A FEW words of encouragement from his legendary father what was Kobe Paras needed to get him going in the dunk contest of the Fiba 3x3 U-18 World Championship, which the young Filipino emphatically won in Jakarta, Indonesia on Sunday night.
Cage great Benjie Paras said he had to egg on his youngest son to play with confidence, but at the same time, enjoy the competition pitting players from 15 countries.
The elder Paras recalled being texted by Kobe just before the start of the dunk contest as he appeared overwhelmed by the cast of players seeing action.
“Sabi niya `Dad, I’m the youngest, I’m the smallest player.’ Nakita niya kasi agad `yung mga player and was easily intimidated,” Paras said when father and son appeared in the weekly PSA Forum Tuesday accompanied by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios.
“I told him to just believe in yourself and that you're better than them.”
But at 15 years old, Kobe understandably felt a bit wet behind the ears competing under the bright lights for the very first time.
And so his father again had to remind him about his own experience of competing against the big boys at a very young age and yet, got the better of it.
“Sabi ko sa kanya porma lang yan, wala yan sa laki. And binuhat ko na rin `yung sarili kong bangko, sabi ko sa kanya I was only 20 when I joined the PBA pero I won the (Rookie) MVP,” said the elder Paras, who remains the only player to win the PBA MVP and Rookie of the Year award in the same season 24 years ago.
The young guard from La Salle Greenhills took it from there and bested Sun Minghui of China, Demonte Flannigan of the US, and Antonio Morales of Spain in the slam-dunk finals to win the title.
Kobe capped his stunt by dunking over a motorcycle where teammate Thirdy Ravena was seated.
“Sponsor kasi ng tournament `yung Honda kaya nag-usap kaming apat ng teammates ko (Ravena, Prince Rivero, and Arvin Tolentino) about what dunk to do in the Finals,” said the younger Paras.
The Filipino, whose dunking prowess first gained notice when he slammed one home over NBA superstar Lebron James during warm-up when the Miami Heat stalwart visited the country last July, qualified for the Finals by topping the qualification with a perfect 30 points together with Sun.
“Sobrang kaba ko. But iba na kasi `yung adrenaline kapag andun ka,” he said.
“But the truth is, hindi ko akalain na mananalo ako, dahil point guard lang ang laro ko,” Kobe pointed out.
Good thing, daddy Benjie was there to guide him all the way.