Kobe Bryant says ‘no question’ he’ll visit the Philippines again

Naveen Ganglani

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Kobe Bryant says ‘no question’ he’ll visit the Philippines again
The Lakers star discusses why he loves the Philippines, his favorite Filipino dish, and the unique reception he gets in the country

LOS ANGELES, USA – The Philippines has become a hotspot for National Basketball Association stars to visit in recent years for promotional tours and exhibition games.

Kobe Bryant, one of the best players to ever play the game, has visited the country many times. Whether for Nike, Lenovo, or the Smart exhibition game in 2011, Bryant has drawn attention each time he has come to this side of the world. 

Though the Los Angeles Lakers star recently announced that the 2015-2016 NBA season will be his last, that doesn’t mean Bryant won’t be making his way to the Philippines again. The 37-year-old believes he will have more time to check off tasks in his personal to-do list in the country soon.

“I love it there,” Bryant told Rappler at The Reserve Lofts in Downtown, Los Angeles on a breezy Monday afternoon, December 14, following the global launch of his new Nike shoes, the Kobe 11.

(WATCH: Kobe Bryant on his new shoes)

“It’s amazing,” he said of his prior visits, “I have such a great time, aside from the food. Amazing.”

His favorite dish?

“Lumpia,” he said before thinking about it for a while.

The Lakers have long been one of the most popular NBA franchises rooted for by Philippine basketball fans. 

Before the days when Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors and LeBron James’ Miami Heat took command of the NBA, Bryant’s Lakers, who won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, were the cream of the NBA Philippine fanfare crop.

“I will say that going there and enjoying the game is probably the most fun because there’s so much passion for the game there,” said Bryant, echoing the sentiment several other NBA players have shared about the country’s love for hoops.

“There’s so much, like, energy around it, and it’s a true treat for me to be there.”

One of Bryant’s most memorable visits was during a 5-city Asian tour Nike set up for him in 2011, with the Philippines as his first stop – the fourth time he had visited the country at that time.

Originally just expected to observe a game between college players and the country’s national team, Bryant eventually joined the contest. Wearing a yellow Far Eastern University jersey, the Lakers star brought the crowd out of their seats with an array of dunks, jumpers, and passes.

“It is unique, cause it’s like, it’s an honor,” Bryant said, when asked how unique the appreciation he gets from the Philippines is from the rest of the world. 

Why is that so?

“The so many reactions that I get, it’s more like, not just from a basketball standpoint,” he explained. “It’s more like, ‘You’ve inspired me to be a better doctor, you’ve inspired me to be a better musician, you’ve inspired me to a better boxer, so that means so much, because it means this game that I love to play has actually resonated beyond the game.”

Bryant has struggled this season, averaging 16.2 points, 3.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds a game while shooting 32% from the floor, per ESPN, as Los Angeles has stumbled to a 3-21 record a little over a quarter into the NBA season.

For comparison’s sake, Bryant’s career averages is 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists a game while shooting 45% from the floor.

Although the Western Conference isn’t as strong as it was last season, there’s a good chance the Lakers will miss the postseason for a third straight year, which means the end for Bryant’s career is getting nearer.

Once that’s the case, can his next visit to the Philippines come soon?

“No question. No doubt about it,” he said. “I’ll actually have more time, spending actually more time to do more camps.”

Bryant also said that he’ll now have time to do what he wants to do, which involves a more laid-back trip.

“Because of time constraints, I haven’t been able to do those things, you know what I mean?” he said of prior visits. “I’ve always wanted to come and spend more time in the Philippines, but I’ve never had the opportunity to. So I’m looking forward to actually coming out there, just relaxing, just hanging out.” – Rappler.com

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