By Gian Go

There was a loud scream when the ball once again clanked off the rusted rim.

It was another Saturday 6AM training session and my younger brother, Isaac, was breathing heavily, drenched in sweat, and had both of his hands on his knees. We had just finished doing a drill I had thought of the night before and he was dead tired. “You are crazy”, he told me once he finished the drill. “Nobody does this”, he added with a bitter taste in his voice.

I think it has already been established that I was the one who pushed Isaac to play basketball because I needed someone to play with. I do not deny that. It is 100% true. However, it was not easy to convince Isaac to play something he initially had no interest in.

Growing up, both of us had different interests. Isaac enjoyed his different video and trading card games while I was solely obsessed with basketball. We had no common ground. This often lead to a lot of arguments ranging from what channel the TV was going to be on—since we only had one—to what game we were going to play on the Play Station.

Things changed when both of us made it to the varsity team. Now, only next to our studies, basketball became our second priority. We made a commitment to our team, and ultimately to ourselves, to be the best basketball players we could be and everything else had to take a back seat.

However, this was harder with Isaac. He did not have the physical and athletic attributes to be a successful athlete. It was painful for me, more as his brother than his teammate, to see him struggle during training sessions. I felt embarrassed whenever he was the last one to finish running suicides or when he would miss an uncontested lay-up. I felt bad because I was the one who dragged him to this position.

Initially joining the training pool, and eventually the varsity team, was all my idea. I was the one who wanted to see if I had what it took to make the team. Isaac was just collateral damage. He would usually do the same after-school activities I did out of convenience.

I remember having previous discussions with Isaac on whether or not he still wanted to continue playing basketball. It was heartbreaking to see him struggle and frustrated that he could not do the things he wanted to do inside the court—even when he worked on it. However, Isaac would always answer the bell—ready to take on the challenge. I think he wanted to prove something to everybody—that he was, and is going to be, a good basketball player.

To achieve something in the future, there was a need to work on it during the present. Isaac and I started doing early morning workouts every weekend morning to further improve o his skills. We needed to be strategic in our training sessions. Isaac’s game, from his prolific outside shooting to his looping shots around the rim were designed with an end goal in mind: to make it to the UAAP.

Isaac, by this time, also started watching more film. He started immersing himself to the world of basketball—learning its history and trying to understand the different intricacies of the game. He always had a very inquisitive mind and he started asking me what would I do in many hypothetical situations. This was where our relationship as brothers deepened. We both finally liked something in common. Basketball eventually was the foundation of our brotherhood—everything now revolves around it.

I made it a point to be present in all of Isaac’s games. Either when we were teammates or he was playing in a different team, I was there not only to support him but to also closely monitor his game and to offer suggestions for in-game adjustments. Car rides and meals after each game were avenues for us to discuss on how he think he played, how I think he played, and what can be worked on for succeeding games. This practice of ours still happens today—even if I no longer play varsity basketball.

When Isaac made the two biggest shots in his career, the three to force overtime and the kneeling shot in overtime against FEU two years ago, I was not in the venue. During that crucial Final Four game, I was in the office—busy preparing for a presentation I would deliver in the afternoon. It pained me to not be in the venue to support him, to provide him additional pointers, which he could use, like I had done my entire life. I felt helpless.

However, once I finished the presentation, I quickly dashed to my phone and was lucky enough to catch the last minute of the 4th quarter and overtime. With every second, with my data usage slowly exceeding my monthly allocation, I was watching with eager anticipation. When Isaac, off a brilliantly drawn up play from Coach Tab, made the shot—I was elated—loudly celebrating in the office. It had felt, at that time, like my life’s work has been complete. He has achieved many of the things I had dreamt about for myself from playing collegiate basketball, to making numerous game-winning shots, and delivering a championship to Ateneo. Bit by bit, Isaac is the one achieving my dreams.

Nowadays, I no longer have to be the one to push him to do his extra work. I no longer have to be the one to tell him what he did correctly or what he could improve on. He has already absorbed a wealth of basketball knowledge and has developed an introspective assessment of himself. Nowadays, he is the one initiating basketball discussions—sometimes it feels he already knows more than me. It’s nice to see how basketball has now developed from a chore to something he can make a career out of.

Why I pushed my brother to play basketball was more than just because I wanted a playmate. As we grew older, and as he eventually got better at it, I saw this as a means for me to—indirectly—achieve my dreams. Growing up, even I was decent enough at the game, the basketball gods never blessed me with the same opportunities he had. I wanted to make sure that in some way, shape, or form, one of us was going to make it.

As Isaac wraps up his fifth and final season for the Blue and White and wherever his basketball journey takes us, I will always remember those weekend mornings in the park. Yes, maybe the things I had him do at that time were crazy but it was only because he was going to do things nobody expected from him—except me.