MANILA, Philippines – They came to touch lives; instead they left inspired.
From Filipino-American Los Angeles Laker Jordan Clarkson to Utah Jazz’s Trey Burke and NBA legend Horace Grant, all were moved by the 60 kids from Barangay 105 in Tondo, Manila who participated in an NBA Cares basketball clinic Saturday, May 23.
“This is real love out here, this is what I connect to. This is a good feeling for me,” said an utterly speechless Clarkson, whose mother Annette hails from Pampanga.
“Some of these kids ain’t got the social media so being able to come out here, interact with them, talk to them, it’s just been awesome.”
“It’s just the way that they love the game, the passion they have for it. It’s so easy to relate to a country like this,” Utah point guard Burke shared what was special about the group of kids he taught. One group he handled won the pass and shoot drill.
“For me having the same passion for basketball and coming over here and them having the same passion, it’s easy to fit in.”
Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
The NBA stars conducted the clinic, teaching kids basic basketball skills such as dribbling, passing and shooting. More importantly, they emphasized the values of teamwork and discipline.
The kids, who are under non-profit organization Project PEARLS (peace, education, aspiration, respect, love, and smiles), participated in several drills that forced them to rely on each other to win. It also tested their patience and persistence in getting each step done right.
Clarkson was overwhelmed with the support and love for basketball that his fellow Filipinos have shown so far in his first ever visit to the Philippines.
“These kids out here, you don’t see that in the United States. It’s really touching,” said the 22-year old named to this season’s NBA All-Rookie First Team. “I don’t even know what to say right now, it’s great though. I’m definitely coming back, I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Burke, on the other hand, couldn’t even compare the Tondo basketball clinic to the ones he participated in as a child in the US.
“I’ve never been any place to where basketball brings the youth together the way it does here. It kind of opened my eyes to realize how much they love basketball over here.”
While Grant admitted observing how the underprivileged children of various ages listened attentively, responded lively and executed enthusiastically every instruction at the clinic is something he had never seen before.
“These kids are so special here with their passion and enthusiasm to learn and to be here for us,” explained the former 4-time NBA champion who played for the Chicago Bulls and Lakers.
“You can kind of compare it to the kids in the United States but these kids over here, coming from where they’re coming from, having the smiles on their faces and forgetting the problems they have, it was a blessing for us to be a part of that.”
Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
From the players’ arrival and until way after they left the oven-hot covered court, there was not a straight face to be found. Each kid was smiling, clearly grateful to have seen new faces and learned new things.
“[Natuto ako] kung paano makisalamuha sa ibang bata at sa mga player na katulad nila,” said soft-spoken 12-year old Reynalyn Dordines, whose dream is to become a teacher some day.
“Masaya po ako. Medyo kinakabahan din ako kasi nakalaro ko po sila.” (I learned how to interact with other kids and with players like them. I’m happy but I was also nervous because I played with them.)
All 3 NBA stars are in the Philippines from May 22 to 24 and are joining viewing parties of the ongoing NBA playoffs.
Project PEARLS, the chosen organization for the clinic, aims to “help the poorest of the poor, and to help children have a better life with PEARLS – peace, education, aspiration, love and smiles,” according to its website. – Rappler.com