It’s Kobe versus King James.
But while he won’t quite be going up against LeBron, Filipino basketball fans will still be treated to a duel between Bryant and a host of NBA stars against a Philippine Basketball Association selection led by two-time MVP James Yap.
“In behalf of the MVP Sports Foundation, we would like to announce that we’re going to have a select group of NBA players led by Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul playing against the best from the PBA as well as our very own SMART-Gilas,” said Chot Reyes, head coach of the Grand Slam-seeking Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, in a press conference on Friday.
Bryant will be making his playing-coaching debut in a couple of charity exhibition games, on July 23 against the PBA all-stars and on July 24 against the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team.
Joining Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Paul, the star point guard of the New Orleans Hornets, will be other notable names like former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 draft Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, center DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and James Harden, the sixth man of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and two more players yet to be named.
Bryant’s eight-man squad will be going up against a 16-man PBA selection coached by Reyes, which include Yap and Marc Pingris of B-MEG, Mark Caguioa and JC Intal of Barangay Ginebra, Arwind Santos, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Alex Cabagnot of Petron Blaze, Ryan Reyes, Jason Castro and Larry Fonacier of Talk ‘N Text, Sonny Thoss and LA Tenorio of Alaska, Sol Mercado of Meralco, Gary David of Powerade, Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine and Danny Seigle of Air 21.
“It’s going to be the best of the PBA against some of the best of the NBA,” said Reyes.
Training for SMART-Gilas
Five more PBA players, Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams, Jimmy Alapag of Meralco, Asi Taulava of Meralco, and Dondon Hontiveros of Air 21, will reinforce SMART-Gilas in the second exhibition game. De Ocampo will be making his debut for SMART-Gilas, which will use the series to toughen up for the FIBA-Asia Championship in September.
“When we broached this idea a couple of months back, the idea is to get the NBA stars here and play their hearts out,” said Reyes.
SMART-Gilas operations manager Butch Antonio said they expect a competitive game against the NBA stars and not purely to entertain the fans.
“We come to win. It will be tough, but at least if we lose, we just have to keep the game close,” he added.
Burning the lines
Reyes, along with MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio, burned the lines the past few days to put together the event.
When asked about the price of bringing the NBA stars over, Reyes refused to give details.
“It’s between expensive and very expensive, let’s leave it at that,” said Reyes.
Panlilio, however, pointed out that it was for a good cause that was close to the heart of MVP sports chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday.
“This is MVP’s gift to the public,” said Panlilio. “We’re doing this to inspire other corporate organizations to do similar things of raising funds using sports.”
Full support from the PBA
When the PBA was first broached the idea, the league brass jumped at the chance to be part of the event.
“We’re happy to inform [the public] that this was unanimously approved by the Board,” said PBA chairman Rene Pardo. “The PBA will not let this event pass.”
PBA commissioner Chito Salud added that this event is a rare treat for the fans.
“I am very happy for our fans, I am happy for our players for this wonderful opportunity and I am happy for the PBA to be given this rare privilege,” said Salud.
But despite the star-studded lineup, one big star who almost confirmed but ended up definitely not coming was Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin.
“His brother is getting married that is why he couldn’t make it, but he really would have loved to come here,” added Reyes.
Griffin is the reigning NBA slam dunk champion and is one of the most exciting players in the league.
‘Let’s fill Araneta to the rafters’
Reyes, meanwhile, had a message for Filipino basketball fans: “Let’s fill the Araneta Coliseum to the rafters.”
Tickets will be available through the TicketNet hotline at 911-5555, at the following prices: Patron P5500, Lower Box P3800, Upper Box A, 1500, Upper Box B 800, General Admission 350.
Source: Reynaldo Belen, InterAksyon.com