SLAM PH Four Quarters: The #LeBronJamesTour2017 Experience

For Four Quarters, the SLAM PH writers usually answer one question each. This is a special edition of the Four Quarters. Each of the writers that witnessed the LeBron James strut his stuff in Manila will share their unique take on the experience.

Jon Carlos Rodriguez: When a king visits, you pay your respects. Bobby Ray Parks paid his respects by not flubbing a half court lob from The King and sent his gratitude before his feet even touched the ground. Japeth Aguilar paid his respects by dunking any ball that came in contact with his hands. Paul Lee paid his respects by hitting back-to-back 3s after shaking the hand of The King.

But the best tribute came from Gilas OG Ranidel de Ocampo, who paid his respects by taking his best shot at claiming the throne. The King was about to send the crowd off with a throwdown when RDO hopped on a time machine; transported to Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals; and–mimicking The King himself–attempted a historic chasedown block that would’ve blown the arena to kingdom come. He failed, utterly and miserably. But, you know, at least he tried, just how The King would’ve wanted. Respect.

Levi Verora: I’ve been to the past two LeBron James Nike tours in Manila and I can definitely say that the third one yesterday is the biggest so far; the MOA Arena was packed to the roof, and a ton of sports personalities attended as usual. Literally everywhere I look from where I was seated there was a familiar face, and really, that’s just LeBron’s gravitational pull.

Now the past two editions featured familiar set ups but this one had basically the current Gilas Pilipinas squad and a handful of alumni members being distributed into two teams, OGs and Young Bloods to battle. The OGs squad was basically Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 while the Gilas Young Bloods side had the cadets and guys like Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, Raymar Jose, and Kai Sotto to name a few. The younger team thoroughly enjoyed playing with LeBron watching from their corner, obviously. Just being in the presence of greatness could surely do wonders for you as a player.

When the three-time NBA MVP entered with under four minutes left, it was pandemonium. And he did so much in the little span, putting on a dunking show while also dishing out a handful of incredible passes to the Young Bloods. It was hardly even an exhibition game yet there are a few couple of things to take away from it — LeBron’s vision, how this game is like a ceremonial passing of the torch to the cadets, and more.

This year’s LeBron James Tour was themed Strive for Greatness, LeBron’s personal motto. And it’s fitting that it was Gilas participating once again, as that is what they want to achieve. As the national team, Gilas is the standard of Philippines basketball, and as competitors, they want to be among the elites in the world.

Alex Estoesta: Much as I (and the rest of the huge crowd at the MOA Arena) would’ve wanted to see, no, witness the King display his wares for a much longer period on the hardwood, the more than five minutes that he played was worth it. Even for a little bit, he showed just how dangerous a weapon that he is to the game just by being a power-playing floor general, if there ever was one. One moment he’d be hitting Bobby Ray Parks with an eye-in-the-sky touchdown. The next sequences will have him galloping down the floor and smash the rock against hapless onlookers, the last in which Paul Lee didn’t even bother to defend as he spun around the Gilas guard to punctuate the affair with a hammer of a throwdown.

IMG_3922-copy

One thing I didn’t expect, though, is Japeth Aguilar botching dunk attempts like a participant in the NCAA Season 93 dunk contest a day earlier, and Gary David misfiring his granadas from beyond the arc, all while LeBron was on the floor. These plays would’ve been, in local parlance, ilista na, given that the pair specializes in these types of shots. Then again, these two are sharing the floor with one of the best to have ever laced a pair of high, not to mention mid and low tops. So it’s understandable if nerves and cold feet had gotten in the way. But aside from his impressive plays that rocked MOA Arena that night, the one thing that stood on my mind was LeBron’s post-game speech.

He told everyone that he made sure to make good on his promise to return to the PH even though his plans got marred at the last minute a year ago. And that for me shows his class, an act of royalty that truly fits a King.

Ceej Tantengco: A crush of people pooled on the ground floor, chanting “LBJ! LBJ!” and holding up their phones to take a selfie with the athlete leaving the building. On the second floor, word got around that LeBron was downstairs, sending people running down the escalators in a Zark’s-level frenzy. Except it wasn’t LeBron. It was the UP Fighting Maroons’ Bright Akhuetie.

From where Bright was, it was just as surprising. He was with the Gomez de Liaño brothers and FEU’s Prince Orizu when the madness began. At first he stopped walking to explain who he was—after all, he got used to Filipino fans joking that he looked like LeBron back when played in the NCAA.

“I was setting it straight that it wasn’t me, but things got worse,” Akhuetie tweeted after being forced to run outside with his teammates. “Some followed me to the parking lot!” Later, he’d tease his friends that they were secretly his bodyguards.

Not sure what’s more Pinoy, stampeding in a mall over discounted burgers or mistaking a Nigerian student athlete for The King, but things were about to get weirder. Some people realized the mistake, and the cheers died down before taking a turn: “FPJ! FPJ!”

Leave a Reply

*