NBA superstar Lebron James turned on the charm in his appearance before mediamen on Tuesday, paying tribute to his Fil-American coach at Miami, Erik Spoelstra, and assuring his fans that his maiden visit to the Philippines will certainly not be his last.
Wearing a simple Nike shirt and a broad smile across his face, the two-time NBA champion and four-time MVP said frequent Manila visitor Spoelstra briefed him on what to expect in his visit to this basketball-crazy nation.
“Absolutely, coach Spo told me all about it (Manila experience). It’s very exciting to be part of such (basketball) culture,” James said as cameras flashed inside the Makati Shangri-La's Rizal ballroom.
Arriving an hour late for the press conference, James appeared in a brief one-on-one interview with sports anchor Boom Gonzales before more than 150 mediamen that packed the ballroom which was adorned by an all-black stage bearing the NBA star's huge image.
James said he intends to repay the electrifying welcome he received on Tuesday by imparting whatever he had gained through his years of NBA experience that included back-to-back championships with the Heat.
“Can't believe this is my first time here but definitely this is not gonna be my last,” said the 28-year-old Heat star, as the crowd erupted in wild cheers.
Even before he could emerge, a large crowd of mediamen and plain fans awaited at the hotel lobby, with die-hard fans wearing Nike apparels or bringing items which they hope James could sign in his brief appearance with the press in the Heat’s star very first Manila visit dubbed “Witness History."
The 6’8” NBA superstar said winning a second NBA title is harder, especially against a battle-tested team like the San Antonio Spurs.
In fact, James said he had to go through the emotional highs and lows of the NBA playoffs, which he claimed is five times tougher than the regular season.
“Both the two championship runs were emotionally draining because you go from one series to the next. The next game to the (other) game. A playoff game is five times more difficult than (in) the regular season,” he added.
“But the emotions ran high and ran low at times. Throughout the whole series, my first year we lost to OKC (Oklahoma City Thunder) in Game One. My emotions went low, but after that game I showed my emotions.
“And this year, I was up the whole time, I knew the hard work and how well they played, but I’m just glad we were able to accomplish the goal."
After James’ brief media appearance, he went straight to the Nike Park at the Bonifacio Global City, the same outlet where 7,000 basketball fans gathered for two days last week to get free tickets to the `Witness History’ tour courtesy of Nike.
The Miami Heat superstar will be capping the day with a personal appearance at the Mall of Asia Arena where he’s expected to grace a skills challenge involving some local Nike endorsers, among other events.
The MOA Arena activity is set at 4 p.m.
James is set to leave Manila by Wednesday morning.