Honestly, I am not a Kobe Bryant fan since I watch the NBA and the game of basketball; I am a T-Mac Fan (Tracy McGrady). I fell in love in NBA watching the Orlando Magic Franchise (until now) of the T-Mac era and that was the time T-Mac leading the league in scoring. In that era, you can easily recognize a team by its face of the franchise e.g. Vince Carter = Toronto Raptors, Paul Pierce = Boston Celtics, Tracy McGrady = Orlando Magic, Kevin Garnett = Minnesota Timberwolves, Tim Duncan = San Antonio Spurs, Kobe Bryant = Los Angeles Lakers (or could be Shaquille O’Neal).

If Shaq and Kobe teamed up in this new era, where super teams are accepted and approved by the league standards, they might have won 10 straight championships. Obviously, the Lakers management chose Kobe Bryant to be the sole face of the franchise and to settle the feud among their two beloved stars. The rest is history, Kobe Bryant got determined more than ever, he changed numbers from 8 to 24 by the end of his first 10 years in NBA to signify growth, maturity and leadership. It was well documented that his first ten years in the league he was “literally headhunting everyone” then when he matured and changed numbers that’s where the “Mamba Mentality” was born.

Kobe Bryant knew that up and coming players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade got the athleticism he had way back then, so he got to reinvent himself and find ways to dominate the league even though the “King” has arrived in the league. “Mamba Mentality” was the term he used for the intangibles he developed through his up and down experience in the league. The first player to credit “intangibles” while playing the game, to outsmart every basketball player he faced in the court because he knew there were more athletic players than him.

Kobe Bryant proved the naysayers wrong when he won championships without Shaquille O’Neal. He won championships during Tim Duncan-led Spurs era, the coming of “King James” and the first super team in Boston Celtics. We didn’t knew at first, but we “witnessed” the greatness of Kobe Bryant first before the greatness of LeBron James in this era. Kobe Bryant take advantage of the opportunity to win in a balanced-league era and win over a super team without Shaq.

Actually, I denied Kobe Bryant’s greatness for defeating my team and for tearing up the league single-handedly. I didn’t realize that he want to be one of the greatest basketball players in history. I realized that I hate how great he was, how his mentality was flawless, how no one could shake his confidence and how he go beyond being “average”. I realized that he wanted it more than the guy next to him, even though a lot of criticism and negativity surrounded him, he took all the pounding.

And for that, our nation got moved by his commitment to excellence in basketball and it radiates all over the world. Philippines, a basketball-led nation, fell in love with Bryant’s tenacity and approach to the game. A high school kid who made an agreement with himself at a young age of 13 to be one of the greatest basketball player in the history inspired all of us to demand more from ourselves and reach our full potential.

Kobe Bryant and the Philippines

1998 – Young Kobe visited the Malacañan Palace

Kobe Bryant meets former president Joseph Estrada in 1998. Kobe Bryant visited the Philippines as a young NBA player in 1998, marking the start of his connection with Filipino fans who became ardent supporters of his Los Angeles Lakers. He was invited to dance our famous “Tinikling” folk dance and joyfully showed his footwork during the act.

2007 – Bryant went to the Philippines for a one-day visit after 9 Years

Kobe’s jersey at that time was his USA Team jersey as part of the Redeem Team, as it was his first time to join the USA National Basketball team to capture the Gold in the Olympics in 2008. He was invited for a one-day event here in Manila as part of his Kobe Bryant “Supernatural” Asian Tour. It was his first time to ride a Jeepney and it was customized and dedicated to him.

2009 – Nike Asia Tour

The third time Kobe Bryant visited the Philippines was for the charity, basketball clinic, and shoes promotion. He just won his 4th NBA championship last June 2009 then one month later he started his Nike Asian Tour and visited the Philippines in July 2009. He seemed to like the Filipino fans and their basketball spirit for going back again after his 2007 tour..

2011 – Kobe and Other NBA Stars versus PBA All-Stars

NBA Superstars was invited by the Philippines with the help of Manny Pangilinan to challenge the PBA’s best players to an exhibition game. It is the fourth time for Kobe to visit the Philippines and third year in a two year gap from 2007. They were also welcomed by our very own Manny Pacquiao who was also an avid fan of basketball. Kobe also played for an exhibition game of collegiate all-star game in a separate event.

2013 – Injured Kobe still managed to visit the Philippines

Even with torn Achilles, Kobe still embodies the “Mamba Mentality” outside the court. He managed to get in the Philippines for a press conference and for the first time, not to play with fellow Filipino basketball players.

2016 – The Black Mamba headed to the Philippines after his retirement

“Of all the places that I’ve traveled, this has so much passion and enthusiasm for the game,” Mamba said. His farewell tour continued through the Philippines and decided not to play with the players but to inspire and motivate everyone with his “Mamba Mentality”.

It’s a wrap

We are connected to Kobe for so many reasons, words cannot describe the pain we felt the first time we confirmed the news. Even though I did not choose him to be my childhood hero, his passion for the game radiates to every competitor and serves an inspiration to put the hard work in to your craft. He is committed to excellence and his success actually followed through which resulted to greatness of the one and only Kobe Bryant. Thank you so much Black Mamba for appreciating the Philippines and our enthusiasm in the game of basketball, you never know how much we missed you!