PBA star center Asi Taulava was given a 'rock star' treatment upon his arrival in Dubai, greeted by throngs of fans at the airport and almost everywhere he goes.
The charismatic slotman was easily the biggest crowd drawer as he joined the NLEX Road Warriors in the 10-day Dubai International Basketball Championships which will kicks off Thursday at the Al Ahli Club in this popular and modern Middle East destination.
Dubai-based liaison officer Edwin Deang told Spin.ph that it took them almost 30 minutes to pull Taulava out of the crowd of foreign-based Filipino workers who sought autographs and photo opportunities with 'The Rock.'
“Dinumog siya saka 'yung team ng mga OFW’s dun sa airport. Karamihan pa nga ng mga nakigulo eh kasama dun sa PAL flight nila,” said Deang, who is popular to PBA teams as he serves as guide and point person whenever there are tournaments in the city.
“Pinakasikat talaga si Asi. Inabot kami ng kalahating oras kasi ang daming dumumog sa kanya. Sa sobra ngang pagka-curious ng tao, pati mga foreigners, nagpa-picture na rin sa kanya,” added Deang, who was accompanied by event organizers Mohammed Wagdi and Ali Adi at the airport arrival area.
The mob did not end at the airport as Deang bared how Taulava was again approached by fans after the team’s dinner and upon their arrival at the Asiana Hotel.
Deang believes that the 42-year old many-time national cager has won the hearts of millions of Filipino basketball fans, both in the Philippines and overseas, because of his humility and pleasant personality.
“Asi kasi values the efforts of the fans who approach him. His efforts also with the national team including with the original Gilas, which played here in 2011, made him closer to hearts of OFW’s here,” he said.
“Saka hindi kasi siya namamahiya ng fans. Lahat ng hiling, pinagbibigyan niya,” added Deang.
At posting time, the NLEX Warriors, led by NBA veteran Al Thornton, are in the thick of their preparations for the Dubai tilt. They held a 9-11 a.m. (Dubai time) practice and will again run through some plays at 3-5 p.m.
The lone Philippine participant in the tournament participated in by national teams of Qatar and UAE, NLEX will make its debut on Friday against Libyan commerical team Star Food at 9 p.m. (1 a.m., Manila time).