05 July 2016

Perspective: I just realized why Filipinos love Kobe Bryant at the Mamba Mentality Tour

It’s 2:30PM and we’re outside the Smart Araneta Coliseum, at the Red Gate to be exact. We are surrounded by an army of purple and gold, most seemed really excited and restless. I’ve never seen so much variety of Kobe Bryant jerseys and t-shirts in my life, it’s incredible. The passion is undeniably infectious. But I have to admit, I am not a fan of Kobe. Don’t get me wrong, I find him really spectacular, it’s just really preference, or probably non-preference. I’m not the type who becomes a fan of a lot of things, I may like the feeling of being able to see the two sides of things too much. Being detached means I have less biases, and it might be a good thing, most especially in trying to understand why a lot of Filipinos admire the Black Mamba.

I’ve never seen so much variety of Kobe Bryant jerseys and t-shirts in my life, it’s incredible. The passion is undeniably infectious.

Words and Photos by Marvin Conanan

After 30 minutes, we are still at the entrance waiting for our own passes while we watched fans fall in line to get in the coliseum. In the middle of the steaming afternoon ambiance, their smiles never wavered, they seemed too excited to care anyway. Other than jerseys and t-shirts to commemorate Kobe, we’ve seen them rock his different signature shoes as well, plus some kids and diehards who are proudly outfitted by the Kobe line from head to toe. We even saw someone who brought a Kobe bust, maybe for a signature, or just purely to show their affection for him. But unfortunately, the security had them leave it at the baggage counter. I felt bad for them, it looked like it would be a more thrilling moment clinging on that while they watch the real Kobe in front of them. Nonetheless it’s astonishing how much they love the man.

We’re finally inside the coliseum, though it’s still unclear for me why they adore him so much at this moment, I was hoping I could pick up some clues while there. The venue was jam-packed, and the stage was sensational. We went in where the stage was facing, it was probably there where I started to experience the Kobe craze. And to add to it, the 10,000-strong fans in the coliseum emanated intense eagerness to see their idol. It took more or less another 15 minutes before the program started, but the hosts’ Aaron Atayde and MC Pao, plus the music of Nixdamnp! kept the vibe high until the anticipated entrance of Kobe Bryant. The excitement just grew even louder once the official program started, it was a showcase of the Black Mamba’s story. I was lucky enough to be seated in front of a “super” fan, though it felt a little awkward, I enjoyed his passion and obsession for Kobe. He exclaimed phrases like “A fan since day one!”, “Best player ever!”, “MVP!!”, etc. non-stop. It was quite entertaining, to be honest. He’s not alone though, a lot of other men also shouted praises, chants of "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!" and up to the extent of “I love you, Kobe!” louder and more assertive than how they would profess their affection to their wives and girlfriends. But kidding aside, it’s really something else. The fandom for Kobe Bryant is like no other.

I will not go into all the details of what happened in the Mamba Mentality Tour, you can visit other media websites for that. (Slam, Inquirer, CNN, Clavel and more) But I just want to put it out there that the energy and the excitement didn’t go any lower until the end. Even if Kobe didn’t actually play, the fans still went berserk in the fact that they are seeing him in person, that the person they look up to the most is with them.

The idea that struck me the most however is when the host mentioned how us Filipinos shout “Kobe!!” whenever we shoot a fadeaway in throwing trash in bins, or actually anything at any hole available. Because, as much as I don’t idolize Kobe Bryant, I did do that too. It was fun. So maybe there’s that, a lot of Filipinos admire him so much because he was fun to watch. It’s his creativity in the court that captured our attention and sealed our fandom for him. And because creativity is almost always entertaining, our attachment as Filipinos to entertainment paved the way for our liking of Kobe as a player. He was really entertaining to watch, and most times, to emulate. And in addition to that, I believe it’s also his tenacity that struck a chord with us. It represents determination, or at least an inspiration to be determined to triumph in our personal lives. His downfalls and successes are symbolic of how we look at our lives, for the most of us. While a lot of other players have tenacity as well, it’s not quite as acclaimed as the Black Mamba. I don’t have any answers why, but maybe he just really embody the quality genuinely, hence the Mamba Mentality.

Given those two personal realizations, it made me quite understand the fervor of the 10,000++ people in the coliseum. He’s a hero of basketball, unofficially the national sport in the country, and with that level of relevance plus how relatable and entertaining he is to Filipinos, it is now highly understandable why he is extraordinarily loved.


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