(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez neither confirmed nor denied reports yesterday that Leon Montemayor has been given his walking papers as member of the PSC board.

A reliable source, however, said Montemayor is indeed on the way out.

Ramirez said his office has not received any official document coming from Malacañang regarding Montemayor’s status as one of four commissioners in the government sports agency.

“As long as we have not seen the papers, commissioner Montemayor should stay put. We’ve all tendered our resignation but we have to continue to work unless we’re told to go,” he said.

Ramirez and his four commissioners, including Ritchie Garcia, Ambrosio de Luna, Jose Mundo and Montemayor, tendered their courtesy resignation last June upon President Arroyo’s directive.

Also asked to resign were Cabinet members and the department heads and bureau chiefs of the different government agencies and government owned and controlled corporations.

“Whatever it is, we have to wait for the papers from Malacañang. After we resigned, the prerogative has been with the President. But we will continue to work,” said Ramirez.

The PSC chairman, who was tapped by the President to look after the country’s preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Montemayor may have received an information regarding his status.

But as far as he’s concerned, Ramirez said he has none.

“The President can replace one of us, some of us or all of us. But we will not abandon our jobs until we are replaced. We serve at the pleasure of the President,” Ramirez said.

Kobe the survivor SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Friday, September 7, 2007

(STAR) It was a mature and wiser Kobe Bryant who faced a large army of media at a press conference in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel the other day.

In 1998, Bryant made his first visit to Manila and was less choosy with his words, if not more spontaneous. He came with his mother Pamela as a budding star after only two years in the NBA. At the time, Bryant had no championship rings, wore Adidas and was a bachelor.

Today, he has three titles under his belt, wears Nike and is an 11-year veteran. This past season, Bryant led the league in scoring with a 31.6 clip. He also topped the NBA in that department the year before, averaging 35.4 points.

The kid who came here in 1998 has grown to be a man, now married with two daughters.

Bryant, who went straight to the NBA from high school, wasn’t expected to be the marquee star he is now when the Charlotte Hornets picked him on the first round, only to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers, in the 1996 draft. To prove the point, Bryant was the 13th player chosen in the draft after Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker, Erick Dampier, Todd Fuller and Vitaly Potapenko.

As a Lakers rookie, Bryant averaged 7.6 points and hardly gave a hint that someday, he would lead the NBA in scoring not just once but twice.

In 1998, Bryant was here for four full days, arriving in the morning of a Thursday and leaving in the afternoon of the next Sunday. He got a lot of things done during his visit. Bryant paid then-President Estrada a courtesy call at Malacañang, watched the Adidas Streetball Challenge national finals at the Araneta Coliseum, spent time with hundreds of homeless children supported by Don Bosco Makati and accommodated requests for several one-on-one interviews.

On his second visit after nine years, Bryant stayed one day and two nights. He was secured like the US President, surrounded by bodyguards to fend off overzealous fans. Nobody dared to divulge his arrival or departure details like some state secret.

At the press conference, Bryant showed up at 1:30 p.m. The invitation was for 11 a.m. but a sumptuous buffet lunch was served during the wait. At around 1 p.m., someone said Bryant had just ordered lunch in a restaurant two floors above in the hotel. Bryant, of course, is entitled to be late and the press didn’t mind because deadline time was still hours away.

When Bryant sauntered onto the makeshift stage, everyone forgot about the time of day. Just seeing Bryant in the flesh was worth the wait.

As Bryant answered questions in the open forum, it became increasingly obvious the 2003 nightmarish sex scandal that blew up in his face had changed him. Before the incident, Bryant was perceived to be cocky, almost defiant of norms in society and too individualistic on the court for comfort.

Then came the affair in a suite at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa resort in a small mountain town 100 miles west of Denver. Bryant shook like a leaf as if his life passed before his eyes. Corporate sponsors pulled out of their contracts. Fans looked at him with disdain. Suddenly, he was tainted. Bryant pleaded to his wife Vanessa for forgiveness and even bought her a $4 Million eight-karat purple diamond ring as a peace offering.

It took several years for Bryant to recover from the indignity. He made it up to his fans by playing as hard as he could, being the best he could be. He joined the US team, something he didn’t care to do in the past, and sacrificed his personal glory in taking a backseat to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James on the squad that swept the FIBA-Americas Olympic qualifiers in Las Vegas last week.

From Las Vegas, Bryant boarded a Nike Lear jet and flew to Honolulu for refueling before landing in Manila last Tuesday night. He had little time to rest after the FIBA-Americas tournament but stuck to his commitments with Nike. He probably wouldn’t have been as accommodating before 2003.

In fielding questions from the press, Bryant displayed remarkable maturity. When asked about being a role model, he quickly said nobody’s perfect – in clear reference to what happened to him in Colorado. And Bryant advised fans to learn from the mistakes of their role models. How ironic that for all his modesty, Bryant’s Asian tour was described as “supernatural.” But that’s forgivable. Bryant, after all, is in a class of his own, above the level of mere mortals.

As for the Lakers, Bryant declined to comment on the team’s player movements which include reacquiring Derek Fisher, reactivating Chris Mihm, signing up coach George Karl’s cancer-recovering son Coby and drafting 7-1 Spanish center Marc Gasol and 6-9 Chinese point guard Sue Yue.

What to do to rebuild the Lakers into a championship team?

“Let’s start with the whole USA team,” he quipped, adding that’s if he’s Bill Gates.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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