Kiefer Ravena's earliest experiences as a young talent trying to pave his own path in basketball often involved a pair of Air Jordans.
As he was growing up, the firstborn of PBA veteran Bong and volleyball standout Mozzy Ravena, Kiefer's first sneakers were Air Jordan 9s.
It was the exact same pair his dad played in.
"I'm happy I was able to preserve this one," shared Ravena, pointing to an enclosed case containing his childhood shoes, with News5's Lyn Olavario in Filipino last week.
Around the time he donned Ateneo's blue and white in high school, the second-generation star ended up falling in love with another Jordan release: the Space Jam 11s 'His Airness' wore in the movie released 1996.
"That was the first shoe that I really saved up for," he shared, "When they re-released those Jordan 11s, I saved up the allowance that my parents would give me until I had enough to buy them. I really, really loved that shoe."
Ravena eventually wore out and outgrew those 11s, but that pair remains his favorite - even today, with more Jordan kicks on the way for the brand's newest ambassador.
"It's a full-circle moment," he described, "This feels really special. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would happen."
The 27-year-old, who recently became the first Filipino athlete to represent Jordan Brand, describes this new partnership as "a dream come true."
"Hopefully, I can continue representing them until I end my career, just building relationships with people all over the world when it comes to the brand. I'm excited to meet a lot of NBA guys and a lot of players together in the Jordan family," he said.
Ravena had been a Nike athlete since high school, but signing with Jordan gives the national team mainstay a unique opportunity to represent Philippine basketball on a more exclusive platform - this time, as the brand's third Asian ambassador after Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura of Japan and Chinese Basketball Association superstar Guo Ailun.
"I'm more than thankful for the trust that the Jordan brand has placed on me, together with my fellow Asians Guo Ailun and Rui Hachimura. I think it's just an example of how basketball really became global and how borders became closer to one another," expressed Ravena.
Of course, there's added pressure under a brighter spotlight for the NLEX ace, but he vows to be up to the task.
"I'm just trying to continue working harder every day to help the national team and to help my team win, because once you say you're part of the Jordan Brand, you carry a lot of responsibilities. Just saying 'Jordan' puts a lot of pressure on me already," he said. "I can't really relax and slack off just because I'm here. This is just added motivation for me to strive and do better so I don't embarrass myself with a lot of people watching me here and internationally."
By many metrics, Ravena is considered an elite PBA star - and signing with a brand represented by the world's best players may very well be an affirmation of that.
In the shortened 2020 PBA season, Ravena averaged 19.4 points (seventh league-wide), 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists (seventh), and 1.0 steals for the Road Warriors.
"It helped a lot, I guess, getting noticed because of the way I played. I'd be lying if I said it didn't matter. Of course, it's all based on performance and how you play," remarked Ravena, who also shot 47 percent from all over the field, 39.6 percent on his 3s, and 82.5 percent from the stripe.
NLEX falling short of the playoffs hardly dampened an excellent offensive season for Ravena, who was one of the most efficient players in Season 45. His 60.6 percent true shooting percentage - a measure of shooting efficiency based on cumulative field goals, 3-pointers, and free throws - ranked fifth among 36 players who attempted more than 10 shots per game.
What separated 'The Phenom' from others is that none of those players passed the ball as well as he did, assisting on 26 percent of his teammates' shots - good for 12th league-wide among players who logged at least six games and 15 minutes per contest.
As good as he is now, Ravena believes he has more to showcase as he continues to grow in the NLEX system.
"It's the system that allows me to play that way. Under coach Yeng Guiao, I'm very fortunate to be a guard in a system that emphasizes ball movement, sharing the ball, a lot of assists, and a lot of easy baskets," he explained. "Basketball is a simple game and as much as possible, you want to keep it simple and be efficient. That's always at the back of my mind every time I prepare for a game."
Taking his game to another level may very well put him in the same stratosphere as his Asian contemporaries in Jordan Brand who boast their own signature shoes. Hachimura has the Air Jordan 34 "Heritage" PE and the Jordan 35 "Warrior" series, while Guo has the "Morpho" Jordan 35.
Although he's not necessarily pushing for it, Ravena himself is hopeful he can brandish his own signature pair down the road.
"The support of the people definitely helps. I'm excited to see if I'll have that for me or not. But either way, just being part of the brand is enough for me," stated the NLEX playmaker, " We'll see. If ever a pair exclusive from a Filipino comes out for Jordan, I think it's going to be really awesome and it's another dream come true for me."
In the meantime, Ravena will happily wear and take care of the countless Jordan shoes at his disposal.
"As much as possible, you try to wear them at least once to preserve the quality. The rubber gets hard and it's bad if you let them go unused. Sometimes, I even stare at them and give them a bit of love just so they don't get mad at me if I don't use them," he joked.
Even more eyes will be on Kiefer Ravena now - and nobody will be mad that each and every time he takes flight, they will see Jordans giving him air.