Riding a different wave: Kobe Paras and his pursuit of happiness

Seeing handwritten words on basketball players' shoes is common nowadays. Players usually scribble names of family members or friends, letting everyone know who and what they fight for.

As Kobe Paras led the Gilas Cadets against National University in the 12th Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup presented by Chooks-To-Go, he had two words written on his heels: peace and love.

Paras has a different outlook on life. Admittedly hobbled by negativity in the past, he is now making a conscious effort to be more optimistic.

"My whole life I've been wanting prove people wrong and I've come to a point where I've realized it's not helping," said the 20-year-old. "When I realized that I had to focus on my happiness and that of my family and friends, that's when I started being positive about things."

Even on social media, Kobe has been preaching positivity to his multitude of followers, often using #SpreadLoveShareHappiness in his tweets.

Also noticeable from Paras' posts is that he has developed a bond with his mother, Jackie Forster, who he said he did not have the healthiest relationship with Kobe and his brother, Andre, when the two boys were growing up. The younger Paras was never shy in expressing resentment of Forster, but now he's had a change of heart.

"Recently, I forgave my mom. That's one of the biggest things I've done in my life," Paras said. "It just made me realize that if you have hate inside of you, you're not going to be productive at whatever you do."

This same mindset has also helped Kobe whenever he steps on a basketball court.

"Last year, when I played in the Jones Cup and the SEA Games, I was a hothead. In practice and in games, I couldn't control myself. But now I've come to understand that life is not always all about basketball," Paras said.

Nevertheless, Paras loves the game still. His focus is currently on developing with the Gilas Cadets and serving the country.

"Playing for Gilas definitely gives a sense of happiness," Paras said. "We're losing right now but it's really just because we don't get to practice that much. I know it's not a valid excuse since we carry the name of the country."

Against NU, Kobe played his best game of the tournament, leading Gilas with 20 points, including 4-for-9 from deep. He had a masterful fourth quarter where he scored nine points in an 11-0 Gilas run that got them the lead. However, they could not hold the Bulldogs back as NU dealt the Cadets their fifth loss in six games.

For Paras though, it's no reason to panic.

"I guess we really just have to focus," Paras said. "It's just hard because we don't have chemistry yet. But it's going to come so I'm not too worried about us."

Despite his newfound positivity, Paras is aware there are still haters. There will always be people who will criticize and try to make decisions for him.

But for Paras, it all boils down to the pursuit of happiness.

"There's going to be a lot of people out there talking about what they want for me -- to play in the NBA, Europe or China. But I just want to focus on my happiness," Paras said. "And if it's here in the Philippines, then I'll stay here."

It may be too early for Paras to decide where he wants to go for good, but he's young and has time. And it's a decision we'll all have to let him make. He can't go wrong with chasing what makes him happy.