MANILA, Philippines – NBA All-Star James Harden kicked off his visit to Manila with a quick appearance at the University of the Philippines Diliman's College of Human Kinetics (CHK) Gym on Tuesday, where he inspired – and was inspired – by some local basketball players.
Harden, who is making his third visit to the Philippines, witnessed an exhibition game by the Philippine national wheelchair basketball team, and also took part in a mini-camp with some young basketball players.
The Houston guard gave the young players tips on how to do his trademark crossover, and even participated in a three-point shootout.
But it was the story of a member of the UP women's basketball team that drew Harden's attention.
Nor-Aisah Lucman, 20, was given the opportunity to tell Harden the story of how she continued to pursue her dream of playing basketball and studying in UP, despite having several roadblocks in her way. Having grown up in Marawi, Lucman was not encouraged to play basketball as a Muslim woman, and the war in her hometown in 2017 also initially prevented her from going to UP Diliman.
"Supposed to be, 2017 dito po ako mag-aaral, pero 'yung nangyari nga sa Marawi, 'di po talaga natuloy," she said.
"So now, UP Diliman offered me another chance, kinontinue ko na po, ni-grab ko 'yung opportunity. I took the risk, kahit anong mangyari. 'Yun na lang ang sabi ko, God na lang 'yung gagawa ng paraan kung anong mangyayari sa akin," Lucman added.
Harden was clearly inspired by Lucman's story, as he addressed the UP center after their brief chat at the CHK Gym.
"I'm inspired also, I'm so appreciative to hear your story and see how far you've came, and the only way you can go now is the top," Harden told Lucman.
"Keep inspiring people, keep having that same amazing heart and same passion about basketball, about your family, about life, about your friends. Good things will happen for you. It's a pleasure to meet you and I'm proud of you," he added.
Lucman not only got a personal photo-op with Harden as it was also revealed during the event that Adidas would help in rehabilitating a sports facility in Marawi.
"Sa Marawi po, mga lalaki doon, mahilig maglaro ng basketball, pero 'yung mga babae hindi talaga eh. So 'yun po, ako na lang po 'yung bilang tulay na ... to don't be afraid na ma-involve sa sports, when it comes to basketball or any sport, as long as love mo 'yung ginagawa mo," said Lucman.
Harden, who arrived from China, expressed his gratitude to the people who showed up at the UP CHK Gym, saying: "It means a lot to me. This is my third time here in the Philippines, and every time I come, I have an amazing time."
"Obviously you guys have a different type of respect and love and passion for the game of basketball, so it makes me want to continue to come back. So thank you guys, hope I can continue to inspire you guys. Keep having dreams and keep chasing your dreams," he said.
Harden will appear at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on Wednesday at the Free to Harden Freestyle Hub.
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