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LA-born coach Don Dulay wears Kobe Bryant jersey during Davao Occi game

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BATANGAS — Born and raised in the city of Carson in Los Angeles, California, Davao Occidental-Cocolife head coach Don Dulay grew up in a family of die-hard Laker fans.

He was there when his favorite team dealt Serbian sensation Vlade Divac in exchange for a 17-year-old high schooler back in the 1996 NBA draft. And he was also there when the entire city of Los Angeles embraced that kid who turned into one of the best talents that the game has ever seen.

“Man, it goes way back. I was born and raised in LA so you know, I’m a die-hard Laker fan. Been following Kobe since he became a Laker,” shared Dulay.

“It’s very emotional for me when it happened. For the people who know me, they know that I’m probably one of the biggest Kobe fans, so I had to pay my respect. I wish I can be in LA and go to Staples Center, but I gotta be here right now.”

Back in the 2000s, whenever Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers made it to the playoffs, Dulay’s parents would host viewing parties for the whole family while watching their favorite team on screen. And those moments, for him, brought his family closer to each other than ever.

And so when the Lakers legend perished in a helicopter crash last Monday, a part of him died too.

“One thing that I loved about Kobe is he brought my family closer. Those times in the 2000s, every time they made it to the playoffs, to the finals, we would have barbeques and cookouts for the family, friends; and it brought us closer, and I’ll never forget that,” Dulay said.

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To honor the person who played such a huge role in his life, Dulay wore a Bryant jersey in Davao’s 106-90 victory against Muntinlupa in the Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season, here at the Batangas State University on Wednesday.

Dulay admitted that he hasn’t been the same since getting the news. He also dedicated the victory to his late idol, whose ‘Mamba Mentality’ helped him get over many rough encounters in life.

“Since it happened, I haven’t been the same. You know… being in this setting kinda helped me to you know, relax a little and made me look at things at a different perspective,” Dulay said.

“It helped me get through those days when I was tired but you know, knowing him… All those days that I wanted to quit, but thinking like, what would Kobe do at this moment? It helped me get through those tough times.”

When asked if he will continue wearing the jersey of the global icon, Dulay gave a short but heartfelt reply.

“I think it’ll be a one-time thing, but you know… I’ll hold it close to my heart. He loved the game so much. He gave everything to the game and that’s why I’m such a big fan.”

In other games, Bacolod-Master’s Sardines rallied behind Yankie Haruna in an 83-78 victory over Valenzuela-Carga Backload Solutions; meanwhile, Jeff Viernes heated-up late to power Batangas’ 70-66 win against Marikina.

Story by Jonash Dannug
Photo by Nicks Hernandez

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