Last Sunday, July 19, two years after playing in the first-ever NBA preseason game in Manila, Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George returned to our shores to help promote the Nike Rise project—a six-week developmental program that aims to cultivate the country’s most promising undiscovered hoops talents. The Swoosh brand’s latest venture will be conducted by former Gilas headmaster Chot Reyes and Filipino basketball legend Jimmy Alapag and will air as a docu-series on TV5 this August.
Upong arriving, the two-time NBA All-Star headed to the Tenement Court in Taguig city where he interacted and with hundreds of thrilled fans. The man was as cool as Chuck Taylors in the '90s.
A day later, he starred in a press conference held inside the training facility that Nike calls the House of Rise, located in Sheridan St., Mandaluyong. FHM went there and listened to Pareng Paul talk to the event’s emcee, Boom Gonzalez, about his second stint in the Philippines as a Nike ambassador and his personal “Rise” story, which pertains to how he’s fought through the toughest challenges in his career.
ON HIS FIRST TRIP AND HOW HIS TRIP TO TAGUIG WENT DOWN
Paul George: “[The first trip] was a tease. There wasn’t much we could’ve done in the short period that we were here. It’s nothing like the trip that I just got. I really got to see the city and interact with the kids. Just making an impact to yourself. This has been a great trip for me.
It was my first time witnessing something like that. It was like back in the Coliseum days. Walking down with the people all around at the top, they’re all there to watch the show that’s about to go down. The energy I felt walking to the court, I knew I was going to be in for something crazy. It was a great time, something I’ll have to take back with me in the U.S.”
ON FILIPINOS' LOVE FOR THE GAME
PG: “They love the game just like I love the game. I’ve seen a lot of personality, a lot of flair. They have all the tricks, they have the shot making, the handles are crazy. They’re ready. They know how to play the game.
[Playing without sneakers], that’s how I was. I grew up, waking up at 7 or 8 in the morning, I felt like putting shoes on took too long. So, I get out on the court and get shots up barefoot.”
ON BEING AN INSPIRATION TO HOOPS FANS
PG: “Of course, we got to think that anything is possible. There’s no limit to nothing. That’s what I want to share with them. Regardless whether you're a shorter guy or you can’t shoot well or you can’t dribble the ball well, there’s a way to overcome that. And that’s what I’m here to help these guys with.
I’ve just been blessed to play the sport. The game of basketball has been great for me. It allowed me to travel to beautiful places like this, meet beautiful people. I never take that for granted. As I experienced getting injured, I know that can easily be taken away. So, every opportunity that I’m in, I’m all for it.”
ON BEING THE PACERS' PRIDE
PG: “It’s the responsibility I’ve wanted. I love being our leader. I love having that pressure. That drives me, that keeps me in the gym, that keeps me working hard. I love stepping onto the scene, being the face of a great organization and inspiring young players.”
ON EMERGING AS A NIKE AMBASSADOR
PG: “I didn’t think that I would reach the level that I’ve reached now with Nike. It’s funny, when I was a kid I used to draw up sketches of sneakers and I used to always tell myself , I’ll have a shoe or I’ll be dealing with Nike on some level. It’s crazy, here I am, a part of something so big.”
ON HIS BIGGEST "RISE" MOMENTS IN THE NBA
PG: “My big rise moments were being a rookie and being told to guard the MVP in Derrick Rose in the playoffs, dunking on Birdman, and having to step up and lead the team after having Danny Granger go down—and being so young and not really knowing how to do so. That was a tough challenge but I learned a lot about myself and my teammates guided me along the way. I felt I was prepared. I worked so hard for that opportunity. I just had to make the most out of it.
I told myself, I‘ll either be at the end of the bench or be the spark of this team. It was plain and simple. Like Kobe says, I have to put my big boy pants on.”
ON DANNY GRANGER BEING A MENTOR
PG: “Me and Danny (Granger) have an unbelievable bond. More than teammates, I look at Danny as a big brother and mentor. He’s been real instrumental with my whole progress, elevating me to the level where I am now. I’ve seen him play at the highest level, night in and out. And it taught me a lot. Even when he went down, he was in in my corner to teach me. He’s been everything for me.
PAUL GEORGE'S WORDS OF WISDOM TO THE NIKE RISE PARTICIPANTS
PG: “Some of the kids here lack a little confidence. I just want you to know that you’re going to make mistakes, that’s part of life, that’s part of the game. It’s not a perfect game; it’ll never be a perfect game. There are going to be mistakes along the way. But it’s about how you push through it, how you persevere. And that’s how good players become great players. When I go on the court I know I’m going to make mistakes, I’ve already got that in my mind. I’m not trying to play the game perfectly. I’m trying to play the game the way I was taught to play it.”
Hopefully, George's visit provides enough of an inspiration to these young Filipino ballers on the Nike Rise program to play the game the way this All-Star has done so.With an awesome back story that third-world ballers like us can relate to and a genuine dedication to reach out to his audience, Paul George definitely rose to the occasion at the event.