Moments after becoming the first man of Filipino lineage to win an NBA title, Erik Spoelstra declared to the world his admiration for Manny Pacquiao and likened his Miami Heat’s successful quest for a championship to a boxer’s own struggles atop the ring.
“Everybody knows I’m a big Manny Pacquiao fan,” Spoelstra, whose mother is a Filipina from San Pablo, Laguna, said to cheers from Miami fans as he stood on stage with the rest of the Heat organization at the end of their 121-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five on Friday.
Asked by ESPN’s Stuart Scott about his fondness for using boxing analogies during the Heat’s rise to the title, the Fil-American coach continued: “There are quite a few comparisons that our guys could relate to, to that sport. We got knocked down to the canvas, two or three times this playoff run, but the thing that matters (is that) we got up and kept on working.”
Upon hearing Spoelstra’s tribute, Pacquiao immediately expressed his gratitude from General Santos City where he watched portions of the match.
In a text message to Spin.ph, the world-renowned boxer said: “Thank you at champion na sila. Ngayon pa lang kinu-congratulate ko na sila. Paki sabi thank you for the support and prayer. God Bless.”
Spoelstra has unabashedly expressed his admiration for Pacquiao in the past, even if the former pound-for-pound king is a big fan of the Boston Celtics, whom the Heat beat in seven hard-fought games during this season’s Eastern Conference finals.
In fact, Pacquiao had watched portions of Game Seven in his locker room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in the hours leading up to his loss to Timothy Bradley last June 10, rooting for the Celtics.
“Same way,” Pacquiao told Spin.ph later as he licked his wounds after the double whammy.
Spoelstra also had a light moment with the media before Game Seven against Boston, feigning anger after being told that ‘kababayan’ Pacquiao was rooting for the Celtics.
"You know what, man, you're making it very tough on me,” he said, his words addressed to Pacquiao. “I'm going to have to get confirmation from Freddie Roach or something. If I don't hear otherwise -- I have to get an absolute confirmation. Otherwise I might have to root for Bradley tonight."