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Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra steers Heat to historic NBA win
After a heartbreaking loss from last year’s finals series to the Dallas Mavericks, Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra has finally silenced all his skeptics since becoming the head coach of the Miami Heat in 2008. Spoelstra has now made National Basketball Association (NBA) history twice — by becoming the first Asian-American to be a head coach of the NBA and by winning a championship.
According to a report of Reuters on Friday, the Miami Heat demolished the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 on Thursday to win the NBA championship 4-1, sweeping the last four games of the series.
LeBron James led an outstanding team effort with a brilliant all-around game, grabbing a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and a game-high 13 assists.
It was Miami's second NBA title following a 2006 triumph and the first for three-times league Most Valuable Player James, who finally realized his dream of winning a championship ring in his third trip to an NBA Finals.
Three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant led the young Thunder team with 32 points with Russell Westbrook and James Harden adding 19 points for the losers.
'Heart of the Heat'
Spoelstra, said to be the "Heart of the Heat," was born and raised in the US. He is the son of Elisa Celino, a Filipina from San Pablo, Laguna and Jon Spoelstra, a Dutch-Irish-American who worked as an NBA executive for different teams.
According to a recent report of CBS Miami, Spoelstra is proud of his Filipino heritage.
Spoelstra said he wants the world to know that Filipinos "are rabid basketball fanatics, and it’s been that way for a while.”
He also mentioned how his family flew over from the Philippines last weekend to watch the NBA Finals.
According to his profile on the official NBA website, he graduated from the University of Portland with a degree in communications in 1992 where he was the starting point guard for four years.
During his stay in the university, he was also named West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 1989.
He then became a player-coach for Tus Herten, a professional sports team in Germany for two years.
In 1995, he joined the Miami Heat as a video coordinator and climbed the ranks for 13 years working as an advance scout, director of scouting and assistant coach until he was appointed as head coach in 2008.
Giving back to the community
Off the court, Spoelstra never forgets to give back to the community by joining grassroot programs such as the NBA Cares foundation.
For the past three years he has returned to his native Philippines during the NBA off-season to promote health and education through hosting basketball clinics for thousands of Filipino youth according to his profile.
On his website, Spoelstra shared how he felt during his trips to the Philippines.
"Both trips were transformational — truly life changing. I was born and raised in the US, and even though I visited the Philippines when I was a kid, I’ve always wanted a stronger connection with the culture and my family living there,” he said.
“The trips have given me an opportunity to combine the three great passions of my life, which are family, basketball, and heritage,” he added.
Spoelstra also recalled his trip to San Pablo, his mother’s hometown.
“In San Pablo, we hosted a big basketball clinic, and I received special plaques from the City Council and San Pablo Colleges — all of that was a really emotional experience for me. Later that day, I visited with family and they tried to teach all of us tinikling, the traditional dance of the Philippines,” he said.
He also met Filipino boxing star and Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao in a visit in 2008.
“He was super cool — he even apologized for wearing a green shirt, which he of course didn’t have to. He said he’s always been a Celtics’ fan but now he’ll switch to rooting for the HEAT. Then he asked me why Floyd Mayweather, Jr. won’t fight him,” he said.
Winning a championship
It wasn’t just Miami Heat finals MVP Lebron James who was desperate for a championship, according to a report of the Bleacher Report.
For James, he would just sulk in a corner for a few months but his career would continue and still have a long way to go even if they lost the series to Oklahoma.
For Spoelstra however, it would mean game over and he would need to look for another job.
Now that the Heat won, James has a ring and Spoelstra skeptics are silenced, his credibility as a head coach is now secured. - with a report from Reuters, VVP, GMA News