IF you were surprised to see Kelly Nabong on Wednesday night watching a Tanduay Alab Pilipinas game under coach Jimmy Alapag, he wasn't there because of what you might think.
Nabong, if you recalled, had an infamous spat with Alapag when the two were still together with Meralco last October during an out-of-town game in Binan, Laguna, leading to an indefinite suspension for Nabong and eventually his departure from the PBA team.
But none of that had anything to do with Nabong's presence at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Sports Complex. He was there to support a good friend in AJ Mandani, who is currently playing for the Singapore Slingers in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
After a stint in Thailand, Mandani signed with the Slingers prior to the ongoing ABL season. Wednesday's game was Mandani’s first in the Philippines in a long while and there to witness it was pal Nabong, who he considers as a brother.
“Kelly was there to support me along with his wife and son and my girlfriend,” said Mandani in an online interview.
Mandani, 30, and the 29-year-old Nabong strucka friendship during their time in the PBA D-League with Blackwater back when they were starting their basketball careers in the Philippines.
Nabong’s son is Mandani’s godson.
“I’ve known Kels since the first day I landed in the Philippines. We went through the whole process together, D-League, draft, and even being teammates in the PBA at GlobalPort,” said Mandani.
The two may no longer be teammates but Nabong still keeps track of Mandani especially during his time playing in the Thailand basketball league.
“They always show me love and try to watch me wherever I am playing even when I was in Thailand,” said Mandani.
Mandani’s current stint with the Slingers is no different as he was glad Nabong remains by his side. He is expected to return the favor with Nabong returning in the PBA after signing with GlobalPort.
“That’s my brother and no matter what, we will always look after, guide, and support one another,” said Mandani.