Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls NBA Filipino Heritage Week ‘surreal’ for him and his family


Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says the NBA’s first ever Filipino Heritage Week is ‘almost surreal’ for him and his family. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra had one question as he remained on the podium in the Heat’s interview room following the Wednesday’s victory over New Orleans for a special Facebook Live session.

“Which camera do I look at?” he said.

It was after 10 a.m. in the Philippines and the country of nearly 100 million people was preparing to watch one of its proud sons.

“My heritage is really important to me and my family,” Spoelstra told Filipino writers earlier in the week via a Cisco teleconference. Spoelstra’s mother, Elisa Celino, who married his father, Jon Spoelstra, is a native of San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines.

“I’m proud being a Filipino. To be able to be recognized around the NBA, it’s a special thing.”

The NBA is in the midst of celebrating its first ever Filipino Heritage Week and will highlight games of the Heat and the Golden State Warriors, whose fan base includes Filipinos both in the United State and abroad.

NBA Philippines is hosting two viewing parties, including 8 a.m. Saturday Philippine time so fans can watch live tonight’s Heat home game against Minnesota. Sunday morning they will watch the Bucks at the Warriors.

“It’s almost surreal for my family and I,” Spoelstra said Wednesday. “I originally thought it was just going to be us and then when I found out the rest of the league was involved in it really was a cool feeling.”

The Heat opened the weeklong celebration by wearing special edition Filipino Heritage Week shirts during warmups Wednesday. AmericanAirlines Arena posted on its LED bands that ‘Pilipinas Is Heat Nation.’

Spoelstra, the first coach with Filipino descent to win an NBA title, was asked by Filipino writers about the relationship between the NBA and their country.

“I think about our first trip in the Philippines seven, eight years ago. … the offices over there were smaller, the vision hadn’t been put together yet,” he said. “But now, I love looking at the list every summer to see which players are going over there, what camps are going on. …”

“You think about how much ground and things have changed in the NBA. But to be able to be recognized at a night like this is pretty special.”

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