LeBron James takes talents to Philippines
by Ryan Songalia, Special to USA TODAY Sports
MANILA, Philippines – In a land as basketball crazy as the Philippines, Lebron James’ visit on Tuesday afternoon could be likened to The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.
A little over a month following the Miami Heat’s defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in a grueling seven-game series to win their second consecutive NBA championship, the reigning Finals MVP was in Manila for a promotional event for Nike Philippines.
Fans camped out for two days to receive complimentary tickets to the clinic, while some scalped their tickets for prices reaching as high as 10,000 pesos, or roughly $250, to watch James run layup drills with the Philippine national basketball team.
“My head coach Eric Spoelstra told me all about it,” James said, when asked if his Filipino-American coach had briefed him on the type of reception he could expect. “It’s just a great culture that is very passionate about what they love and what they believe in.”
James, 28, didn’t field any questions from the assembled press at the gathering, but told a moderator that the belief that winning multiple championships is easier is a myth.
“They always say that when you win the first one, they start to become easier,” James, who averaged 25 points, 7 assists and 11 rebounds in the 2013 NBA Finals, said. “But it wasn’t easier for us at all, to be defending champs and having to defend your championship each and every night in the regular season, throughout the playoffs.
“A playoff game is probably five times more difficult than one regular season game,” James said. “They both were emotionally draining, and emotions ran high, ran low throughout both series. Last year, we lost Game One [against the Oklahoma City Thunder] so my emotions were very low at that point in time. But I kept a cool head about it and we won four straight. This year, I was out on the floor the whole time, so going against a great San Antonio team, I think of how hard they pushed us to win the championship. It was just like a sigh of relief that we were … [For more on LeBron James takes his talents to Philippines, click here.]