New Jersey Nets big man Brook Lopez visited Manila Monday as an ambassador of the NBA in announcing the league’s partnership with insurance giant AXA Philippines.
Lopez, of course, knew the Filipinos’ passion for the sport with his high school point guard being half-Filipino and former teammate Andray Blatche playing for the country’s national team as a naturalized cager.
“Just traveling around the country and seeing players in sandals or barefoot, it shows me the true passion and love for the game these people have,” he said on Monday, his second visit to the Philippines. “Coming out here the last time and seeing the passion that the Filipino fanbase has for basketball in general was overwhelming and amazing to me.”
Lopez said the country’s love of the game helped explain why his former Nets teammate, Andray Blatche, has been so popular a sports figure. Blatche joined Team Philippines after leaving the Nets and helped the team become a basketball power in Asia.
“Playing on the same team with him, he’s such an amazing talent. He made things easier for me and he’s just a great person to be around,” Lopez said.
Lopez also said he’s aware of Kobe Paras, a 6’6” swingman to the United States. Paras suited up last year for Creighton before transferring to Cal State Northridge this year. The 19-year-old hopes become the first of his countrymen to suit up for an NBA team.
“It’s great to see guys like Kobe, playing in America. He’s being a great role model for younger players here,” he said. “I’m confident the (Philippine) team will be competitive in the FIBA (tournaments), and they’ll make it to the (2020) Olympics.”
Under terms of the agreement between the NBA and AXA, the insurance company will sponsor NBA development projects throughout the country.