You could swear the air in the room changes when Kobe Bryant is around. The PBA’s top players get starstruck. Social media superstars hesitate to ask for a photo. During his most recent global conference call, sportswriters and TV producers were taking selfies of themselves on the phone.
It doesn’t matter who you are. Any interaction with the five-time NBA champion turned Academy Award-winning storyteller is one for the books.
Jimmy Alapag, Kiefer Ravena, Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Atayde and Nikko Ramos share their favorite Mamba Memories.
What is your favorite Kobe sneaker?
Aaron Atayde: Easily Kobe 6 Grinch. Has to be one of my favorite shoes of all time, period.
Nikko Ramos: The Kobe 1 because of the 81-point game and the madness that was the Suns Playoff game-winner. But for an artist, a storyteller and a sneaker head, the Kobe 6 “Grinch” is and always will be my Holy Grail. I never had it and it still kills me.
Jimmy Alapag: My all-time favorite pair of Kobe’s are the Kobe 5s. I was always a big fan of the low-cut style shoes.
Thirdy Ravena: It’s a tie between the 1s and 11s.
Kiefer Ravena: The Kobe 6 especially when they came out with the ‘Fade to Black’ series. It’s one of my favorite shoes not only because [of] the style; it’s probably one of the most comfortable pair I’ve worn. Hopefully, in the near future, they release the shoe with the same quality as it was originally released back when Kobe was still playing.
What is your favorite Kobe moment?
Aaron Atayde: The ’06 Playoffs when the Lakers were playing my Suns. Game 4 to be exact. Suns possession and they were up by two with eight seconds left. Should’ve seen the 8 on the clock and knew this wasn’t gonna end well for me. Kobe taps it out of Nash’s hands, gets it back, drains a floater. Overtime comes, and it was just brilliance. Six seconds left and a jump bull situation. Of course, it ends up with Kobe. Of course, he pulls up for the game winner. Of course, splash. I went from hating him for what he did to my team for years to having the utmost respect for what he did to all the teams for years. Can’t hate greatness.
Nikko Ramos: It’s crazy, but it’s not a game-winner, or a championship parade. It’s the four airballs against Utah in his rookie year. That would’ve broken anyone. Imagine the amount of disappointment and heartache that must’ve caused him. But if you look at the tape again, his face as he was walking off the court. We didn’t know it then, but now we do: He was scowling, plotting how to get better, how to use failure as fuel. Peak Kobe. And he was a teenager.
Jimmy Alapag: One of my favorite Kobe moments was actually his last game as a Laker, scoring 60 points at home, at 38 years old. Just an incredible performance for someone who was playing in his 20th season.
Thirdy Ravena: Watching his last game. I was actualy on the road the entire time. I was on my way to Taft, and I bought that particular game because I didn’t have a league pass.
Kiefer Ravena: My most favorite Kobe moment would be the first time I met him when he was a rookie. He visited the Philippines for an Asian tour. My dad was able to play with Kobe then. Being carried and taking a picture with a young Kobe Bryant would probably be my biggest memory of him.
How did you feel in the moments before you met Kobe?
Aaron Atayde: I felt nervous as hell. This is one of the best to ever do it. It’s like he was a myth. I wanted to bow in his presence like Kanye told us all to do when we meet greatness.
Nikko Ramos: Torn. I wanted to be a pro about it. I was, after all, hired to host the event. “Act like you’ve been here before” is what pros always tell you. But also, I was beside myself with excitement. I had a new 60 tattoo on my hand in honor of Kobe’s last game. Needless to say, I was a fan about to meet his hero.
When I did meet him, finally, he couldn’t believe my tattoo. He tried rubbing it off thinking it was a joke. And then he said it was the craziest, dumbest thing he had ever seen. The best.
Jimmy Alapag: I was definitely excited and honored to meet one of the best to ever play the game. I just admire and respect is dedication to the game, and his tireless work ethic.
Thirdy Ravena: I was excited and nervous at the same time. I remember my hands were shaking like crazy.
Kiefer Ravena: I’ve always been a big fan of Kobe Bryant whether the Lakers would win or lose. His work ethic says a lot [about] how he became Kobe Bryant. That’s one thing I’ve always wanted to imitate or follow.
What was one memorable thing Kobe said to you, or during your event?
Aaron Atayde: It was right after the last visit. I was suffering from severe laryngitis and a bad case of the flu. But that wasn’t gonna stop me from fulfilling a promise that I made myself when I was younger. I was gonna host this event even if it’s the last thing I ever say. Kobe and I were talking the whole day. He knew my stuff wasn’t right from the get-go. He knew my voice was slowly disappearing at the press conference that was in the morning. Kobe heard it start to reach it’s end, when the banner went up almost 12 hours later in Araneta. He just kept giving me nods like, “You got this. Keep pushing.”
When it was all said and done, I was standing outside my dressing room. I was thinking about it all with a good friend, Banj Albano, when Kobe poked my shoulder to get my attention before he got into his van and left.
“You were clutch today. That was Mamba Mentality right there.”
Nikko Ramos: Apart from him making fun of me for my tattoo, as he was about to leave, he called me over, asked the bodyguards to let me through, and then asked for my shoe. He signed it and wrote “60 All Day”.
He said to always go for 60, in whatever you’re doing. Just go and do your absolute best, even if you’re tired, even if you can’t anymore, just go. Just be relentless, be great.
Jimmy Alapag: One of the most memorable moments with Kobe was having my eldest son meet him. He gave him a fist pound and said “Hey, young Mamba.”
Thirdy Ravena: “Be epic.”
Kiefer Ravena: It was [during] an event at Resort’s World Manila where I was able to talk to Kobe. I showed him the picture from 1997 where he was carrying me. It was a crazy conversation because he felt like he was really getting old and how time was passing by.
Aaron Atayde: #MambaMentality is not being the best at something. It’s not being the greatest basketball player, or the best host, or the GOAT chef or accountany. We are all trying to be the best at something.
It’s when it’s not going our way, it’s when the difficult times start kicking you in the ass, it’s the torn Achilles or not having your voice when your job is talking into a mic or being down two against the Suns with eight seconds left.
When you bite down on your jersey, suck it all up, all the pain and fatigue, and just go out there and put it all on the line. That’s #MambaMentality.
Nikko Ramos: Get 60. All day. Everyday.
Jimmy Alapag: #MambaMentality for me is the calculated, relentless pursuit of being the best you can be in your chosen field.
Thirdy Ravena: Always trying to be better than who you were yesterday.
Kiefer Ravena: Mamba Mentality is the ability to push through and rise above competition, rise above failure, rise above obstacles. Despite being an underdog you still fight and go through adversity with all that you can and rising to the occasion whenever it’s needed.
Photos from Joseph Maquirang, Kiefer Ravena, Jimmy Alapag and Nikko Ramos
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