Few people love basketball as much as Chester Cokaliong. The CEO of Cokaliong Shipping owns a full-court at the uppermost floor of his Reclamation Area building. He’s Cebu’s undisputed 3-point king. Trophies? He has more hardware than Shewak’s.
“The NBA Championship is being played right now,” said Chester. “Whoever wins the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Thunder will win the title.”
That’s fearless. That’s bold. Miami Heat? LeBron, Dwayne and, when he’s back, the third member of the Avengers… Bosh? Aren’t they the favorites? Since last season? And more so, this 2012? Not with Chester, who monitors the games nightly from his home via the NBA Premium HD channel on SkyCable.
“Without Chris Bosh of Miami, the Spurs will prevail. There’s no center. And even if Bosh is back, he won’t be in tiptop condition. He’ll have a hard time with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.”
Chester predicts that, granted that both San Antonio and Miami meet in the Finals, it will be a 4-2 score for the Spurs without Bosh; with him, it will go to Game 7 with the win for SA.
“The Spurs have home-court advantage,” he said. “That’s a big factor.” Another reason why Chester is confident: “Miami doesn’t have a deep bench. They even narrowly escaped Indiana.”
With the 36-year-old Duncan, Chester is all praises for NBA’s Coach of the Year, Gregg Popovich. “He rests Duncan so he can play in the last six minutes. He doesn’t overtire him. He doesn’t want him injured.”
LAKERS. Last February 20 was a special day for Chester. It was his birthday. It was also his Silver Wedding Anniversary with his wife, Anna Lynne. How did they celebrate this twin milestone?
“We went to watch the L.A. Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center. Before that, we spent several nights on a Bahamas Cruise and arrived in Miami. Then, Feb. 20, we flew to Los Angeles and watched the game. Lakers went on to win it after an excellent first quarter. The next day, we flew back to Cebu.”
It wasn’t Chester’s first-ever time to watch the NBA. Years back, he saw the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns. But that was at the old Forum stadium. Now, he’s all-praises for the new arena.
“Grabe ka gwapo ang Staples Center,” he said.
You mean it can compare to our Cebu Coliseum? I joked.
“Ma-uwaw ta (We’d be embarrassed). No comparison.”
In Chester’s visit to the Staples Center, he noticed that most of the spectators were non-L.A. residents. “The jerseys ran out. We wanted to buy. Kobe. Griffin. They all ran out. They have this huge sports center inside the Staples Center selling Lakers and Clippers apparel. They have smaller stalls exclusive per team. You can even get made-to-order jerseys and pick them up the in the next game. But they were all sold out.”
CEBU ARENA. Chester mentioned the need for Cebu to have a new stadium. “We need an arena. It doesn’t have to be like the Staples Center. But we need a new one.”
Combining his basketball passion and his business acumen, maybe Chester can spearhead the building of this new Megadome? “I spent time computing the cost and there’s no way you can recover the investment. You cannot even pay the bank. So that’s the big problem,” he said.
We talked about the recently-opened Mall of Asia Arena, owned by SM. Maybe that will rise at the SRP when our own MOA rises.
3-POINTERS. Chester is known as the best 3-point shooter of our island. His idol: Larry Bird. “Nobody today can compare to Bird. Remember him winning those three-point contests wearing an NBA jacket? The present crop is not very good. They’ll also pale in comparison even to Reggie Miller. Look at Ray Allen. He’s playing very bad. He’s not even hitting his free throws. In the regular season, he shot 92 percent. Now, in the playoffs, it’s down to 65 percent. Free throws!”
As to his favorite players, Chester cites Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker of the Spurs. But his all-time favorite—like everybody else’s—is Michael Jordan.