When Kobe Paras decided to leave California State University Northridge to turn pro, basketball fans and pundits were divided. On one side, many questioned why he had to leave an NCAA Div I-level program, seeing it as the American dream. On the flipside, a few wanted him to come back home just so he could be with his family and grow with this batchmates in the Gilas Cadets.
But according to Kobe, the term “go pro” does not necessarily mean heading to the NBA. What he meant was foregoing his US collegiate career to earn a living wherever his fate brings him. And with the help of Gilas backer Chooks-to-Go, his next destination was coming back home.
No one understands this more than his father Benjie.
“During my time, I’m also 15 when my mom left and worked abroad, kinuha yung family ko and decided to go to Australia as immigrants, I said no, I was in high school and I’m going to pursue my dream. Lahat sila Australian citizen,” recalled the PBA legend.
“Leap of faith ang ginawa ko.”
It’s the same leap of faith his son took when a young Kobe decided to study in America.
“Sa akin kasi, naintindihan ko. He waited for so long. Yung ginawa niya na.. let’s go back during the first time to go to the States when he was 15, nakitaan siya ng potential nung coach during national team. Nakuha ang e-mail ko, they e-mailed me, and they showed interest in Kobe. Right away, inayos ko yun,” the elder Paras shared.
“In a span of few months, tinapos niya lang yung NCAA [Philippines] season nila, he went to the States already. So from there pa lang, nakikita na natin yung hirap. I don’t know what was gonna happen to him,” Benjie furthered. “Ngayon ang problema, he went to Creighton, the coach there promised him to give a good playing time, but they didn’t. We decided, with his coach in high school in Middlebrooks who’s handling him to transfer to LA. Dati pa siya kinukuha ni Reggie Theus. Okay na sana eh. He’s ready, excited to play for this year, then the coach got fired.
“As an athlete naman, I fully understand that the boy just wanted to play.”
Seeing his son not being able to fulfill his dreams, Benjie felt helpless as he could not be there for him. That is why he sought the help of Chooks-to-Go and see what they can do to bring Kobe back.
“You were there without your family and the only thing that will keep you going is playing. That’s the reason why you’re there,” Benjie shared.
“So ngayon, sabi niya, dad hirap na ako. Sabi ko, sabihin mo kung ano gusto mo. Sabi niya, I don’t want to play for the school. Gusto ko na lang, I want to play for Gilas, for Chooks.
“So he’s very undecided, he doesn’t know what to do, pinalamig ko, then I called Mel Macasaquit [Bounty Sports director] and ito, napagusapan namin and he’s okay with it. Uwi muna siya dito and whatever opportunties that will be given to him as long as he can play, he’s going to take it and I’m just here to support it,” the rock of the Paras household disclosed.
Through this entire ordeal, Kobe, now 20 years old, expressed how grateful he is to have Benjie as not only his father but also as a friend.
“Two years ago I was like scared to talk to him about certain things, but now we have that relationship na magkaibigan and then there’s a fine line na tatay ko pa rin siya.
“I’m just happy that I have that relationship with my dad because if I had a relationship like that five years ago, it would have been like a better living, but it’s life. Everything happens for a reason,” he said.