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Kobe Bryant coy on NBA five’s Manila stint

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MANILA—There’s just a couple of hurdles left before Kobe Bryant joins an NBA selection invited to play against the country’s national team in a charity match here.

For starters, someone ought to send him an invite.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” the Los Angeles Lakers superstar told journalists during a press conference that kicked off his Nike-arranged five-city Asian tour yesterday.

“I saw something about it [but today] was the first time I read about it,” Bryant added.

Reports had it that Bryant would join Fiba World championship MVP Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder and NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls for a pair of exhibition matches—one against Smart Gilas and one against a PBA selection—any time from July 23 to July 26 at the Araneta Coliseum.

Late Tuesday afternoon, however, both Smart Sports and the organizing MVP Foundation said the roster and the dates were tentative and that a formal announcement would be made tomorrow.

Whether that announcement would include Bryant coming back is still unknown, but one thing’s clear: The five-time NBA champion isn’t closing his doors to that possibility.

“Hopefully, I’ll hear something [about it] soon,” he said.

The supposed arrival of the NBA stars led by Bryant, Durant and Rose is reportedly being negotiated by Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes through former Sacramento standout Chris Webber, a recent Manila visitor.

A source said Smart and the MVP Sports Foundation have already paid money up front for the matches to push through.

Reyes did not answer calls made by the Inquirer, but he sent a text message that said nothing was final regarding the deal.

“No comment [because] it’s not sure [yet],” Reyes said in an SMS. “In fact, [the deal has] been imperiled by today’s sports headlines in the [Inquirer] and Star.”

After the press conference, Bryant went straight to a refurbished Gawad Kalinga basketball court in Taguig before heading to the Araneta Coliseum, where he delighted the crowd by joining a game between a UAAP selection and Smart Gilas wearing an FEU jersey.

“During his last two visits, Kobe was able to inspire young athletes to fulfill their sports dreams,” said Nike Philippines country marketing manager Mae Dichupa. “Now, he’s back to check the progress of those athletes.”


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