By Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – NBA superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers drew a rapturous welcome from his fans and journalists at the House of Rise in Mandaluyong City on Thursday, where he formally started his “Rise Beyond Belief” tour.
James, who is making his second visit to Manila, said he is delighted to be back after getting a warm welcome from Filipino basketball fans when he first visited in 2013 for his “Witness History” tour.
“You guys always welcome me and my guys and my friends with open arms, so it’s always a pleasure,” James said during a brief press conference.
This time around, James is in town to serve as a mentor of sorts to young basketball players who are participating in Nike’s “Rise” program, and the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player hopes to impart some valuable messages to the contestants.
“I think, it’s more than teaching them the skill sets,” he said. “It’s about the inspiration that comes behind it. To tell them about the game, and it’s up to them to use that – the words that I tell them, and to use those to better themselves.”
James hopes that the “Rise” competitors and other Filipino basketball players will draw inspiration not just from the success that he has experienced in the NBA, but also from how he has overcome the challenges of his childhood to become one of the biggest sporting icons in the world.
“I think my story speaks for itself,” he said. “I was a kid who believed that I could make my dream become a reality. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but I loved the game so much that I wouldn’t let anybody tell me what I can’t do.”
James also said that he “relates to these kids” who were picked by former Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes to take part in an intensive six-week training program wherein they focused on nothing but basketball.
The two-time NBA champion added that he is thrilled to again perform in front of the Filipino fans, who are expected to pack the Mall of Asia Arena Thursday night.
“I’m excited to be around those fans again. It was an exciting event two years ago. And I’m looking forward for the kids to get an opportunity to play in front of a crowd like that,” he said. “I think they should take that and soak it in, give as much as they can, but have fun as well.”