MANILA, Philippines – Filipino fans gave James Harden a warm welcome on Wednesday night, after waiting hours for the Houston Rockets superstar to show up at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Harden, making his fourth visit to Manila, kicked off his tour at the University of the Philippines (UP) last Tuesday, where he interacted with players from the national wheelchair team, taught some of his tricks to young players, and met with a member of the UP women's basketball team.
He then met with thousands of fans at SMX on Wednesday night, many of whom were wearing Harden or Houston gear, and some even toting fake beards.
When Harden finally arrived, the fans at the venue gave him a standing ovation, and greeted him with M-V-P chants.
Harden, of course, won the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2018, but lost out to Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo this season.
That kicked off an action-packed evening that saw local Adidas athletes compete in a 3x3 contest, with former UP star Diego Dario in particular impressing Harden with his shooting. They also held a "Step Back Challenge," with Adidas athletes trying to copy Harden's most lethal weapon on the court.
Harden also showed off his skills in a game of B-E-A-R-D, where players such as Kobe Paras and Troy Rike were tasked to copy the Houston guard's moves.
Afterward, Harden expressed his appreciation to the Filipino fans.
"I'll continue to show love to Manila and the Filipino fans, and I'll just continue to do what I gotta do, performing on the court at a high level but, I appreciate you guys more than you guys know," he said.
In an earlier press conference, Harden said the Filipino fans "never disappoint."
"That's another reason I keep coming back, every time I come around, I enjoy myself. Only thing is, there's a lot of traffic. But other than that everything is great," he said.
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