On Thursday morning, I sat down with a basketball legend.
Glen Rice Sr. was a hoops star since college. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year and the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1989. He led Michigan to the NCAA championship that year. And up to now, Glen is the all-time scoring leader of Michigan.
When he entered the NBA, he continued to collect awards. He was a three-time NBA All-Star. Back in 1995, he won the three-point shootout. In 1997, he was named All-Star Game MVP. And above all, in the year 2000, Glen won an NBA championship.
By all means, Glen Rice is a basketball great.
But as I sat down with him for a quick chat, there was only one thing about him that had me starstruck – he is a former Laker.
I have been a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers since I started following the NBA. Before I was a Kobe Bryant fan, my favorite player was Allen Iverson. But even then, I had already been a Lakers die-hard.
Glen Rice was in the NBA for 15 years. He was part of the Lakers for only one season. But still, meeting him special because of the fact that, once in his lifetime, he represented the purple and gold.
Talking to Glen brought me back to the days I’d sleep on the couch just so I wouldn’t on any of the Lakers’ playoff games. It reminded me of the time I had a love-hate relationship with the Sacramento Kings. They were entertaining. But they gave the Lakers a hard time. I remembered talking trash to Reggie Miller hoping he would hear it though the TV.
Glen is in town in for the NBA’s first-ever Filipino Heritage Week. It’s a celebration of the Filipino culture and its influence in the game of basketball and the NBA. In the US, the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors hosted Filipino Heritage Nights. Here in Manila, Rice sat down with Pinoys to watch those games.
The former NBA star had been to Manila before. And he has fond recollections of his previous visit. His favorite memory, which is his go-to story when it comes to the Philippines, is seeing Allan Caidic score 54 points in an exhibition match where they were teammates. But he also remembers experiencing the love and passion that Pinoys have for the game.
“From what I saw the last time I was here, basketball is big,” Rice said. “It would not be a surprise to me if, soon, you guys have an upcoming star that makes it to the NBA. Because the love for the game is just so high.”
Maybe he meant it. Maybe it’s just something he felt he had to say. But hearing it straight from the mouth of a former NBA player, of a former Laker, really gives me hope that the nation’s dream could someday be fulfilled.
Talking to Glen wasn’t just an interview. It was my fandom as Filipino being validated. As I shared laughs with him, I felt connected to the NBA and to my Los Angeles Lakers.
Talking to Glen took me back to when I was a kid, literally praying every night that the Lakers would win their next game. It reminded me of the championship in 2000, of the three-peat and of the Lakers’ better days.
Talking to Glen reminded of how big a Lakers fan I am. And it reassured me that, through thick and thin, I would always remain loyal to the purple and gold.