IF YOU ask PBA legend Benjie Paras what trait he admires most in his son Kobe, winner of the 2013 Fiba World U-18 slam dunk contest, you’ll be surprised at his answer.
“Matapang (He’s gutsy). That’s the trait I admire in him most,” Benjie said.
It’s a characteristic one seldom finds in a 16-year-old boy with angelic facial features and a slim, fragile built.
To prove his point, he recalled an incident when Kobe injured his finger while playing in a game that got a little rough. That should have taken him out of the game because his finger got so dislocated it dangled from the socket.
“But you know what he did? He gave the finger a hard pull, snapping it back in place. Then he hopped back to the court as if nothing happened,” Benjie said.
When Kobe left last month for Jakarta, Indonesia, to participate in the slam dunk contest, (a side event of the Fiba World U-18 competition where the young Paras was a member of the PH team) Benjie said he absolutely had no great expectations.
“How can I entertain high hopes when Kobe was competing against giants from the US, China, Spain, Lithuania and other parts of the globe. In the final phase when there were only three of them left, he was the smallest, skinniest,” said Benjie.
Kobe admitted in a recent interview that he got a bit intimidated when he saw how big his opponents were, although he had diligently and painstakingly prepared for his creative repertoire which include dunking over a high, wide barrier, over three tall cagers and a cager riding a motorcycle.
“I called my dad and he assured me that I could do it, even if my opponents were physically superior. Size had nothing to do with it, he said. I just had to be mentally tough. He was right.”
What amazes Benjie is the fact that Kobe had worked on his slam dunks entirely on his own, without asking his help or a coach.
“He just spent hours and hours watching and studying slam dunk moves on video,” Benjie said. “He devised his own moves .”
Named after Benjie’s idol NBA cager Kobe Bryant, Kobe first displayed his slam dunk prowess when Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, Kobe’s idol, visited Manila last July.
Going up, over and around the world’s No. 1 cager, Kobe is said to have impressed his idol with his stunt.
On his return to Manila after his gold medal performance in Indonesia, his show biz debut was launched at the Viva Entertainment office in Ortigas Center.
Viva chieftain Vic Del Rosario must have deemed Kobe was too good-looking and talented for the film industry to pass up. The third year high school student from La Salle Green Hills has been signed up by Viva along with his older brother Andre and father Benjie. The Paras boys might have a reality show.
Benjie says there is a plan to send Kobe to the United States while in high school for training in basketball, but nothing is definite, since there are so many options open to him at such a young age.