Kobe Paras admits it’s not going to be easy matching what his father has accomplished.
“His accomplishment is just unbelievable,” said Kobe, referring to his Benjie Paras, who has the distinction of being named the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same year, 1989.
“I don’t think I can top that because I know no one will. There are many talented players who play in the PBA now, but nobody has matched my dad’s achievement,” Kobe, who turned 17 in September, told The Manila Times.
The six-foot-five Kobe said his dad used to bring him and his brother Andre to his games in the PBA, where Benjie played for Formula Shell. The brothers also watched Benjie’s old highlight films. “It made me realize that I want to be just like him,” Kobe said.
But the young Paras could be blazing a path of his own. Last October he was recruited by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
The Bruins play in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I, a premier league.
“I’m really happy to say that I have committed to UCLA,” Kobe said. “It feels amazing because UCLA is a really great school, academic-wise and sports-wise.”
Benjie said UCLA was not the only US college team to offer Kobe an athletic scholarship. “Modesty aside, it was not the only offer we received from various universities in the US, but we’re really satisfied with the UCLA,” he said.
“Of course, I’m really happy for Kobe and proud,” said the 46-year-old Benjie, who played 14 seasons for the Formula Shell Turbo Chargers before playing his last year with San Miguel Beer in 2003.
Aside from his impressive first year in the pro league, Benjie enjoyed another banner year in 1999, when he outshone Filipino-Americans like 6’10 Fil-Tongan Paul Asi Taulava, 6’10 Andy Seigle, Eric Menk and Earl Sonny Alvarado to grab his second MVP trophy.
Not surprisingly, Kobe idolizes his father, who is right up there with his other hero, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kobe, who is in a third year high school and plays shooting guard for the Bruins, said he is focused right now on his study and basketball.
But like any aspiring high school player in US, Kobe dreams of making it to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
“NBA is still a dream. I’m still focusing on my high school basketball. I play the guitar and draw in my free time and I love to cook,” he added. “All I have to do is work and train hard. Nothing is impossible if we work hard.”
Kobe also welcomes playing in the PBA if an NBA career does not work out for him. “I was 13 when I first dunked the ball and to play in the PBA is also a dream for me. If I had the chance, I would love to,” he said.
His other goal is to make the Gilas national basketball team.
“Of course I would love to play for the Gilas national team,” said Kobe. “I have played already for the Philippine team’s national 17-and-under Asian tourney. It’s really a great experience representing the country.”
Benjie Paras believes a homegrown Filipino talent could one day play in the NBA.
“Filipinos have proven themselves in different sports like boxing, where we produced world champions. In basketball, I think it’s the same thing,” he said.
Kobe’s older brother, Andre, played for UP before moving to San Beda College.
“Andre plays big man game just like me and more of a defensive player,” said his dad.
Benjie said he reminds Kobe “to work harder each day and never stop learning because that’s the key to success.”
“I never introduced basketball to them, but they really like to play since they were kids. I let other coaches developed their game. I’m happy with the results,” he said.