Seeing Kobe Bryant inspires Kathy Bersola to come up big for UP

UP’s big win over NU Saturday in the 13th Shakey’s V-League Open Conference is enough reason for celebration for its team captain Kathy Bersola.

The 4-set beating the Lady Maroons handed to the Lady Bulldogs not only eliminated their opponents but also kept their chance for a semis slot alive as they go for a do-or-die match against club team Laoag on Monday.

But even before the matchup started, Bersola was already in a festive mood after ticking one huge item off her bucket list: seeing her childhood hero Kobe Bryant in the flesh.

Two days before the NBA star’s arrival for the Manila leg of his tour, chances were already looking bleak for the UAAP star as the event unfortunately coincided with the all-important game against NU.

“Akala ko talaga wala nang chance na makita ko siya kasi 3pm ‘yung event sa Araneta. Binibigyan ako ng ticket ni Kiefer (Ravena) kaso may game kami,” recalled the Season 76 Best Blocker.

“Last night, sabi nung basketball player friend ko na may event daw si Kobe ng maaga sa may Taguig so malapit lang sa amin,” she added. “Pwede daw magpalista sa guest list. Kaya sabi ko, ‘Okay, go. Tulog ako ng maaga, gising ako ng maaga tapos punta ako dun then rest bago ang game.’”

Fully aware of the weight of Saturday’s game, Bersola spent her Friday night at home, sleeping early to have enough energy that will last at least for the next 15 hours from the time she wakes up at around 5am.

On taking a chance just to get a glimpse of the global superstar, she says: “Pinush ko talaga kasi once in a lifetime eh. The last few times na pumunta siya hindi ko nagawan ng paraan so ngayon, ako na ‘yung nilapitan ng pagkakataon.”

Bryant’s effect on the middle blocker’s play was visible on the stat sheets as Bersola stood toe-to-toe against the juggernaut that is Jaja Santiago and scored 14 big points.

“Na-inspire talaga ako. Facing a giant today, si Jaja (Santiago), let’s say na mas maliit ako sa kanya. Pero tina-try ko talaga. Si Kobe naman kasi hindi siya nagba-backdown sa challenge,” she said.

Going back to the experience of getting pushed and shived by a sea of people who, just like her, want to at least take a photo with the LA Lakers’ legend, Bersola shared the surreal experience of actually getting as close as touching her idol’s shoulder.

Talking about Bryant’s 15-minute appearance, she says: “Nung dumating siya speechless ako. Parang, ‘Totoong tao pala siya!’ Ganun ‘yung feeling. Lumapit talaga ako kahit ang daming bouncers.”

“Nung palabas na siya, nag selfie ako tapos hinawakan ko siya sa shoulder niya. This hand touched Kobe!” exclaimed the Diliman crew’s veteran spiker.

Asked what the famous Kobe catchphrase means to her, Bersola closed by saying: “You’re willing to give everything, sacrifice a lot, wake up early and do training and extra work just to get better para maging ahead ka sa competition mo.” — By Mac Dionisio