VETERAN Dondon Hontiveros vows to give more value to basketball fans following his humbling experience as media guest and observer in a recent NBA pre-season game.
The Alaska wingman, regarded as one of the most approachable players in the PBA, was able to feel how it was like to be in the gallery and lining up for autographs of his favorite players during an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“May iba kasing players na medyo hindi ganun ka-approachable, pero marami naman sa kanila ang madaling lapitan. Pero ang problema kasi dun, yung NBA ang mismong mahigpit. Di ka allowed magpa-picture, unlike dito sa atin sa PBA,” said Hontiveros, who was hooked up by Spin.ph contributor Snow Badua with US-based NBA Philippines editor Homer Sayson for a game pass.
“Ang hirap din pala nung mate-turn down ka ng idol mo. Kaya ako, I promised myself, once I return to the Philippines, mas magiging maintindihin pa ko sa request ng fans. Kasi di mo rin alam pinagdaanan nila just to get to the venue to see you,” he added.
Hontiveros vowed to encourage his young teammates at Alaska to let the fans feel their love by sharing some time with them.
The 38-year old captain of the Gilas team that finished runner-up in the recent Fiba Asia Championship in China, also expressed his appreciation for the hospitality extended to him by Fil-American Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson.
“Actually, di pa ko nakakalapit sa kanya, nakatingin na siya sa akin. Tapos nung lumapit ako, kinausap niya ko agad at ipinakilala sa mga teammates niya. Ang bait niya, sobrang accommodating ni Jordan,” he recalled.
“May time pa nga na nagpapa-picture ako sa kanya, sinita ako ng guard, bawal daw magpa-picture ang media sa players. Pero sinabi niya na, ‘No, let him be. He's my teammate at Team Philippines.’ Ayun nagka-chance ako na makapag-picture din kay D'Angelo Russell, kasi kasama niya,” he said.
Following his own experience, Hontiveros remembered an incident during Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the last Jones Cup when he had the opportunity to chat with some overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan.
“Yun ang isa pang na-feel ko, ang pagmamahal ng fans na hindi dapat balewalain. Ang dami sa kanila, nagbiyahe ng two hours o three hours by train para lang mapanood kami,” he said.
“Kaya ano ba naman ‘yung ilang minuto na kausapin at pagbigyan mo sila sa mga request nila (picture and autograph),” added Hontiveros.
Apart from understanding the fans’ perspective, Hontiveros also felt how hard it is doing the work of a mediaman.
“Nasa dugout na kami, nag-iinterview kami ng players. Gusto kong magtanong, kaso parang ang bibilis magtanong ng media dun. Naaalala ko tuloy ang mga media dyan sa Pilipinas na ang hirap din pala ng trabaho kapag hinahabol kaming mga players para lang makakuha ng interview,” he said.
“Kaya ngayon mas na-realize ko yung halaga ninyo bilang tulay namin sa fans at dun ko nakita na ang hirap pala talaga ng trabaho ninyo (media),” added the 12-time All-Star.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros regrets not having the chance to talk to Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who left midway through the third quarter owing to a slight injury and to visit former teammate Lamar Odom, who was found unconscious in a brothel in Las Vegas.
“Sayang nga, hindi kami nagkita ni Kobe kasi ang plano is after the game, bibigyan ang lahat ng media ng 15 minutes para sa interview,” he said.
Longtime Alaska fan Rey Tan agreed with the general consensus that Hontiveros is one of the most approachable players in the league today.
“Dondon has the heart for the fans. Win or lose, you can always approach him and he won't ever deprive you of his smile. Kahit alam mo na sobrang bad trip siya after a bad game, ngingiti at ngingiti siya sa yo,” said Tan.
“In fact, madalas ko nga siya makita na siya pa hahawak ng camera para makipag-selfie sa fans. Saka when you approach him, you will feel his sincerity. Sobrang down to earth siya at fan-friendly,” he added.