[PHOTO - Kobe Bryant in Manila 2011 (B. Yalung photo)]

MANILA, JULY 14, 2011 (MANILA BULLETIN) By BRIAN YALUNG - Nike Philippines has done it again. For the third time, Kobe Bryant invaded Manila to the delight of Kobe fans all around the metropolis.

Kobe kicked off his 2011 Tour by holding a press conference at the Conservatory at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City, meeting with invited media and press personalities and obliging to screened questions thrown at him.

Some of the questions thrown at Kobe included his thoughts on Yao Ming’s reported retirement, Shaquille O’ Neal’s broadcasting career with TNT, why he has not gotten into the Twitter frenzy, his pick on the brewing Pacquiao vs. Mosley fight and the rumored dream games pitting NBA stars against Smart Gilas and PBA stars.

On Yao Ming’s retirement, Kobe reveals that has not yet touched base with Yao and that his loss would be a big one. As far as Shaq’s broadcasting career, Kobe didn’t seem to be aware of that development although he did pay tribute to the Diesel’s contributions to the sport as well as a fabulous career.

Kobe reveals that he is not into the social media hype, satisfied with texting rather than being on Twitter like most NBA stars are into. “I just don’t feel like it”, said Kobe. Confessing that he is not really an Internet-tied person, Kobe values his privacy as well as communicating privately with friends without the world having to see it.

Asked about his pick should the Pacquiao vs. Mosley fight materialize, Kobe bared his admiration for Saranggani Congressman Manny Pacquiao and how he was impressed with his tenacity and his competitiveness. If ever the fight would happen, Kobe simply relayed that “Manny is my man”.

When Kobe was asked about how young kids and aspiring players could improve, he simply answered - “There is no magic formula. It’s simply practice, practice, practice”.

Kobe believes that even if he were given a chance to form a Big Three, the task of doing so may not be easy. “You have to look at so many different things and that is a very complicated thing to put together”.

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One question thrown at Kobe over at the Nike Park in the Fort was the possibility of holding a basketball camp in the Philippines. With many of the kids and players unable to afford to go to abroad, Kobe believed that it could happen in the future and that he was open to the possibility of doing so.

When it comes to one thing that Kobe would want to do outside basketball, skykdiving was something he wanted to do. However he also added that he would skydive only after his playing years are up and is officially retired from the game he loves so passionately.

Other highlights of Kobe’s 2011 visit included meeting with the athletes from Gawad Kalinga’s youth development program, SIGA. Kobe shared tips and did some simple drills with the kids. Additionally, the Gawad Kalinga basketball court in Taguig was refurbished to provide the athletes a better venue to hone their skills.

The culminating activity was the Basketball Show held at the Araneta Coliseum. Though Kobe was originally supposed to coach in the exhibition game between the Smart Gilas Pilipinas squad and a UAAP selection composed of hoop stars from Ateneo, DLSU and FEU, the “Black Mamba” ended up playing with the UAAP All-Star selection to the delight of the crowd on hand at the Big Dome in Cubao, Quezon City.

After seeing the domination of the Smart Gilas squad, Kobe suited up and wore a FEU jersey and played alongside Joshua Webb, Aldrech Ramos, Simon Atkins, JR Cawaling, Hans Knutel, Kirk Long and Greg Slaughter. Tasked to guard him on the Gilas side was Chris Lutz.

Kobe delighted the fans with some passing exhibitions but two slams, a one handed slam after a miss by Cawaling and a breakaway two handed slam after stealing of Andy Barocca. Kobe’s efforts were not enough after 8 minutes of play however, bowing to Smart Gilas at the end of the second set (33-24).

Tomorrow, Kobe flies off to Seoul and then to China to wrap up his Asian tour. On the matter of whether Kobe will be back with NBA stars like Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls remains up in the air although reports are flying in that the event is all set to happen later this month.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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