As The Miami Heat Wins, Fil Am Spoelstra Says He ‘Was’ A Pacquiao Fan

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Even with a heavy heart, Filipino American Erik Spoelstra still invoked the name of his idol, Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao, as his inspiration in winning his first NBA Finals last Thursday (June 21) at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.

Spoelstra, who takes pride in being called by his nickname as “Manny Pacquiao,” felt some goose bumps before the Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami Heat and Boston Celtics last June 9 when Spoelstra was told that Pacquiao was rooting for the Celtics.

Spoelstra said before that game that caused the delay of the bout between Pacquiao and Tim Bradley after being informed that Manny was rooting for the Celtics, “Manny, you’re making it very tough on me. I’ve got to get confirmation from Freddy Roach. Otherwise, I’ve got to root for Bradley.”

As everyone knows, Manny Pacquiao lost to Bradley in a controversial split decision that some believe might have factored in the decision of two of the three judges who might have resented it when Manny decided to delay his fight with Bradley until after the Heat-Celtics game was over.

If it is true that Manny is a Celtics fan, it was possible Manny underperformed that night as he felt some angst after his favored Celtics team lost.


During the post-game interview Thursday, host Stuart Scott for the ESPN’s Coverage of the NBA on ABC asked Spoelstra, “There is a lot of boxing analogies in your team. Why?”

Spoelstra answered, “because I was a Manny Pacquiao fan and the team could relate to him.”

It seems Spoelstra has confirmed that Pacquiao is a Celtics fan as he used past tense, “was,” in his sentence.

This reporter emailed Pacquiao, an avid basketball player and owner of MP Warriers of Gensan, a basketball team in the Philippines, to find out if his loyalty is really with the Celtics. The email did not generate a response.

An email by this reporter last week sent to Heat’s PR staff, Tim Donovan, and to Spoelstra himself to find out if Spoelstra was able to get confirmation from Freddie Roach if Manny is a Celtics fan has remained unanswered as the Finals was still in progress.

Hopefully, Spoelstra will find the time to clear things up now that the Finals is over and he is setting on top of the world. Spoelstra’s Miami Heat led by LeBron “King” James vanquished Oklahoma Thunder led by Kevin Durant, 121-106, in Game 5 of the NBA championship, the first for both Spoelstra and James.

In an interview with Spoelstra last year, he told this reporter that in one of his trips to the Philippines, Spoelstra happened to meet Manny Pacquiao. He said his meeting with Manny “was great. I’m a big fan of Manny Pacquiao. It’s a dream to meet him. Somehow, our schedules were coordinated. We were able to say hello to each other and exchange pictures that we can have for a long time.”


It was possible Spoelstra was able to pick up the brains and talents of Manny that Spoelstra was able to apply “analogies of boxing to this year’s Miami Heat basketball world champions.”

When the Miami Heat struggled against the Dallas Mavericks, Spoelstra told this reporter, “I hope the entire Filipino nation will root for Miami when we get to the Finals.” Of course, Miami lost to Dallas last year.

And because he has been rooting for Manny in his previous bouts, Spoelstra must have felt being hit by a thunderbolt when he was told that Manny Pacquiao, his idol, was rooting for Celtics.

Spoelstra is the first Filipino-American head coach in the NBA, as well as the first Filipino-American head coach of any North American professional sports team. He is also the first Asian-American head coach in the history of the four major American sports leagues. From 2001 to 2008, he served as assistant coach/director of scouting for the team. He has coached the Heat to 194 regular season wins and four playoff appearances, including trips to the 2011 NBA Finals and 2012 NBA Finals, in his first four seasons, and, of course, his first NBA championship.

At 41 and still a bachelor, like Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Erik is the son of Dutch-Irish-American Jon Spoelstra, who was an NBA executive for the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Buffalo Braves and New Jersey Nets, and the grandson of the late Watson Spoelstra, a sportswriter in the Detroit area. His mother, Elisa Celino, is from San Pablo, Laguna in the Philippines.

If it is true that Manny Pacquiao is a Celtics fan, maybe when Spoelstra returns to the Philippines this summer to conduct another basketball clinic, he can pay a visit to President Aquino in Malacanang. They can compare notes on how they are carrying on their bachelorhood. As NBA champions, Spoelstra and the Heat are assured of a visit to the White House next year, whether it is still President Obama or President Mitt Romney.  (


PHOTO CREDIT:  Courtesy of

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