Kobe Bryant In The Philippines, And Why The Mamba Needs Manila In 2011

Stars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose played in the Philippines over the weekend, and made hundreds of thousands for their trouble. If they're smart, this weekend was just the beginning. Plus: the best part of the new CBA, pimpin as an NCAA violation, remembering Amy Winehouse, and the legend of Black Superman. Talking Points is a series that highlights some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Read the archives here.

Kobe Bryant has been at the center of rumors all summer long, most of which center on the possibility of him spending next season playing for the Besitkas basketball club in Turkey. On that front, a meeting on July 30th should go a long way toward deciding his future.

But after seeing some of the footage from an All-Star NBA exhibition in the Philippines this past week, you can't help but wonder why. Or, why not? As in, why not just play in the Philippines?

It's a stage that'd broaden stars' marketing appeal throughout Asia, and clearly, there's a longstanding addiction to basketball and basketball superstars. It's not just an opportunity to play elsewhere; as far as the Philippines is concerned, it's an opportunity to play somewhere you'll absolutely love. 

It reminds of what Gilbert Arenas said on his blog (RIP) after a trip to Manila a few years ago. "It was a different world. I’ve never seen fans like that in my life. These pictures can’t even do justice to what was going on out there. One thing I want to say about Filipinos: they’re very warm people, very good-hearted people. Like, everybody was nice. You know, you meet nice people, but a whole country of nice, genuine, warm-hearted people was unbelievable."

"These are diehard fans," he added. "I really didn’t know if I was in Game 7 of a playoff series, I couldn’t tell the difference. Everywhere I went it was just bananas. ... Any NBA players out there: If you’re having a bad day, or you’re having a bad career, go to Manila. They’ll bring your spirits up, trust me."

So, see what we're talking about here? Why wouldn't the players start a little satellite league in Manila next year? It's not like they'd be doing it for free, either. As Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick reports of this past weekend's games:

Star-studded exhibition games like the two taking place in the Philippines this weekend are proving to be quite profitable as well, with one source with knowledge of the deals saying the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Chicago's Derrick Rose are being paid more than $400,000 apiece for their weekend of work (reminder: tax-free).

Because that's tax free, $400,000 in Manila is like earning $800,000 in America. So, again... Not a bad deal. Maybe it's a little ambitious to think that the Philippines could somehow steal a dozen of the best players in the world, but the fans are already there, and once you get corporate sponsors involved, it starts to seem a little less impossible. Think about it.

The NBA Lockout is going to be a long, brutal process that alienates basketball fans all over the country. The only thing we have to root for at this point is that chaos ensues and the players fight back by taking to grassroots leagues around the world. And as far as grassroots interest is concerned, there's nowhere in the world on par with the Philippines.  So why not, ya know?


With that phenomenally random idea behind us, let's get into Talking Points.


Hey, The NFL Lockout Ended Today! I'll have more on the NFL tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can hold yourselves over with our NFL Lockout StoryStream. If you're having trouble getting excited about today's news, then I suggest you go back through the NFL Lockout Timeline, where you can relive the twists and turns of the months-long saga, and all the false-optimism and ominous twists we've endured during the NFL Lockout. Now, it's all over. Finallllly... f***ing... over.

So... Quick! Somebody round up some cheerleaders!

And some fireworks!

And a gigantic inflatable helmet!




Speaking Of NFL Coverage... This has gotta be the most comprehensive free agent preview you'll find anywhere on the internet. Courtesy of Bill Barnwell at Grantland, here's a primer on NFL Free Agency that can get you caught up in about 20 minutes if, say, you've been consciously avoiding pro football discussions for fear of getting pulled into a debate about the lockout.

Now that the coast is clear, it's totally okay to start obsessing over this stuff again.


Pimpin Ain't Easy, And It May Be An NCAA Violation. Bottom line, if you can convince a woman to let you live in her place free of charge, your housing stipend should be like a bonus. Call it a pimpin bonus. That's just smart money management. Why you gotta hate on Russel Shepard?


Also: LSU has "Female Stud Workers"? Shouldn't that be some sort of violation?


Another Tweet. Best part about this lockout news? It's over for the next decade.


People will debate about whether the players or owners "won" the negotiation process, but honestly, getting that provision in there may be what ultimately tipped the scales in the fans' direction.


Remembering Amy Winehouse. She passed away this weekend after years of battling addiction and among many other red flags, this 2008 Rolling Stone profile provided a pretty ominous window into her world at the time. Clearly, things deteriorated from there. Losing anyone at 27 is the sort of senseless tragedy that defies our understanding, but particularly when it's someone with the gifts that Winehouse had, the loss seems that much more inexplicable, and the grief hits us even harder. But it's also an excuse to remember them at their best.

In that spirit, here's Russell Brand remembering what made his friend "Winehouse" so special:

From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I'd only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound.

...She wasn't just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed-up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a fucking genius.

And here's Jay Caspian Kang, who provides an eloquent eulogy examining her place in the contemporary pop canon. Read the whole thing, but this passage was painfully accurate as far as music in 2011:

Our hyperlinked society has ported itself into a thoroughly referential era, where the nods to the past no longer evoke something real, but rather, the nods are just nods to the nods themselves. Our listening habits have followed suit. The catchy, heavy-rotation single has become the only bankable product, and any project that cannot generate its own buzz has been waylaid in favor of the overly produced, Auto-Tuned, YouTube-verified flavor of last month. Because there is too much risk involved, once-reliable commodities are repackaged and recycled. A healthy portion of iTunes sales come from Glee, a television show that tries to devour every era of American pop at the same time. Lady Gaga is just an amalgam of old Madonna, old-ish Madonna, and a well-funded drag masquerade. Pop music is now just a boring version of Girl Talk.


A Textbook New York Times Article. Here, an article about an emerging trend (check), involving people much wealthier than you (check), with private planes (check), from Greenwich and/or the Hamptons (check), doing something strange and vaguely infuriating (check). The last line is incredible. 


Finally, One More Note On The Philippines... The definitive work on the subject of basketball and the Philippines belongs to Rafe Bartholomew, who wrote "Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball." Here's an excerpt that ran last year, centered on an ex-pat named Billy Ray Bates, who locals nicknamed "Black Superman."

From Deadspin:

There was no way Bates could maintain an NBA career while slipping into full-blown alcoholism. So what did he do? Get clean, pull himself together, and take another shot at the big leagues? Nope. By the looks of things, he found a place where he could keep playing without giving up the bottle. That place was the Philippines. In the PBA, Bates's talent was so overwhelming that he probably could have played in a drunken stupor and averaged 30 points per game. By most accounts, he always dried out before tip-off. His career average of 46 points per game is the highest of any PBA player, import or local, and Bates will probably always be remembered as the best import in league history. Throughout the '80s, he was a superstar in the Philippines, one of the nation's most famous and infamous ballers, whose legacy lives on today.

In the same breath, coming to Manila could be considered one of the worst things that ever happened to Bates. In the Philippines, all of Bates's self-destructive habits were enabled, if not encouraged. He could score at will, average almost 50 points a game, and be worshiped by a nation of devotees who treated his ability to put the ball in the hoop like it was proof of the divine. And here's the clincher: Bates never had to quit drinking. Time would eventually catch up with him, but for a few wild years in the mid-1980s, he had found his proverbial free lunch. Catastrophe could wait.

Read on to hear anecdotes from fans and teammates that loved him, and to find out what happened the only night Billy Ray's partying ever got him in trouble--when he broke the unwritten rules of a Filipino strip club. When you're done, if you still can't see the awesome potential of a makeshift NBA in the Philippines next year, then I just don't know what to tell you.

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