It is not a secret that the Philippines have a deep connection with the game of basketball.
Growing up, I have witnessed firsthand how strangers bond over their favorite basketball teams and over pick-up games that can be found on every street. They cheer with glee when their favorite team wins and feel the pain when they lose.
For the Philippines, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has always been a great source of escape and a place where heroes are born. Filipinos though not as physically defined as their counterparts have known to shock the world out of sheer passion, grit and heart.
Most of our everyday heroes are plucked from the basketball arena to be admired by many young men and women. This is why it has always been interesting to me to be given backstage access to these so-called heroes. Some of them are genuine, most of them are not. And yet, there are few who have been molded differently – that despite the fame and the many accolades, they remain true to themselves, unaffected by the sudden burst of popularity.
One of them is one of today’s most popular point guards, Chris Ross. Chris, who hails from San Antonio, Texas, was born to an American father and a Filipina mother. Born and raised in the US, Chris became a stellar in high school and college basketball. He soon found himself in his mother’s homeland in 2009, getting ready for his rookie year in the PBA.
However, it was not the tale he imagined in his head. Chris, in an Instagram post recalls the early years, “Very early in my career I was given up on by so many coaches, managers, and franchises that put a huge dent in me as a basketball player.”
Chris shuffled from team to team before he found his way to the San Miguel Corporation in a team that allowed his star to shine, “Despite the challenges early on in my career, I never questioned my ability to play and compete with the best players in the Philippines.”
Chris admits that those early years is what humbled him as a player, “It was a wake-up call, with all the success I had in my career up until entering the PBA, it bothered me that people were not giving me a chance and that they gave up easily.”
He then adds, “It was definitely very different for me. I had to change my mentality because before I was playing the game as an amateur. When you play professionally, you are playing against grown men that are playing to feed their families. That was one of the things I needed to adjust. It definitely started off rough for me for whatever reason but as the years went by, it became better.”
Through hard work and persistence, Ross is finally reaping the benefits through championships with the San Miguel Beermen and personal awards such as the recent Most Improved Player Award and Finals MVP awards. He reflects how the championships mattered more than the individual recognition, “I love to play the game of basketball because I love to play. It was never about the individual awards. The individual awards are great and I am definitely blessed to have achieved and earned some during my career but that’s not what I play for.”
Now that the tides have turned, I asked Chris how he manages to stay humble in a world where most men change overnight, “I have to give credit to my family. My parents raised me to always be humble no matter what I go through, my older siblings have taught me that as well. I will always be the same person I was as a kid.”
When asked what he would say to his former self during the challenging times in his career, Chris says, “I would tell my former self to stay humble and continue to work hard. No matter how tough things get or seen to be continue to strive for greatness and never have any self doubt.”
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