MANILA, Philippines -- Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave credit to Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao for helping him rally the National Basketball Association (NBA) champs throughout the season.
Spoelstra, who is a Filipino-American, on Thursday (Friday in Manila) said his being a fan of Pacquiao helped him motivate the Heat in its historic win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106.
During a post-game interview on ESPN, Spoelstra pointed to boxing as being similar to the ball game in terms of having to recover despite initial setbacks.
"Well everybody knows I'm a Manny Pacquiao fan," Spoelstra was quoted as saying.
"There's quite a few comparisons that our guys can relate to that sport (boxing). We got knocked down to the canvas two or three times this playoff run, but we got up, and we kept on working."
In this year's NBA Finals, the Spoelstra-led team lost Game 1 to the Thunder, but went on to sweep the last four games, effectively making history for its coach: Spoelstra is now the first Filipino-American coach to win a major league sports title in the United States.
Spoelstra’s mother, Elisa Celino, is from San Pablo, Laguna. His Dutch-Irish-American father, Jon Spoelstra, worked as an executive with various NBA teams.
Spoelstra has visited the Philippines for the past three summers to conduct basketball clinics.
The Fil-Am said coming back to win the title this year was gratifying.
"We remember last year, we wanted to make up for last year," Spoelstra said. "We had confidence in what we could do."
The Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks, 4-2, in last year's NBA Finals series.
Pacquiao, who is currently in the Philippines attending to his duties as congressman, was recently named victor by the World Boxing Organization (WBO), as five judges convened and unanimously scored in favor of the Filipino ring icon after reviewing his controversial split decision loss to American Timothy Bradley.
Bradley had been declared winner in his WBO welterweight clash with Pacquiao last June 9 in Las Vegas, but this was widely criticized by boxing fans and sports writers, most of whom saw Pacquiao landing the more decisive punches.