IN the clash of some of the world’s top streetball teams at the 2016 Global Hoops tournament, the smallest guy on the court stole the show.
Standing no taller than 4-foot-5, US team Court Kingz’ Jahmani Swanson AKA Mani Love was undoubtedly one of the major scene-stealers during the Saturday night event.
With his height, many fans thought Mani Love would just be a novelty for the night’s festivities. They were in for a pleasant surprise.
Soon as he stepped on the floor for the US vs Team China game, the New York native made his presence felt, holding his own by setting up plays and lobbing pinpoint passes that ended up as alley oop dunks from his teammates.
He also didn’t shy away from physical contact, shrugging off two hard hits he suffered while playing defense and seemed energized with his animated celebrations on the court, thanks to an appreciative Pinoy crowd.
“Oh man! It’s just what I hear about, you know? The fans, they love it. They’re so entertaining. They go crazy with you just holding the ball. It’s a great energy. I’m from New York City and I thought I was home,” said Mani Love.
Mani Love also took part in the biggest highlight of the game, after his teammates Megatron and Mr. Viral took him on their shoulders and helped him ‘dunk’ the ball, to the cheer of the crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After the games, SPIN.ph got to chat with Mani Love and he gamely discussed why he keeps playing the game despite his limitations. He knows that his size is essentially a liability in a big man’s game, but Mani Love does more than just passing the ball to his taller teammates — he serves as an inspiration.
“I’d like to be known as the best passer, the most inspirational player,” he said.
“People look at me and go, ‘What’s he doing out there?’ So right away I got the crowd, ‘Oh what’s he gonna do?’ That’s the most beautiful part. And that’s not just for me. All of these players have unique backgrounds. We all come together as one to show you we’re the best,” continued the Court Kingz point guard.
“It makes me feel humble. I’m the one that everybody likes to come at. I’m the one with the most attention. I have to show why I’m here and it’s my heart, it’s not my talent. But if I’m able to master my talent with my heart. That’s why it’s heart over height!”
Mani Love said the Court Kingz, who’ve been on a global tour for the past three months, will bring with them fond memories from their first visit to the country. And he's looking forward to bring his family when he returns.
“From Venezuela, to China, to the Philippines. It’s a beautiful way to end it,” said Mani Love.
“I don’t want to take pictures of this country, I felt like it was disrespect. I want to go home and tell my family to come to (the Philippines) to see why this is a beautiful and inspirational country. Everybody here just wake up, they’re thankful, they do what they gonna do to survive,” he added.