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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Manny, Michael, and Kobe: What Basketball Reveals About Pacquiao

Forgive all the basketball talk but with the trade deadline only hours ago I've had my second favorite sport on the brain (I like the Jamison trade but am distraught over no Amar'e in Cleveland). Courtesy of Elie Seckbach from fanhouse we now have ever more footage of Manny shooting hoops.

Besides the obvious question of whether it's wise to be playing, with marginal athletes, a sport prone to rolled ankles only weeks away from a multi-million dollar event the footage of Manny is still illuminating to me. Perhaps it's because I'm equally accustomed to making outsized claims about an athlete's personality based on their basketball game as I am for their actions in the boxing ring, but seeing Manny play is a revelation.

For some reason when hearing about Pacquiao's love of the sport I had always thought he would play as an unselfish facilitator, someone who would look to get his teammates involved before getting his own shot. Manny always seemed to me a man concerned with other peoples happiness, sometimes to a fault. I imagined him as an expert passer who would get more aggressive as the game progressed.

But to see his actual play style - an aggressive and reckless gunner with profound self-confidence - has fundamentally changed the way I think about him. He's not great, but he plays as though he thinks he is. I had always placed Pacquiao outside of the familiar story of the unnaturally competitive champions - the Jordans, Kobes, and Tigers - but it seems now that is clearly wrong. Of course, it's extrapolating too much to make any grand statements from brief footage of an athlete's second favorite sport, but to me it's right there in the footage.

Manny Pacquiao is a killer. He's a competitor of the highest level and he has the same drive and ego we see in every other elite champion. He does it with a smile on his face, which is what is so disorienting and confusing, but he has no less a desire and cruel hunger for glory and victory than any of his coequals in the other sports.

I talked earlier this week about why I don't think Freddie Roach is right when he suggests that Manny Pacquiao's retirement is imminent, watching this footage only adds to that belief. Manny is a competitor and performer of the highest order. He loves being the center of attention, having the ball in his hand. Whether it's launching broken jumpers or standing at center ring Manny has a self-confidence and will to win that is masked, but not concealed by his amiable personality.

Beneath the smile and the singing, Manny is a killer.


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