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"I Dreamt Of Becoming An NBA Player"—My NBA All-Star Weekend

Most people don’t know that when I was a kid, it was my dream to become a basketball player. My dad, being a former basketball MVP of his high school, used take us to watch PBA games to support his favorite team. He would also teach us the proper shooting form, as he was known as the prime shooter of his school.

Being one of the boys, playing against my brothers at home in our mini basketball court was my favorite pastime. I remember always wanting to show them that even though I was a girl, and so much smaller, I could still give them a good fight. My brothers would tease me and bully me around, but I would have none of it. I always thought I could also belong in the boys’ league, and even told my dad I dreamt of becoming an NBA player, not WNBA, but NBA. My dad laughed at my dream and I kinda knew it was ridiculous too, but watching Michael Jordan in that heart-stopping game against Utah Jazz in 1998, when he sank the winning basket in the closing seconds of the game, made the dream linger.

 

Me and my dad at a PBA game in Ultra

 

I hated wearing dresses when I was a kid. I preferred wearing baggy clothes.

 

Apart from basketball, I used to shoot pelet guns and play with military bases with my brothers.

 

I’ve always wanted to become an athlete. I guess that was ingrained in me as a kid. I remember shooting freethrows during dismissal while waiting for my sundo, and even mimicking the assistant coaches of the PBA as I wrote down the successful and bad plays of a team on my 1/4 pad.

However, fate would not have me pursue my NBA dream, as my high school didn’t have a basketball team back then. Volleyball was the only sport that had a varsity team, and as I was determined to become an athlete, I decided to try it out. I fell in love with the sport, and the rest is history.

My passion for basketball never left me, though, and I always felt I had a natural talent for it. I could shoot from the perimeter, consistently and even in the dark. I had a “pulse” for shooting that I may have inherited from my dad. Every time I had a bad volleyball game back in college, I would go to the basketball court just to feel good about myself again.

So you could just imagine my delight when I was told that NBA was looking for an influencer to send to the NBA All-Star. I immediately submitted my portfolio and details on my basketball background. With God’s grace, I was chosen and given the chance of a lifetime to go to Los Angeles, California.

Yes, I was nervous, because apart from being an influencer, I was asked to produce stories for ABS-CBN News. I was also told that I was going to walk the red carpet with other influencers. Talk about wearing a double-hat!

Armed with a camera, a selfie stick, and an open heart and mind, I took a 17-hour flight from the Philippines to Los Angeles.

 

Proud to be representing the Philippines in the NBA All-Star Weekend

 

Overlooking the beautiful Los Angeles city

 

Just like how any game would start, we kicked off our NBA All-Star Weekend with a walk inside Staples Center. Walking through the dugout area was surreal. I was able to enter the media room and sit where the coaches and top players usually do! Everything in the arena seemed organized. Systematic. Professional.

The Rising Stars practice came next, and here was a moment I’d been looking forward to since I heard about the opportunity. Apart from the fact that I had crushes on several rookies (Ben Simmons and Kyle Kuzma), this was an exciting rookie and sophomore class, as proven by one of the organizers, saying that tickets were sold-out fast! We were seated courtside, and I couldn’t believe I was seeing the players live and at arms’ length. Tao din pala sila. They were missing shots here and there, laughing with the fans, and competitors became friends for a day.

 

At the Staples Center before showtime, holding the game ball!

 

 

 

This is where the players and coaches get interviewed after every game.

 

With my fellow NBA influencer from South Africa, TV Host Scoop Makathini

 

I did my own live report setup using a phone, a tripod, and earphones.

 

I was lucky to have gotten a taste of “Hollywood” with the red carpet walk at the All-Star Celebrity game. It was quick and fun, as I cherished the moment of being in the spotlight for a while. It was also a joy being able to chat with my fellow influencers: model Adrianne Ho from Canada, Taiwanese F4 star Vanness Wu, and Korean actor Nam Joo Hyuk.

The whole All-Star Celebrity event was flashy, colorful, and in style. I thought it was a great way to unite and showcase different characters and personalities. As expected, the game was wildly fun, and the celebrities were entertaining and hilarious all throughout. It was nice seeing the Hollywood actors out of their comfort zones.

 

Red carpet with Taiwanese-Canadian Actor Godfrey Gao, Canadian Model Adrianne Ho, Taiwanese Star Vanness Wu before the All-Star Celebrity Game

 

 

Got to interview Weightlifting Fairy Star Nam Joo Hyuk

 

With Vaness Wu. Meteor Garden fan right here!

 

Everything happened so fast. We shifted from one activity to another. The NBA All-Star Weekend felt like a Disneyland for sports. Downtown Los Angeles was like a theme park, with events spread throughout the city, all in walking distance. There were NBA stores all over and different NBA activities to enjoy for different ages. Past and present NBA players and personalities were also all over downtown to entertain the fans. As part of the media, I got exclusive access to interview Jason Williams, Chris Bosh, and Donovan Mitchell. Of course, let's not forget the famous party scene of LA!

 

Los Angeles at night

 

Some wine to cap off the night!?

 

If there was one thing that I learned from the trip, it’s really the value of kapal ng mukha. Whether you’re a fan, or part of the media, it pays off to have the courage to seize that window of opportunity every time you see it. Randomly, the players and celebrities would walk around in different areas of the All-Star weekend, some with bouncers, and some without, and there is only that small window that opens for you to approach. At first, I was shy and afraid of being rejected, but I realized this did not do me any good. So I immediately dropped the apprehensions for a chance of a lifetime. 

 

Watching the NBA All-Star Game with Indonesian Rapper and Vlogger, Kemal Palevi

 

The product of "kapal ng mukha:" a selfie with Michael B. Jordan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing my live reports for ABS-CBN News Channel, Umagang Kay Ganda, and TV Patrol was an overwhelming experience, too! It was a dream for me to be saying these words: “We are live right now here at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the excitement is on as we are less than two hours away from the NBA All-Star game.” I had pictured this moment a few years back. I don’t know why and how, but that exact moment was a vision in my head. I was almost brought to tears.

To cap it all off, this year’s All-Star game was nothing short of GREAT. The new format of #TeamStephen vs #TeamLebron achieved its purpose of making the game more competitive. Both teams were “dream teams," and my heart was full seeing all the best players in the world, in one game, passing to each other or fighting against each other. Imagine Kyrie passing to Lebron passing to Durant passing to Westbrook for the shot? Wow. They were all so big, but so quick, so flawless in their moves and so agile. It’s like they’ve practiced all their moves a hundred thousand times over. This is why they’re the best in the world.

 

With the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy

 

Watched the Rising Stars Challenge Game from the VIP box

 

Selfie before the red carpet

 

 

Nothing compared though, to the moment when Michael Jordan walked into the court. My childhood hero surprised everyone as he received the hosting rights for next year’s All-Star Weekend for the Charlotte Hornets, the team that he owns. I couldn’t hold back my tears as I took my cellphone out and instantly took a selfie video to record the moment. Before going to the All-Star Weekend, that was my number one wish, to be able to see Michael Jordan. Everybody told me that that was quite impossible, as he doesn’t show up to big events anymore. Talk about perfect timing!

Up until now, I am still in disbelief over what had happened. I can’t believe so many of my dreams came true over a weekend! I may not have achieved my crazy childhood dream of becoming a professional NBA player, but I was able to experience the life of an NBA player for a few days.

 

Thank you Lord for this overwhelming blessing!

 

Life has a funny way of bringing things together. Your dreams may not unfold the way you want them to, but if you stay true to the voice within you, keep on working hard, and trust the plan God has for your life, the detours will somehow find their way to give you the deepest desires of your heart. Sometimes, even better.

 

Photos courtesy of Gretchen Ho