First off, let me be completely honest with you by saying this: I am not your biggest fan. In fact, I hated you. From the moment you announced that you’re taking your talents to Diliman last year, I have always had my doubts.
After the Fighting Maroons’ inspiring runner-up finish last year, expectations skyrocketed for UP. After all, everyone deemed you as UP’s “savior” or the missing piece to a much awaited championship. Who could blame them?
You are Kobe freaking Paras, the son of the last player who led UP to a UAAP championship and one of the all-time greats in Philippine basketball. Certainly, basketball greatness runs within your genes.
You’re the Kobe Paras who was once a top prospect of the UCLA Bruins and played one season with the Creighton Bluejays in the Big East Conference who reached the NCAA tournament. So basketball experience will never be a question for you.
You’re a walking highlight reel, a dunking machine, and to top it all, a celebrity. In short, Kobe Paras is box office.
And maybe, that is why I hated you. I hated the hype and I hated the glamour. It didn’t help at all that you were named after my basketball God who wore the purple and gold.
And if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what this is all about. This is not a hate letter. Neither is a love letter. But more of an admission.
An admission, that maybe, I hated you prematurely.
Truth be told, you have been a legit game changer for the Fighting Maroons this season.
With your pure athleticism, the ability to finish under the rim with both hands and to draw fouls, scoring buckets has come easily for you. This is why you led UP in scoring at the end of the elimination round with 17.8 points per game and finished every game with double digit scoring.
While I always seethe whenever I watch your raw footwork and your ambulance seeking drives, I know that it is just because you have not reached your full potential yet.
You are excellent as an off ball cutter and have vastly improved in attacking off the dribble, especially as a play maker. Using your exceptional slashing ability, you have developed into a neat kick out passer.
Although there are still questions about your three-point shooting, you have proven to be a capable shooter, especially in late game situations. Remember your clutch three pointer against Adamson in the second round? Tied at 76 with just over a minute to go, you were staring against Simon Camacho behind the arc. With the shot clock running down, I was screaming behind the television begging for you to pass the ball. Instead, with all swag and confidence, you rose for a three pointer….. Swish. Game ball.
You were fearless. You were gutsy. You were clutch. And for a moment, it looked like the OG Kobe who took that shot.
When you arrived in UP, I really believed that you would be one of those papogi players. But I was wrong. As it turns out, you are committed to winning and for the betterment of the team, you have become one of the leaders of the Fighting Maroons.
Whenever the team was trailing, you were always the one hyping up the team with your infectious energy on the court. And when you’re resting on the bench, you would lead the UP crowd in cheering for the squad.
And for that, I have learned to respect you a lot.
On Sunday, when UP begins its Final Four journey, I hope that you continue to prove me and everyone who have doubted you wrong.
There may never come a time that I will be fond of your game but that’s all right. After all, I’m just another UAAP fan.
Because if you are to live up to expectations and more importantly, give everything you got for the UP community, then it is all that matters. Silence us, Kobe. Silence us.