Thousands of die-hard Kobe Bryant fans made sure the “Black Mamba” felt Manila’s love, just 3 months since the Laker star formally retired after 20 seasons in the NBA.
With chants of Ko-be! Ko-be! during the hour-long workout he conducted with some of the country’s collegiate players led by De la Salle’s Jeron Teng and outgoing Far Eastern University stars Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia, the event, dubbed “Mamba Night”, drew a full house crowd on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 5-time NBA champion, the game’s best closer, didn’t play a single minute, nor did he perform some dunks for the Filipino fans.
But his mere presence was enough to bring life for Pinoy fans, who patiently waited for him to come out after filling the Big Dome beginning at 2 p.m.
Bryant, who capped his 20-year NBA career with a 60-point outing against the Utah Jazz on April 28, said his pro basketball stint has always been a constant quest to get better.
“Mamba mentality means to be in a constant quest to be the best version of yourself. That’s ‘what the mentality is,” said Bryant, who emerged from the dark-colored, giant stage with fireworks and a dazzling display of light.
“It’s not a finite thing, it’s a constant quest to be better today than yesterday, to be better tomorrow.”
With this same mentality, he challenged the UAAP Selection to up the ante of the workout after going through 3 shooting drills while being assisted by Meralco assistant coach Xavier Nunag.
Teng and his La Salle teammates’ Ricci Rivero and Andrei Caracut, comprised the UAAP selection, along with Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Black, Jolo Mendoza and Tyler Tio as well as Belo, Tolomia and Roger Pogoy of FEU.
The collegiate squad, coached by Bryant himself, later on, faced the Jimmy Alapag-mentored PBA team for a 12-minute quarter.
Meralco’s Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge and rookies Baser Amer and Chris Newsome, with Barangay Ginebra’s high-flying Chris Ellis played for the PBA Selection.
Simulating an actual game situation where the PBA team was up, 78-70, Bryant challenged the UAAP Selection to put on the “Mamba mentality” as the college players try to overcome that deficit.
The PBA selection prevailed, 32-25 in the 12-minute game.
Before bidding farewell to the Filipinos fans, Bryant was on hand to witness the unveiling of a banner at the Big Dome, bearing a giant silhouette photo of himself. – By Richard Dy
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