LeBron James’ Witness History tour in the Philippines lasted just 24 hours, but for the thousands of Filipinos who came to see the two-time NBA champion and reigning MVP the experience could last a lifetime.
Basketball runs deep in the Southeast Asian nation, which is known for its more than 7,000 islands and very diverse population. Filipinos are so crazy about basketball that they treat their basketball heroes like kings. Kobe Bryant has been to the Philippines six times, and in 2011 he brought along his NBA friends Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and James Harden for an unforgettable exhibition game.
LeBron’s July 23 visit to Manila, the country’s capital city, was his first overseas trip representing Nike and he was blown away by the amount of adulation he received from the fans and the media.
Before he set foot on the court LeBron sat down with Philippine TV personality Boom Gonzalez for an interview. The video is 19 minutes long, but the actual interview lasts about 11 minutes. LeBron talked about how passionate Filipinos are about the game of basketball and he also discussed winning his first championship and having to defend it the following season. Here’s the full video:
The highlight of the day was the basketball showcase featuring King James at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The Miami Heat star joined local hoopsters from high school, collegiate and professional teams, working on their basketball skills at a clinic.
The main event culminated in James coaching and participating in an exhibition game that featured the nation’s collegiate stars against the Philippine’s national team — also known as Gilas Pilipinas. Gilas Pilipinas will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain after finishing second at the FIBA Asia Championship. It’s the first time since 1978 that a team from the Philippines will be represented at the World Cup.
Team LeBron, which included National University’s Bobby Ray Parks and Far Eastern University’s Terrence Romeo, made it close but the national team led by Philippine Basketball Association standout Japeth Aguilar prevailed by two points at the end of the 10-minute scrimmage.
The four-time NBA MVP thrilled the crowd by knocking down his first two 3-point shots, and threw down a nasty reverse slam dunk that sent the packed arena into a frenzy. Ranidel de Ocampo may have gotten posterized by King James, but 10-15 years from now he can brag about it. Watch the play:
James had an opportunity to win the game late but he missed his last two shots. “The reason why I missed those last two shots,” James said in an address to the crowd, “is because my jersey is too damn small.”
James said he enjoyed his time in Manila so much that he may just come back for an encore. “This is overwhelming with all the people here,” James said. “I can’t believe it’s my first time here, understanding how great basketball is here. This is definitely not my last.”