By Alder Almo for NBA.com Philippines/Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines – With his immense popularity in the Philippines, LeBron James could hardly believe it is just his first time to set foot on this basketball-crazy nation.
Facing throngs of media members and fans in a press conference arranged by Nike Philippines as part of his “Witness History” tour, James expressed delight by the warm reception he received.
“This is very overwhelming, to see all these people excited. I’m looking forward to what today brings,” an ecstatic James told a packed crowd at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati in the press conference that was also aired lived on ANC.
James finally experienced what his Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told him before going here.
"He said it's a great country and [Filipino] people are passionate about what they love and what they believe in," said James, who was clad in his signature Nike tee and blue shorts.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player went on to talk about the Miami Heat’s recent championship odyssey – in which they bested the San Antonio Spurs in seven games to win their second straight NBA championship – and how “emotionally draining” it was.
The Miami Heat superstar sat for almost 12 minutes with event host Boom Gonzales. At one point, James – who took home the Finals MVP trophy for the series – even downplayed his role in the Heat’s title conquest.
“No matter how good one individual is, it takes a team to win a championship,” he said.
An open forum originally slated was eventually scrapped to maximize the limited time of James
James’ “Witness History” tour includes stops at the Nike Park store at the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig and at the Mall of Asia Arena to meet thousands of fans, most of whom camped out for days just to obtain free tickets to the event.
At the MOA Arena, James will cap off his one-day tour with a skills challenge to be participated by some local Nike Basketball endorsers.
James, for his part, already hinted at returning to country.
"I' can't believe it's my first time here. I understand how huge basketball here," James said. "It's definitely not going to be my last."
Photo: LeBron James talks to Philippine STAR and NBA.com Philippines columnist Joaquin Henson (Photo from Joaquin Henson’s Instagram account)