Months before the start of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s second season in the NBA, a young basketball prodigy was born 7,286 miles away. It was the 19th of August year 1997, when Kobe, the son of Philippine Basketball legend Benjie Paras, was born. The younger Paras shared the same love for basketball with his father and was constantly mentored by him as he aged. He also attended basketball camps such as the Jr. NBA in 2013, where he was named one of the camp’s top 10 best players, to hone his skills and basketball IQ. With his natural basketball gifts and strong passion for the sport, Paras grew to become a legitimate basketball phenom.
Today, Kobe is in the United States pursuing his high school education and at the same time, growing his game. “Right now, it’s not just about basketball. It’s also about studies,” says the younger Paras. “I’m focusing on getting my grades right. That’s what you do as a student athlete. You study as well as you practice, and you study first before basketball.”
A proud moment for Kobe Bryant as he hoists his 5th Championship Trophy and 2nd Finals MVP Award at the awarding ceremony of the 2010 NBA Finals. (insidehoops.com)
Benjie Paras having a wonderful time playing with his own legacy and son, Kobe, at the Nike Rise Legacy vs Destiny game held last August 15, 2015. (CNNphilippines.com)
As each of his games yield him additional highlights, people began taking notice of the soon to be 18-year old’s strong play and tremendous upside. Upon capturing the attention of the media (and college talent scouts), the LA Times was quick to release an article on October 2014 with the headline, “There’s A New Kobe In Town at Cathedral High”. He also garnered interest from 7 NCAA schools (Arizona State, California State, Portland State, Texas-Arlington, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA) before he verbally committed to suit up for NCAA powerhouse, the UCLA Bruins.
At the age of 18, Kobe Bryant proved that he was on track to become a basketball legend by setting records at an early age. During his senior year, he led the Lower Merion High School Aces to their first championship in 53 years while averaging 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals and 3.8 blocks. As jaw-dropping as those numbers may be, the surging Kobe Paras is showing everyone that he can hold his own on the basketball court as he tirelessly work on improving his game. An athletic wing-type scorer, Paras averaged 15 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.5 steals after playing 24 games for the Cathedral Phantoms in LA. At the same age when Bryant became the youngest NBA dunk champion, Paras became a back to back dunk champion of the FIBA 3X3. Come 2020, he will be eligible for the NBA Draft.
Kobe Paras has had plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents against some of USA’s extremely talented and promising young prospects. He displayed his growing all-around game while compiling a number of impressive performances, earning him a roster spot in a star-studded Compton Magic, one of the top Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) programs in the US. The prestigious program is known to consistently produce NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Vince Carter, and many more. Paras’ great potential scored him an invite to the 2015 Adidas Uprising All-American Camp where he drew rave reviews after playing 5 games. He exploded for a team-high 21 points, pulled down 6 rebounds and snatched 2 steals in 31 minutes as Asia’s representative at the recent Adidas Global Nations Camp. Despite their loss, Paras presented himself as a smart player with great potential to be a dominant game changer. He also showed that he has grown from a high-flyer to a player that poses multiple threats to opposing teams. “I’ll keep on practicing, develop on everything, and not be contented. I want to be better each and every day. Just like in the pros, they’re not contented with what they have and that’s what I want to do, to keep on getting better,” says Paras.
Kobe Bryant putting his elite-level athleticism on display at the age of 18 by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Competition. (ballislife.com)
Kobe Paras defends his crown at 2015 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship’s Dunk Champion with an array of show-stopping creativity and athleticism. (spin.ph)
“Kobe’s game is evolving into a much more effective game at the elite levels,” says Kobe’s High School coach and mentor, William Middlebrooks. “There are games that Kobe does not get a dunk. He has learned how to impact games trusting his jump shot, blocking shots and rebounding the ball. His shooting and ball handling are improving consistently and he is proving on a national stage that he can compete with a multi-dimensional game.”
Basketball analyst Eric Bossi also gave his thoughts on the Filipino prodigy, “A wing athlete with good size and some bounce, Paras has a clean and quick release and looks like he should be very dangerous curling off of screens to bury jumpers in the Pac-12.”
Kobe Paras and his growing game has him primed to surge through adversities as his stocks continue to rise while playing the game he loves. It’s safe to say that we could expect more from the Filipino prodigy as he adds more to his already impressive accolades on foreign soil. Kobe Paras is proving to everyone that he is right at home where the sport he loves was born. When the time comes that Paras, a product of Filipino-pride, is finally ready for the bright lights of the NBA, Los Angeles and the rest of the world might be hearing more “Kobe” chants long after Bryant has retired.