By Gretchen Ho
Most people don’t know that when I was a kid, it was my dream to become a basketball player. My dad, being a former basketball MVP of his high school, used take us to watch PBA games to support his favorite team. He would also teach us the proper shooting form, as he was known as the prime shooter of his school.
I always thought I could belong in the boys’ league, and even told my dad I dreamt of becoming an NBA player, not WNBA, but NBA. My dad laughed at my dream and I kinda knew it was ridiculous too, but watching Michael Jordan in that heart-stopping game against Utah Jazz in 1998, where he sank the winning basket in the closing seconds of the game, made the dream linger.
However, fate would not have me pursue my “NBA” dream, as my high school didn’t have a basketball team back then. Volleyball was the only sport that had a varsity team, and as I was determined to become an athlete, I decided to try it out. I fell in love with the sport, and the rest is history.
My passion for basketball never left me though, so you could just imagine my delight when I was told that NBA was looking for an influencer to send to the NBA All-Star. I immediately submitted my portfolio and details on my basketball background. With God’s grace, I was chosen and given the chance of a lifetime to go to Los Angeles.
Yes, I was nervous, because apart from being an influencer, I was asked to produce stories for ABS-CBN news. I was also told that I was going to walk the red carpet with other influencers. Talk about wearing a double-hat!
Armed with a camera, a selfie stick and an open heart and mind, I took a 17-hour traverse from the Philippines to Los Angeles.
Just like how any game would start, we kicked off our NBA All-Star Weekend with a walk inside Staples Center. Walking through the dugout area was surreal. I was able to enter the media room and sit where the coaches and top players usually do!
Everything happened so fast. We shifted from one activity to another. The NBA All-Star Weekend felt like a Disneyland for sports. Downtown Los Angeles was like a theme park, with events spread throughout the city, all in walking distance.
The Rising Stars practice came next, and here was a moment I’d been looking forward to since I heard about the opportunity. Apart from the fact that I had crushes on several rookies (Ben Simmons & Kyle Kuzma,) this was an exciting rookie and sophomore class, as proven by one of the organizers, saying that tickets were sold out fast! We were seated courtside, and I couldn’t believe I was seeing the players live and at arms’ length.
I was lucky to have gotten a taste of “Hollywood” with the red carpet walk at the All-Star Celebrity game. It was quick and fun, as I cherished the moment of being in the spotlight for a while. It was also a joy being able to chat with my fellow influencers, model Adrianne Ho from Canada, Taiwanese F4 star Vanness Wu, and Korean actor Nam Joo Hyuk.
If there was one thing that I learned from the trip, it’s really the value of kapal ng mukha. Whether you’re a fan, or part of the media, it pays off to have the courage to seize that window of opportunity everytime you see it. Randomly, the players and celebrities would walk around in different areas of the All-Star weekend, some with bouncers, and some without, and there is only that small window that opens for you to approach. At first I was shy and afraid of being rejected, but I realized this did not do me any good. So I immediately dropped the apprehensions for a chance of a lifetime.
Doing my live reports for ABS-CBN News Channel, Umagang Kay Ganda, and TV Patrol was an overwhelming experience, too! It was a dream for me to be saying these words, “We are live right now here at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the excitement is on as we are less than 2 hours away from the NBA All-Star game.” I had pictured this moment a few years back. I don’t know why and how, but that exact moment was a vision in my head. I was almost brought to tears.
Nothing compared though, to the moment that Michael Jordan walked into the court. My childhood hero surprised everyone as he received the hosting rights for next year’s All-Star Weekend for the Charlotte Hornets, the team that he owns. I couldn’t hold back my tears as I took my cellphone out and instantly took a selfie video to record the moment. Before going to the All-Star Weekend, that was my number one wish, to be able to see Michael Jordan. Everybody told me that that was quite impossible, as he doesn’t show up to big events anymore. Talk about perfect timing!
Up until now, I am still in disbelief over what had happened. I can’t believe I had so many dreams come true over a weekend! I may not have achieved my crazy childhood dream of becoming a professional NBA player, but I was able to experience the life of an NBA player for a few days.
Life has a funny way of bringing things together. Your dreams may not unfold the way you want them to, but if you stay true to the voice within you, keep on working hard, and trust the plan God has for your life; the detours will somehow find its way to give you the deepest desires of your heart. Sometimes, even better.
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Photos from Gretchen Ho