WIItnessing History – LeBron's Manila Visit 2013

Once again I have been very privileged to have been able to see yet another NBA superstar, and this time no less than the biggest star of them all, with 2 rings, 4 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, and 2 All-Star MVPs, 2 Olympic golds, 2 Bronze, 1 Fiba gold, current NBA Champion and current MVP LeBron James.

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The day started out at Shangrila Makati where all of us media listened to a ten minute interview between him and Boom Gonzales.

Media were unfortunately unable to ask questions ‘due to time constraints’, which was unfortunate not necessarily because I had anything to ask, but because Q&A sessions are almost always a riot. When Kobe came there was a guy who was taking so much time leading up to his question remembering stories of his being a fan of Kareem, Magic and the old Lakers, that I could swear he forgot his question so he ended up rambling about his College days.

Then there was this other guy who tried to ask a ‘two part question’ even if there was a strict one question rule, so when he got to the part where he said ‘..and now my follow up question is..’, he was duly cut off by the host resulting in howls of laughter.

So yeah in not so many words I’m kind of agreeing to the idea of cancelling the Q&A basically because no one asks anything of consequence anyway, (sample inane questions: How do you like the Phils.? What is your favorite Pinoy food?), and also because the interviewee is usually fairly tired of it all at that point, resorting to the droning non – information answers NBA guys are trained to answer after being asked the same thing 1000x (sample answer: uhhh, well yeah y’know, so long as you give a hundred percent, give your all, love your fans, and respect the game of basketball, thanks to Nike for bringing me to the Philippines, Mahhbuheyy!)

So sure yeah he can repeat the answer to question #1 as to question #5 and no one would notice, but I miss the Q&A anyway for above stated reasons.

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We skipped his afternoon trip to BGC and went straight to MOA Arena, where we saw the (recently victorious) Under 16 Men’s Philippine team run drills and play against Smart Gilas. The whole Arena was packed to the rafters and I could only gaze in awe at how many people were willing to sit at the nosebleed sections just to watch this one guy play.

After a few minutes of waiting in blaring music he finally arrived.

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What follows next is as expected, highlight after highlight of dunk after dunk by both LeBron and any number of capable local guys, the highlight of which of course is Kobe Paras’ ‘facial‘:

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Which isn’t a facial at all in fact, it’s a layup drill where it teaches the offensive player to concentrate while a ‘defender’ keeps his hands in the air to bother him, but we’re not saying that because everyone wants to believe a 16 year old just dunked over LeBron.

The highlight for me are the people, really. They just oohed and aahed over absolutely everything LeBron did. “omg lebron’s walking over here“, “omg lebron’s going over there“, “wow lebron is shooting a jumper“, “oh lebron missed“, “oh lebron made it“, “oh lebron’s tying his shoes“, etc. etc. Lebron could suddenly strap a pink tutu and rap to the tune of The Hills Are Alive from The Sound of Music and people would still lap it up.

I might sound jaded but truth is I appreciated how happy people were at just seeing the guy. It really didn’t matter what he did. People applauded the missed dunks just as much as the made ones. They were seeing their idol finally, the guy that got everyone glued to their tvs. The guy everyone opinionated over as to how he should have made a personal decision we have no business involving ourselves in on Facebook and Twitter. The guy guys like me rely on so we can write about him so as to keep people visiting our blogs and websites (Go Lebron, go!). There was that guy right there in the flesh. You could see it in the wide eyed wonder and permanent smiles on the faces of the people around me. “omg that’s Lebron James.”

So anyway, here are other highlights:

First thanks to Basketball Exchange official photographer @jrodulio for tagging along and keeping the whole thing interesting.

IMG_20130723_121612We hung out and he treated me to a hotdog at this wonderful paradise called S&R which is almost as good as seeing LeBron.

Second, the local dunkers came up with stuff that was nothing to sneeze at. The best for me was Ray Park’s all alone serious rim rattling slam that was amazing by any standard. Teen Paras’ dunks were of course exciting, and we always knew Gabe Norwood can come up with some pretty decent stuff, but Parks is pretty exciting for a ‘small’. I wish there was a video of it but I couldn’t find any.

Third is finally meeting two great guys I’ve been trading tweets with since I’ve started on Twitter, @favianpua of All Time Fave the man himself @hooph of hoo.ph. Meeting you guys has been a long time coming and I sincerely hope we can have more time to chat soon.

But finally and without a doubt I’d love to extend big big love to the people at @nikeph and Ogilvy, whom I have had a lasting, terrific relationship with for over five years already. I cannot express enough how appreciative and privileged I am to be associated with these wonderful guys. This is probably sounding like one of those long thank yous at the end of lunchtime tv shows but I don’t care, I mean every word. If there was any emotion I felt at Lebron’s coming it is that of gratitude and indebtedness.

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