12-year-old Kristine Cayabyab earns LeBron’s praise
High-leapers Kobe Paras, Chris Ellis and Chris Newsome kept showing off their ridiculous hops with one dunk after another.
The crowd loved every bit of it but neither one could get any reaction from basketball’s top star LeBron James, who remained planted on his seat on the bench and hardly showed any emotion as he watched early parts of Thursday night’s exhibition game at Mall of Asia Arena.
But it only took a flick of Kristine Cayabyab’s wrist to get James smile, get up from his seat and clap his sands.
The world’s best basketball player today was the main event but the headliner was the 12-year-old sharpshooter from Dagupan, who had the moment of her life.
“Masayang masaya kasi hindi ko akalain na tatayo si LeBron. Hindi ko po napansin na tumayo. Sabi nila tumayo. Sabi niya (James) sa akin nung nag-photo op kami magaling daw po akong basketball player tsaka pagpatuloy ko daw po,” said Cayabyab as reporters formed a semi-circle around her.
(I’m so happy because I didn’t think LeBron would standup. I didn’t see him standup they just told me he did. He (James) told me that I’m a good basketball player and I should continue playing.)
Cayabyab’s ponytailed long black hair swayed as she kept swishing high-arching jumpers from one rack to another in a Three-Point Shootout held at halftime.
She scored 15 points, beating Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena’s 11, and earned James’ admiration.
In the final five minutes of the scrimmage where James put on a jersey and gave the fans the a show to remember, Cayabyab shared another moment with the two-time NBA champion.
Seeing the shooting guard Cayabyab find the bottom of the net at the shootout armed with a quick release, the 6-foot-9 James, also one of the NBA’s best defenders, fooled around and pretended to lock her down.
“Kinakabahan po dahil pag hawak ko yung bola baka kunin niya. Ginawa ko po paghawak ko binibigay ko yung bola sa mga ka-teammates ko,” Cayabyab said with a laugh.
(I was nervous because I had the ball and he was going to steal it so every time I get the ball I pass it to my teammates right away.)
Cayabyab, who developed a love for basketball at the age of eight, said James is not only someone she admires watching but also a person she looks up to.
“Sobra po, sobrang na-inspire bilang isang babae po tapos siya magaling na basketball player,” said Cayabyab, who will go back to her hometown and study high school after the Nike Rise program.
(He inspired me so much. He inspired me as a girl playing basketball and he is also a great player.)
The Nike Rise program opened a lot opportunities for Cayabyab, whose advanced basketball skills have earned her a scholarship at Far Eastern University when she goes to college.
It was a chance of a lifetime for Cayabyab, who also got to have her shoes signed by James.
“Masayang masaya ako dahil nakalaro ko si LeBron kasama mga teammates ko. Masaya kasi pinirmahan niya din shoes ko.”
(I’m very, very happy because I was able to play with LeBron together with my teammates. I’m also happy because he signed my shoes.) CFC