By Aldo Avinante
MANILA, Philippines — For Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, it’s all about giving back to the game he loves.
Spoelstra led an NBA Cares and NBA 3X Clinic event sponsored by the NBA Community Relations and backed chiefly by Gatorade at the Jose Rizal University Gymnasium in Mandaluyong City on Saturday (August 4).
Spoelstra came in his playing attire, joyfully teaching the fundamentals of basketball to a select group of lucky kids in a morning also filled with casual games and bonding.
“This is really awesome for me. It is a great way for us to connect with those kids, to see them have such joy on their faces and fun with the game of basketball. Just to get out here, just laugh and play the game of basketball that we all love,” said a brimming Spoelstra.
A group of special kids who are part the Special Olympics team led by Head Coach Rene Torres played casual games with Coach Spo, who traces his roots in San Pablo, Laguna.
He entered the sweltering venue to a thunderous applause from the crowd and immediately gave high fives to the kids.
“First and foremost my heritage is very important to me, and I’m proud to be a Filipino. It’s an incredible opportunity for me to see family and at the same time give back to the game that has been so good to me,” said Spoelstra.
Coach Erik really showed his enthusiasm in guiding the kids by playing his heart out with them. He kept on encouraging the special kids in games of tag, obstacle course relay events and balloon games.
“You guys did an excellent job, keep up the good work. Everybody, let’s hear it for them for being able to persevere despite the challenges in front of them,” said Spoelstra after the NBA Cares event.
The kids were given Miami Heat championship shirts and were given ample time to take photos with Spoelstra.
After a short break, Coach Spo went back to work and taught some high school boys and girls the fundamentals of basketball in a 3-on-3 setting. This is in preparation for the NBA 3X event on August 17-19.
Coach Spo observed the boys and girls as they played under his observance, occasionally praising the players whenever they made good plays.
They played under the official rules of the NBA 3X event.
Asked by the media if he saw anyone talented enough to take the big leap into the NBA, Coach Spo graciously deflected the question and reiterated the happiness the game of basketball brings to the people especially the Filipinos.
“It just takes someone to dream big. But today is not about that. It’s about enjoying this beautiful day of basketball by learning some of the fundamentals and great teamwork, sacrifice and discipline,” Said Spoelstra.
“It was a great morning for all of us, you could see the joy in all of the kids faces,” he added.
Coach Spo also mentioned how excited he was for the future of Philippines basketball and believed that one day, we will see our very first Filipino player in the NBA.
“The part of success I had is not allowing people to put limits to what I need to do to succeed.” said Spoelstra, who became the first Filipino-American head coach in the history of professional sports in the US.
“It just takes dreaming and incredible imagination. Dream the impossible, the passion here for basketball is incredible, I can’t wait to see what the future of Filipino basketball is,” he said.