Two days before the NBA celebrated the life of Kobe Bryant during its All-Star Weekend, Chooks-to-Go and Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League did their part during their own festivities last Thursday.
The league’s tribute to the fallen legend came from the most obvious to the totally unexpected.
For the All-Star and Executive games, the jerseys designed by local manufacturer LGR had the Los Angeles Lakers’ colors as a theme.
The North, which was the dark team, had the purple and gold. Meanwhile, the South had the Lakers’ white jersey which debuted in 2002.
“Lahat naman tayo, in one way or another, naging fan ni Kobe. So ito ‘yung tribute namin sa mga nagawa niya sa laro natin,” said North All-Stars head coach Randy Alcantara of Go for Gold-San Juan.
Then came the extremely coincidental.
The three-point shootout saw Bulacan’s Lester Alvarez top the event with a whopping 24 points — yes, the same jersey number as Kobe Bryant.
“Nagkataon lang ‘yun pero idol ko talaga si Kobe,” quipped Alvarez, who defeated Nueva Ecija’s James Martinez (20 points) and Bicol’s Jerome Garcia (17) to win the side-event.
But the eeriest was the final scoreline of the All-Star Game.
The highlight of the event ended with a score of 126-122 in favor of the South. Add those two numbers up and it will result in 248 — 24 and 8 were both Bryant’s jersey numbers in his career.
The game itself was almost as good as done during the final minutes of regulation, with the North up 103-97. Jeff Viernes then decided to take over, sending the game into overtime at 112-all.
In overtime, Viernes and Banal opened the frame with a 10-0 surge. Ato Ular, Michael Juico, Jeric Teng, and Aris Dionisio answered right back to knot things up.
Viernes remained unperturbed from the foul stripe, knocking down four free throws to give the South the edge with six seconds left. Two seconds later, John Wilson went out of bounds after pressure from the South’s defense.
Even South head coach Don Dulay was speechless after being notified of the total.
“Wow. I did not even notice that,” said Dulay, who grew up in California.
“I don’t know what to say. Just pure coincidence.”