Before Kevin Love arrived in the Philippines this past weekend, he thought boxing was the number one sport in the country, solely because of boxing superstar, Manny Pacquiao's status as the most recognized Filipino athlete of this era. That quickly changed as soon as he stepped foot in the basketball-crazy nation as he was greeted by the mob of passionate fans who knew exactly who he is.
With his name in the thick of potential offseason movers in the NBA stateside, Love was oblivious to all the media frenzy - at least for the time being - halfway across the globe for a quick stop in Manila and visited the Manila Boys Town for various activities including a basketball clinic, which unfortunately was cut even shorter by heavy rains.
The incident did bring attention to the need to build a roof on the basketball court through Master Game Face Challenge charity auction of Gilas Pilipinas authentic autographed merchandise. Love led the festivities and even got into the act, getting PBA player Marc Pingris to pledge Php. 25,000 for an autographed Love Timberwolves jersey.
Love also fielded questions from the gathered media members and was asked about his thoughts on the top five UCLA Bruins of all time. Love, who led the Bruins to the 2008 NCAA Tournament Final Four, cited Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton to form twin towers, then added Gail Goodrich and Baron Davis. Love then teased that he must include former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook, and that he had to also name himself in his list. "I must include myself," Love said to the eager crowd.
As far as his personal favorite, Love alluded to Shaquille O'Neal as the player he looks up to the most. Though Shaq may share Love's penchant for snagging boards, it's his uncanny 3-point shooting ability for a big man that causes matchup difficulties for opponents on the defensive end. Love was able to showcase his shooting prowess by leading his team in an exhibition skills shooting challenge, dropping a half court bomb to seal the victory in the process.
"I want to come back to the Philippines," Love said with a big smile as he had nothing but high praise for his first visit to the country. Growing up in West Coast - and like Paul George of the Pacers when I asked him in an interview this past season - Love said he has never had any experience playing with a Filipino basketball player ever, but did chide that if the USA were to play the Philippines in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Championship he hopes "they (Gilas) are not great on that day."
Love may have not known much about the Philippines' love for basketball prior his visit, but he apparently knows a thing or two about modesty.
Dennis is on Twitter @dRealSource. Thanks to Team dSource photographer Alvin S. Go for sharing reports on this story.