Kobe Bryant to Gilas and other Filipino players: ‘Identify your weaknesses, work to make those your strengths’ 
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant stresses importance of hard work. Jaime Campos

KOBE Bryant shared valuable advice for Gilas Pilipinas as it prepares to battle tall odds in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament this coming July.

“My message of hope (for Gilas Pilipinas) would be first of all, you have to have imagination, which is the most important thing. That’s where it starts. They have to believe in it," said Bryant, part of two Team USA squads that won Olympic gold medals, during an interview session with selected journalists from newspapers and websites that included SPIN.ph.

"Secondly it’s practice. Everybody can walk around and have hope all day but having hope is meaningless if you don’t put in the work to achieve it,” he added. "Practice really really hard." 

The five-time NBA champion also stressed that Gilas needs to address their weaknesses and work on their cohesion to succeed against taller, higher ranked teams in the OQT.

“Work together as a group. Identify what your weaknesses are and work to make those your strengths. If you can do that, you can give yourself a much, much better chance at winning,” he said. 

The NBA superstar is in Manila, his fifth visit to the country, for the Mamba Mentality Tour and held a press conference at the Shangri-La The Fort on Saturday morning..

The 37-year old Bryant has a soft spot for Filipinos, describing Pinoys as among “the most exciting basketball fans in the world.”

“You absolutely love the game. You have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration because of it. There’s a lot of energy that surrounds the game of basketball here,” said Bryant.

The former NBA MVP said he has no current plans to enter coaching or owning a team as his focus is on his company, Kobe Inc, which creates multimedia content that would inspire people. But Bryant remains connected to the game, and has observed “drastic changes” in the NBA since he was drafted out of high school in 1996.

With basketball's landscape leaning towards speed and outside shooting, Bryant believes these league changes  could mean opportunities for Filipino players intent on finally cracking the NBA, but with a disclaimer.

“That gives a great opportunity for smaller players to make it to the NBA but the level of skill must be at a high level. It hasn’t become easier. The style has changed but the commitment to get to that level remains the same if not more so," said Bryant.

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“Now you have kids who have the ability to really imagine being here because the game is much smaller and played at different heights. That means you have more kids really aspiring to get to that level, which just heightens the competition. Now you’re working harder to be one of those players,” he added.         

Follow the writer on Twitter: @rhoelfernandez