Published: July 24, 2013
Miami Heat’s LeBron James waves to the media during yesterday’s press conference at the Shangri-La Mall in Makati for his one-day visit. (Tony Pionilla)
When LeBron James surveyed the throng before him, the NBA superstar of the Miami Heat finally realized what his coach Eric Spoelstra had told him before coming.
In a hectic day that began with a visit at the Nike Store at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City, LeBron spent the rest of his 24-hour visit being amazed by what he saw.
There were crowds everywhere. They chanted his name, shouted “MVP! MVP! MVP
“My coach told me all about how big basketball here is. I’m also passionate about it,” said James as if trying to connect to what many already knew.
“He said it’s a great country and the people are passionate about what they love and what they believe in,” said James, about what Spoelstra told him.
Spoelstra, whose mother is from Laguna, had visited the country twice and conducted clinics.
Prior to his Nike visit, LeBron was at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati where he held a press conference. The question-and-answer portion was subsequently scrapped owing to his tight schedule.
Then he went to the Mall of Asia Arena for the final part of his visit and the crowd there just went bonkers.
A good portion had lined up for days trying to get a ticket and many more were turned away. Tickets, given away for free, were being sold by as much as P5,000 online.
GILAS JOINS FUN
At the MOA Arena, James capped off his one-day tour with skills challenge participated by some local Nike basketball endorsers, including the national team Gilas Pilipinas.
James’ introduction was similar to what he had four years ago when he was introduced by the Miami Heat as loud hip-hop music, dazzling lights, fireworks and highlight reels of his games were shown on a giant screen to the delight of the crowd.
As he entered, the crowd just went wild.
Its level of excitement went even higher when James stepped on the hardwood, where he conducted a quick clinic with the Filipino players. James also played a 10-minute 5-on-5, acting as playing coach for the collegiate players against Gilas Pilipinas.
James did not disappoint his fans as he delivered several rim-rattling dunks and booming three-pointers.
However, with time running out and with the opposing team up, 29-27, he failed to score on a lay-up.
Still, it was memorable for James, and to some 15,000 fans who filled the arena.
Needless to say, LeBron was so happy with the reception, he vowed to return.
“I can’t believe it’s my first time here and it definitely won’t be my last.”
Though LeBron’s visit is partly aimed to promote a shoe brand, he also hopes that his presence will inspire his Filipino fans, the young in particular, for them to strive harder so they can achieve their goals just like he did.
“I love the game of basketball, and to come here, I just want to inspire everyone,” said James, who won his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) after leading Miami to its second straight NBA championship last June.
The 28-year-old James arrived last Monday in a private Gulf Stream jet. He disembarked after 25 minutes and he and his entourage quickly made their way to the Shangri-La Hotel.
During his media briefing, LeBron downplayed his role with the Heat, saying it would not have been possible without the help of his teammates.
“No matter how good one individual is, it takes a team to win a championship,” he said.
As for his legacy, LeBron said it was too early to talk about it.
“I don’t think about it [his legacy]. I’m 28-years-old. I have a lot more to prove. I’ve got a lot more to accomplish.”