila Pen last July 13, 2011 that he heard about the invite. Finally, it was all over the place. Tickets were sold out. Patron seats were selling at PhP25,000.00 while the Nose Bleed seats were selling at PhP 900.00 in the black market. On game day, Araneta Coliseum opened its windows to sell Upper A at Standing Room Only for PhP1,500.00.
There have been visits by notable NBA Superstars, past and present, but none of this magnitude. The Philippines has been ignored far too long for a shot at an NBA game but thanks to the resources Manny V. Pangilinan thru the MVP Sports Foundation, his team of sports enthusiasts made a bold statement and has accomplished what was deemed, the impossible.
They have made every basketball loving Filipino ‘s dream come true – to watch the best and brightest NBA players on their home floor.
For two consecutive days, excitement was everywhere. Some fans entered the coliseum with jerseys of their favorite player, most of them spectators, who follow the NBA, but some of them are as rabid as they can be. They filled the coliseum wearing their passion and admiration that is anything and everything about the NBA.
Children, teens, couples, mom, dad, grandpa, and celebrities were all captivated by their mere presence. Especially during thier pre-game shoot around, the likes of Chris Paul, arguably the best point guard in the planet, the youngest NBA MVP, Derrick Rose. Oklahoma City Thunder and fastest rising NBA Superstar, Kevin Durant with teammate James “Fear the Beard” Harden and 5-Time NBA Champion and future NBA Hall of famer, Kobe Bryant will play alongside, 3rd Year NBA veteran JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards, 2nd Year NBA Veteran Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, NBA rookie from the University of Arizona Wildcats Derrick Willams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and senior veteran from the LA Lakers Derek Fisher, appeared like curtain call. You see the smile and awe on their face. For a typical basketball fan, it was absolutely a weekend to remember. A once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the best players of the world, not as individuals on a promo tour, but together, as a team.
Fans were left in utter amusement on their first day as they were treated to an NBA style spectacle, For the 1st time, Chants of Kobe!!!, CP3!!! and MVP!!! were heard from Filipino Fans. It didn’t matter if the score ended with a shameful 26-point loss for the PBA selection. Who are we kidding, these are the best of the best were playing. What matters is that the fans got what they paid for, an unforgettable NBA charged event.
For the Smart Gilas team, it was a different story. It's a chance for our National Basketball team to shine, because the FIBA Asia Tournament is just around the corner and this game might be their yardstick. Smart Gilas Head Coach Rajko Toroman was seen touring the basketball court during the All-Stars shoot around relaxed but anxious.
After the ceremonial toss, the atmosphere was feverish. In the 1st quarter, after Japeth Aguilar tied the ball game at 6-all, a Kobe Bryant 3-pointer and a Kevin Durant slam made it a 7-point lead for the All-Stars, 13-6. Tyreke Evans had back to back baskets including a steal off JV Casio to finish the 1st 10 minutes of action with a 12-point lead, 28-16.
In the 2nd Quarter, Mac Baracael, Marcio Lassiter, including a Dondon Hontiveros 3-pointer at the 7:15 minute mark kept the Nationals in striking distance but the combination of athleticism, size and uncanny quickness and hand speed of the All-Stars overwhelmed the Smart Gilas Team.
Now seen and experienced live, we were able to verify, right before our very eyes the level of NBA Basketball. It was by definition a formal cognizance why they are the best in the business. At the end of the 1st half, the All-Stars had the biggest lead of the ballgame at 22-points.
Early in the 4th period with the game in motion, another certified superstar entered the basketball court. It was Manny Pacquiao. Kobe approached the All-time boxing great after a timeout in a fighting stance to acknowledge his presence. Afterwards, as a gesture of respect from one great athlete to another, Pacquiao approached the All-Stars bench only to be taunted by Chris Paul saying that he can last 15 seconds in the ring with one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Midway thru the 4th quarter, things started to get interesting. The Nationals were able to hold their own with their deficit down to just 8-points but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the All-Stars impeccable basketball prowess.
As the buzzer sounded, CP3, Rose, Durant, KB24 and the rest showed their appreciation to the thousands of fans that trooped to the coliseum by giving away their jerseys and game shoes. Some got away with photos while others got hold of autographs as memorabilia.
The games’ best players had a glimpse of our love for the game as well as our hospitality. Thanks to the MVP Sports Foundation, the Philippines has been given the opportunity to audition for the NBA Calendar of overseas games. Fans here are definitely ready for more – NBA Action.
Photos by: Michael G. Yu – Rebound MagazinePublished in UNO Magazine On-Line