Anybody who’s somebody will be inside the MOA Arena tonight. How often does it happen? When stars like Paul George and James Harden land in our Southeast Asian nation? When two of this season’s top contenders — Indiana and Houston — will dribble and dunk beside the humongous Mall of Asia?
Ten. Ten. Whatever the outcome, I’m sure, to all who watch, the experience will be an absolute 10. Ticket prices, as expected, are exhorbitant. The most expensive, I heard, go for P51,000. Those are front-row seats. The least expensive, all the way up to the roof, sell for a few thousand. Still overpriced. But with these overpaid superstars here — and you don’t have to travel to America to watch them — then… sulit.
Of all the players, the one I’d like to meet is a non-player: Larry Bird. Who doesn’t admire the 6-foot-9 Boston Celtic who was a 3-time MVP and won for his green team the titles in ‘81, ‘84 and ‘86? I was an LA Lakers and Magic Johnson backer but you’d have to applaud the sweet-shooting jumper of Larry Bird.
He’s here. They’re all here, as part of the first ever NBA Global Games — when a mixed group of teams travel to various cities around the globe. Starting with Istanbul, Turkey last Oct. 5, NBA teams travel for pre-season games to Bilbao, Manchester, Taipei, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing and our very own Manila. They cap the tour when Golden State meets the LA Lakers on Oct. 18 in Shanghai.
The above-mentioned cities are some of the richest on Earth. For Manila to be included in the short line-up means that we truly are basketball crazy. And we are.
“It has blown me away,” Jeremy Lin was quoted in a Phil. Daily Inquirer story yesterday. “The second I got off the airplane until now, everyone had been over the top. I’m definitely feeling the love from the Philippines.”
As the most famous Asian after Yao Ming to play on the biggest stage, Jeremy Shu-How Lin will surely be the most photographed, especially when his team flies to Taipei for the game there on Sunday. He’s the NBA’s first American-born player of Taiwanese descent.
Another player who professed his fondness for Manila is Dwight Howard. “I’m so excited to be back here in Manila,” Howard was quoted by Joey Villar in The Phil. Star. “I always told people in the years I’ve been in the NBA, one of the best places I’ve been is the Philippines and I think they are the best fans in the world.”
One major reason why the NBA Global Games is in the Philippines is because of Henry Sy. Thanks to his billions of pesos in spending power, he built the MOA Arena. From what I heard, not only did they offer our country as the venue but the Sy family also plunked down tens of millions of pesos for the NBA to play here. Talk about “marketing expense.”
Like what Manny Pangilinan did when the FIBA Asia Championship was held here last August, the Smart/MVP group of companies overspent; this means that, surely, all their expenses cannot be recouped by the gate tickets and sponsors’ money. But never mind. What’s important is that mega-events such as these arrive in Manila.
Same today. SM is willing to spend money (OK, this is just small change for the multi-billionaire) to get it done. For such initiatives, we thank the Sy family and MVP.
Talking about the MOA Arena, I bring back the issue again of this similar complex being built at the South Road Properties (SRP). If I recall the conversation my dad and I had with Ms. Marissa Fernan, SM’s top official outside of Manila, a few months back, it’s confirmed: SM will build a billion-peso Arena at the SRP. While Manila’s is called MOA, ours is more relaxed-sounding, suited perfectly for Cebu: SM Seaside City.
Mayor Mike: Given that no astute businessman will spend for hundreds of millions (if not a billion pesos ++) for such a sports coliseum — even Atty. Gus Go has been hesitant to rehabilitate his Cebu Coliseum — then I guess we just have to apply some patience and do this: Wait for the SM Seaside Arena.