Top 5 most memorable visits of American athletes in the Philippines
Barry Viloria on Jul 06, 2016 02:15 AM
(Photo by Vyn Radovan)
Blame globalization, too. But living in a country colonized by the Americans long ago, a turn in history that led to a neocolonial mentality that has led to our taste being dictated by the West, it’s no secret how we are obsessed over the NBA, world boxing, and the likes. And such fandom has since included the athletes in it. Ask any basketball player you know, for example, about his sports idol and he’d say Michael Jordan in a breath!
The recent months have been good to us Filipinos with many of our international idols hailing from the States heading to our dear local soil for a visit. (Special thanks to some of our international sports brands for sponsoring!) We have always welcomed them like rock stars, with some of these American sports figures even having the best times of their lives here.
From Manila to you all there in the States, Happy Fourth of July! Hoping to have you guys back here again! For now, check out some of the most historic stopovers made by our favorite American athletes!
Haters went hatin’, but fans of the most recent NBA champ have always gone shakin’ wild in the two times he flew to Manila. In 2013 and 2015, the King came here not only to show his skills in well-attended exhibition games (Philippine basketball standout Kobe Paras impressed him as well with his dunk and gameplay); he also came to say hi to young basketball aspirants in some impoverished areas as a way to inspire them!
The Black Mamba visited Manila again recently but for the first time as a retired basketball player. In his return was an exhibition game at the Big Dome, where he coached a team of UAAP stars versus a squad of PBA players. At the end of it was a special tribute to his two decades-spanning career that only rendered him speechless. "I retired professionally as a basketball player but I haven't 'retired' coming here to Manila. I love you and I will see you soon!" he told the Araneta crowd, then holding their lit phones up while cheering “Kobe! Kobe!”
The year was 1997, and just like the aforementioned NBA superstars, Shaq’s visit here had an exhibition game at the Araneta Coliseum as a highlight. The then-Lakers player coached a team against PBA All-Stars team coached by Robert Jaworski, Sr., with Team Shaq eventually owning the game at 107-68. Retired PBA players Alvin Patrimonio, Bonel Balingit, Marlou Aquino, Dennis Espino, Johnny Abarrientos—all these greats were there fanboying, too!
The retired MMA superstar came here in 2008 to promote the sport, which was apparently growing into a craze then. For his first visit, he headed an open training at the SM Mall of Asia; a sesh that would bear yearly ones headlined by other UFC stars like Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, and Mark Muñoz.
The “Thrilla in Manila” in October 1, 1975 was one heated fight in all aspects—a bout to end a world rivalry, one that had Ali and his wife squabbling because of a mistress, it being done at the packed at the ridiculously hot Araneta Coliseum, all these happening in the first few years of Martial Law. But such was considered the “Fight of the Century” for the same reasons. Here’s to the recently departed world champ!