After Kobe Bryant registered one of basketball's greatest farewell game, some 30-something PBA stars claim to also yearn to go out like the enigmatic Los Angeles Lakers icon.
In a Nike tribute to Bryant which was participated in by some of the country's top cagers at the Revel Disco at the Fort, veteran superstars James Yap, Dondon Hontiveros, Gary David and Peter June Simon, all in their mid-to-late 30's, did not help but talk about Bryant's last game exploits.
"Napag-usapan nga namin 'yung performance ni Kobe kahapon, kasi parang naikukumpara namin yung edad namin sa kanya. Hanga kami kasi nagawa pa rin niya umiskor ng ganun," said Hontiveros, who is still Alaska's most reliable shooter at 37 years old.
"Kaya nung nagkasama-sama kami nila James, Gary at PJ saka si Jeff (Chan), di namin naiwasang pag-usapan 'yung nagkaka-edad na kami. Natatawa na lang kami," he said.
Hontiveros said the conversation was animated touching on topics they would've never talk about 10 years ago.
"Natatawa kami, kasi si Gary nag open up na iba na nga raw talaga pag nagkaka edad. Mas maingat sa pagkain, mas double time sa training, dapat mas alaga sa katawan," he said.
"Sabi nga niya, dati daw nung bata kami, nakikita nami yung mga beterano ng PBA na gumagamit ng iba't ibang bagay para alagaan ang injury at katawan gaya ng foam roller," said Hontiveros.
"Pero ngayon, parang ganun na rin ang ginagawa namin. May na-fe-feel ka rin kasi sa katawan mo at a certain age, kaya mas doble alaga ka," he added.
The soft-spoken 'Cebuano Hotshot' also shared their advice to Yap, who, like Chan still starts games for Star and logs heavy minutes to this day.
"Sinabihan namin si James na mag-treat talaga ng wear and tear sa katawan niya, kasi bugbog sa mileage 'yung paa niya. Biro mo up to now, heavy minutes pa rin siya tapos starting unit," he said.
"Kaya sinabihan talaga namin siya na mas alagaan pa niya sarili niya, lalo't maraming fans ang umaasa sa kanya," the former University of Cebu sniper said.
Asked how Bryant inspired them to play better at the twilight of their great careers, Hontiveros can only hope that their final games will be as spectacular and memorable as that of the NBA legend.
"Sana nga, hindi man kami maka 60 points sa magiging last games namin, sana maging ganun ka-memorable. Pang basketball film kasi talaga yung ginawa niya, parang sa pelikula mo lang mapapanood, hindi sa totoong buhay," said Hontiveros, who is a big fan of Bryant.
"Kaya siguro yun din ang gusto kong maging last game ko, if ever magre-retire na ko. Yung malaki naitulong ko sa team ko para manalo, tapos maaalala ng lahat," said the former Gilas standout.
Though he already hinted about possible retirement soon, Hontiveros claimed he'll just play it by ear.
"Saka na muna (yung topic na yun), focus muna tayo sa ongoing conference and season," he said.
Asked about his experience of playing against Bryant in a scrimmage held at the Araneta Coliseum a few years back, Hontiveros' eyes glittered.
"Sobrang i-che-cherish ko yung moment na 'yun. Kami pa madalas magkabantayan nun, saka sobrang bait ni Kobe, approachable at accommodating," he said. "Kobe is indeed of the greatest players to have played the game. Saludo ako at todo respeto."
Hontiveros also takes pride in owning one of the shoes given away by Bryant right after the PBA vs NBA game, which the Lakers star threw to the crowd at the end of th match.
One Kobe shoe was caught by Hontiveros' driver, which the player has since purchased.