Kobe Bryant visits Manila during Asian tour; says fans’ economic woes spur him to play harder

By Oliver Teves, AP
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kobe visits Manila in opening stop on Asian tour

MANILA, Philippines — Kobe Bryant believes Americans will keep paying to go to basketball games despite recession and rising unemployment. He says the sacrifices by fans make him try harder.

“(I) get my heart out there in the court to play because this may be the first time or the last time that a kid or a family ever comes to watch us play or perform,” he said Tuesday.

Bryant, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA title last month, was greeted by about 1,000 fans on the first stop of an Asian tour to promote a new shoe. He will also visit Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai and Chengdu in China.

Bryant said he wants to be remembered as someone who enjoys a good time and loves basketball.

“But when you step into that basketball court, then it becomes business, then it becomes hard work, focus and drive and everything else,” he said. “We focus on one thing and one thing only, and that’s playing the game.”

Bryant, who grew up in Italy, was making his third visit to the Philippines. He said the country is “like a home away from home.”

“I love it here,” he said. “I am welcomed with open arms. They treat me like family.”

At one point, Bryant took off his shoes and autographed them. He gave the right shoe to a man and his son and the left to a girl who had yelled, “I love you, Kobe.”

An aide handed him another pair before he left for a basketball clinic in suburban Pasig.

“They love the game, and I love being around their energy,” Bryant said. “It takes me back to when I was a kid.”

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