by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — National Basketball Association (NBA) and Los Angeles Clipper player Elton Brand is using his long reach to help the Filipino community.
In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, the 28-year-old basketball power forward and native New Yorker said he’s starting a basketball camp next summer in the Philippines. He also wants to set up businesses based in the Philippines.
“Kobe [Bryant] went to the Philippines for Nike,” said Brand. “But I’m going there for the love, for the people from the street.”
Sitting inside his Gibraltar Production offices, Brand, an All-Star basketball player, said he wants to start giving back to other minority communities.
“As an African American, I understand what it’s like to be a minority in America and how tough it is,” he said. “If we all work together, we’d be the majority.”
Brand has ties with the Filipino community. When Brand was chosen as the No. 1 NBA draft pick by the Chicago Bulls, during his rookie season he befriended a Filipino businessman who introduced him to the Filipino culture.
Guiding Star Realty CEO and President Ron Vergara helped Brand with investment, business and financial advice.
It was Vergara’s idea to “brand” Brand’s name in the Filipino community.
“It’s not often we see an NBA star wanting to give back specifically to the Filipino community,” said Vergara. “We’re in the largest Filipino population (Los Angeles) in the US. It’s great to see Elton wanting to give back and help the Filipino people as much as he can.”
“There’s the lumpia, and the food,” said Brand about what he likes about the Filipino culture. “I just like embracing different cultures and different people. Filipino people are full of pride and very honest. I enjoy working with them and spending time with them.”
Brand is scheduled to go to the Philippines next summer after the NBA season is over.
“I’d like to see the basketball leagues over there, do a [basketball] camp and bring some of my teammates and other NBA players and counterparts to be part of it,” said Brand. “We want to embrace it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
When Brand is not on the court, he is a meticulous businessman. He has set up ventures from movie production, real estate investments to Internet companies.
Most recently, the production company he owns, Gibraltar Films, produced the critically acclaimed movie Rescue Dawn starring Christian Bale. The movie came out this past summer and the DVD is out in November 22. The movie is based on the true story of an American pilot, Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) shot down during a top-secret mission in Vietnam.
“We shot [the movie] in Thailand,” he said. “We went around and had a lot of fun. Christian Bale aka Batman is a great actor.”
One of his fondest memories on the set is getting his wife a cameo appearance on the movie.
“There’s a scene where a nurse is taking care of Christian’s character,” he said. “That nurse is my wife. I poke fun of her and say ‘you saved Batman.’”
Another venture Brand takes part in is his friend’s creation http://www.baselux.com. He said it’s a Myspace for professional people.
“It’s about business and networking with other people,” said Brand.
Vergara said the website is a great way for FilAms here to get in contact with their relatives back home in the Philippines.
“The site offers unique video conferencing, blogs and much more,” said Vergara. “It’s also a business Brand’s friend wants to bring to the Philippines and are looking for workers.”
Basketball and Business
Brand is careful with the businesses he delves into because there are a lot of outsiders who prey on taking advantage of young NBA players.
“You got to trust the people,” Brand said. “You have to build your nest egg first before you divulge into other businesses. If you’re spending it you’re not earning it. You need to do the research in what you are going into.”
Brand hears stories all the time about current and former NBA players throwing their money away.
“You hear the stories, this guy made $10 million a year, $15 million a year, $1 million a year, whatever it is and their broke after their career is over,” he said. “It disappoints me because it shouldn’t be like that.”
Brand said the NBA provides incoming rookies a “transition program seminar” that deals with business to women to drugs. However, Brand said some people have to go through it before they can learn.
“As a businessman I’ve lost money too but I’ve grown and learned from my mistakes,” he said.
Brand is currently injured. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon while playing a pickup basketball game with teammate center Chris Kaman over the summer.
“My rehab is going well,” he said. “I’ve been doing my exercises for about four hours a day. I’m just getting healthy.”
Brand said he’s glad the team is doing well without him.
“I’m so happy for their success,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun [watching the team] right now. I’m looking forward to play again by February .”
Brand said he is optimistic about Clippers’ chances this season. “We’re going all the way. [Shaun] Livingston and I are getting healthy. Of course, the pinnacle is to win that [NBA Championship] ring. We’re definitely gelling. People get hurt but people step up. We have a good solid team.”
Knowing Filipinos are mostly Lakers fans, he told the Asian Journal, “To all the Filipino people here and around the world, support the LA Clippers and you can support the Lakers too. It’s cool, but don’t get mad when we kick their butt,” he said. (www.asianjournal.com)