The entire world grieved the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant's death last week. Among those mourning his untimely death were the Ravenas, Bong and Kiefer.
The father and son got a chance to mingle with Bryant on separate occasions -- during his first visit in Manila in 1998 and one of his final visits to the country in 2013.
Bong, then a basketball player himself, had a chance to play 3-on-3 basketball with Bryant at an event by adidas, Bryant's former sneaker brand, in August of that year.
Ravena even joked that he was just watching the game in awe of the presence of the then-sophomore guard, who was fresh off a Western Conference Finals appearance with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"He was a good person, he talked and joked with us, even if he was still young and was already a rising star," the older Ravena said. "He loved the Filipinos, that's why he came back multiple times. In my opinion, the Philippines became his second home."
Up until that point, Bong still could not comprehend that his sons' idol was suddenly gone, just a day after Laker star LeBron James passed Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Bong recalled that his son Thirdy, who was in Dubai, was the one who informed him, while he was sleeping in Manila Manila when the first news about Bryant's death surfaced on social media.
During Bong's 1998 encounter, his then five-year-old son, Kiefer, had the chance to meet Kobe for the very first time. The two posed for a picture that the younger Ravena treasures until today -- a larger-than-life man holding up a normal-sized kid.
"That was my first experience being with Kobe Bryant, of course not knowing how big he was gonna be during that time," reminisced Kiefer.
Growing up, Bryant's intense style of play and Mamba Mentality mindset was not the only thing Kiefer eventually picked up.
"His dedication to the craft, on how to work hard, on how to be passionate about it. So he was the epitome of a great competitor, you know something that I would like to emulate to the course of my career," said Ravena.
Kiefer, who had a stellar collegiate career with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, got a chance to meet his childhood idol once again in August 2013.
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Not you Man. The world lost a great one. You inspired so many kids to appreciate and love the game in ways you couldn't imagine. You gave me inspiration on how to believe in the work you put in. Not to stop and always try to find an edge. You were a real one, Mamba. 🙏🏽🐍🙏🏽 #LegendsLiveForever #MambaOut #mambacita REST IN POWER. 🏀2️⃣4️⃣
"I was pulled out privately to really go to him, meet him in a separate room. That's where I was able to get my shoe signed and my picture signed," remembered Ravena.
Although the event was not related to basketball, the two had a chance to talk about their love for hoops.
When Bryant and eight others perished in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 27 Manila time, Kiefer posted a poignant farewell on Instagram.
"Not you Man. The world lost a great one. You inspired so many kids to appreciate and love the game in ways you couldn't imagine. You gave me inspiration on how to believe in the work you put in. Not to stop and always try to find an edge. You were a real one, Mamba. #LegendsLiveForever #MambaOut #mambacita REST IN POWER," captioned Ravena.
He also announced that he will be honoring Bryant by changing his jersey number from #15 to #24.
"You know, people have different takes with it, but then again, you know, we honor different people in our own different ways, you know. Some retire it, some will keep it, some will put a little twist on it. But you know, that was my way of probably trying to live out how Kobe wanted me to play basketball," he said.