Kobe Bryant Leads NBA Stars as Player-Coach, Thrills Pinoy Fans

MANILA, Philippines—The lockout continues, but the game goes on—and the NBA stars took their sheen halfway across the globe to entertain Philippine fans during the SMART Ultimate All-Star Weekend.

On July 22 (23 in Manila), Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant assumed the role of player-coach for the NBA selections including the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, Washington Wizards' Javale McGee, Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant and James Harden, Sacramento Kings' Tyreke Evans, Minnesota Timberwolves' top rookie pick Derrick Williams and the Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher.

Playing under the banner of SMART All-Stars (SMART is the Philippines' leading telecommunications company), Bryant and his team first conquered the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Stars, 131-105, amid an enthusiastic full house crowd inside the 15,000-seat capacity SMART Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Then, on July 23, at the same venue and cheered on by another full-capacity crowd, the NBA stars beat the more game SMART Gilas Pilipinas national team, 98-89.

After their two-game sweep, Bryant expressed his appreciation for the basketball-crazy Filipino fans and players, saying, “It's a tremendous honor to play here. Thank you for the love and passion you have in the sport. I hope this will not be the last.”

Basketball is the Southeast Asian country's favorite and de facto national sport, and Pinoy fans mobbed the visiting stars from the airport till they left the coliseum at the end of the weekend affair.

The event was made possible by SMART Communications chairman Manny Pangilinan, the Pinoy business and sports leader who was earlier reported by Philippine media as a prospective buyer of the Sacramento Kings franchise.


Sideline side notes

Boxing great Manny Pacquiao arrived early in the fourth quarter of the second game. He shook hands ...

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