Being rich has its perks.
That essentially is how the two big exhibition games in the Phillipines last week that included Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and four other NBA players came together. It was because Filipino tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan — called MVP by most — decided he wanted it to happen for his birthday.
In a fascinating story at Grantland by Rafe Bartholomew, he traces how the entire “Ultimate All-Star Weekend” event got pulled together outside of the NBA. It’s an idea that had floated around for a while but needed a lockout to solidify everything.
(Well known Filipino coach Chot) Reyes and Pangilinan’s plan sat on the back burner until June 30, when Commissioner David Stern announced the start of the NBA lockout. The players began exploring their overseas opportunities, not just to make an extra buck but to show team owners and the NBA brass that they could earn money outside of the league. “When the lockout was announced,” Reyes said, “We said, ‘this is it — this is the sign.'” Reyes gave East-West a list of the players he wanted, starting with Rose, Durant, and Blake Griffin, and Scott and Espaldon started calling agents to check the players’ interest, availability, and what it would take to bring them to Manila for a weekend.
MVP and his people have disputed the report that key players got $400,000 for the weekend’s two games, but it wasn’t cheap to do this. And getting Kobe cost the most.
With a budget in mind, Pangilinan convened a meeting of the executives of his group of companies to present his plan. The board approved, but added one additional requirement: To ensure that the Ultimate All-Star Weekend would be a “blockbuster,” Reyes said, the board insisted on signing a superstar. They wanted Kobe Bryant. East-West got in touch with Bryant, who was touring China for Nike. Kobe, it turned out, was willing to play, but his fee, plus the cost of flying his entourage to Manila by private charter, kicked the overall budget into another level of the stratosphere, according to Reyes. “We really had to think long and hard about that,” he said, “but in our organization, when we decide to do something we will think long and hard for maybe one hour or two hours and then say, ‘Come on, let’s get it done.'”
Ticket prices were kept down (you could get a seat for $8, courtside tickets were $129) and because of that Pangilinan’s companies lost money on the event. But the Philippines are basketball fanatics, and this event was a monster success. That builds goodwill with people, and that’s something companies cannot put a price on. Plus, the uniforms for the event had the company logo across the chest, and the event was a huge television event as well. It was marketing.
A good time was had by all. There are perks to being rich.