Retired National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar Kobe Bryant told Gilas Pilipinas that it needs unity and tenacity in its campaign in the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament scheduled on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“They [Gilas Pilipinas] should play with a lot of heart and practice really hard,” Bryant told reporters during the Mamba Mentality Tour news conference on Saturday at the Fort Shangri-La in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
“My message is work as a group to identify your weaknesses and don’t give up. There’s a better chance of winning with that,” Bryant added. “The size, the speed and the rules of [basketball]game have evolved. There is more three-point shooting this time.”
The Philippines, Italy and Serbia were granted the privilege to host Olympic qualifiers.
Gilas is in the same bracket as Canada, France, New Zealand, Turkey and Senegal. The champion country will bag a Rio Olympics berth. The Philippine men’s basketball team last competed in the Olympics in 1972.
Bryant also told fans that he is doing a lot of things since he retired.
“The league is in great hands. It is our responsibility to teach the next generation,” said Bryant, who scored 60 points in his retirement match en route to a win against the Utah Jazz last April. “I really wanted to teach the kids the value of teamwork and determination.”
The 37-year-old Bryant also said he was elated when Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers said during the recent NBA Finals that the “Mamba Mentality” inspired him.
“I feel great about it, that it doesn’t just stay in the history books that the legacy has been passed on,” Bryant said.
Irving scored 26 points, leading the Cavaliers to a 93-89 win in Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA title.
“It doesn’t just stay on the mantle in the form of a trophy,” he added. “It’s passed on to the next generation and hopefully they can do the same.”
Bryant said that he is happy returning to the Philippines and sharing his personal formula for success to young people.
“It is emotionally different, there is so much value in teaching. So much enjoyment when they see someone’s light bulb come on. It first starts with imagination. You have to conceive it first, then it is about how to get there.”
“We want to continue to innovate, to challenge athletes to be better. Allowing them to push,” he added.