The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game.
– Michael Jordan
Most law students prepare for law school by taking typical pre-law college courses like Philosophy or Legal Management. I, on the other hand, prepared for law school by playing basketball.
From the get-go, I knew I was different. While my classmates in elementary were dreaming of becoming doctors and lawyers, the 7-year-old me was nurturing a very simple dream: to play basketball for as long as I could. Growing up in a household full of brothers and parents who were both varsity athletes in college, I inevitably inherited the sports gene.
I started playing basketball in the same way I started law school—reluctantly. I remember that day like it was yesterday. A couple of classmates invited me to try out for the basketball team. I immediately called my parents on the two-peso payphone to let them know that I would be going home a bit later that day. Clad in my worn-out P.E. uniform and Chuck Taylor shoes, I joined my first ever basketball practice. It felt like reading a Supreme Court decision for the first time—I had no idea what I was doing or what everyone was saying! Much like how law students make an effort to dress in their corporate best on the first day of school, I tried very, very hard to emulate the basketball players I saw on TV. I didn’t care that I looked like an idiot or probably acted more of a liability than an asset to my team. I was having the time of my life.
My early memories of basketball in grade school and high school contributed greatly to my formative years. I didn’t want anything except to become a great basketball player. I decided then to do everything to achieve that goal. I gave up summer vacations, semestral breaks and Christmas vacations to join basketball clinics or camps. Without realizing it, I was learning the discipline and focus, which are necessary to become great not only in basketball but in any field I choose. It was definitely a challenge having to balance two to three practices a day, while passing all my subjects with respectable grades. I learned the value of time management and setting priorities very early on. It didn’t care that I wasn’t partying every weekend or that I couldn’t go on out-of-town trips with friends. I was happily playing the sport that I loved. The hard work paid off later on. Before I knew it, I was being recruited not only to the Youth National Team, but also by major colleges in the country. I eventually decided to go to the Ateneo on a full athletic scholarship.
Playing on the college level was definitely full of challenges and lessons. Aside from the usual academic issues hurdled by student-athletes, I was confronted by the scary yet exciting world of college basketball. I was playing against the country’s best talents. Suddenly, the game didn’t seem so easy and I wasn’t the top dog anymore. It felt quite similar to one’s first day of law school, when one walks into the classroom only to realize that almost everyone is probably smarter or more industrious than him or her. I was humbled because I had to keep improving every year. My teammates and I spent countless hours in the gym to keep up with the competition. We had to work hard and dedicate our entire lives to the game to constantly win games and championships. We persevered through adversities, injuries, and defeats. No matter the final score, when the last buzzer went off, we always felt a sense of fulfillment because we give our 100% day in and day out. Today, I approach law school with the same level of commitment to keep up with the academic demands and achieve my dream of becoming a successful Atenean lawyer.
When I look back on my 13-year-old basketball career, I distinctly remember the times when people discouraged me: the teacher who told me that my dreams were shallow, the aunt or uncle who said I was just wasting my time playing a boy’s game, and all the friends who told me that I was missing out on all the fun. I now look back at them with a smile because basketball has become more than just a hobby. Basketball taught me valuable lessons, which I get to carry over not only to the four walls of the classroom, but also the greater classroom—or basketball court—of life.