manny pacquiao basketball

Manny Pacquiao is no stranger to criticism from his coaches and handlers for playing too much basketball during his time off from boxing. He's even sustained some minor injuries on the court that hampered his boxing training in the past.

Yet, if the Philippine icon has his way he will embark on a mission to test his skills as a player/coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) later this year.

Pacquiao's already stretched thin from balancing his boxing career with his duties as a local politician in his homeland. Not to mention he's also tried acting, game show hosting, singing and preaching. Yet, for Pacquiao, this is a choice he's making out of sheer love for the sport he's been playing even before he started boxing.

"Basketball was my first love," Pacquiao told reporters this week, announcing that he plans to be the playing coach for the new Kia Motors team when the next PBA season begins in October.

Though he stands at just 5-foot-7, the Pac-Man is obviously in top physical shape. Height, though obviously helpful in basketball, has never been a requirement to play the sport (see Spud Webb). The lack of formal playing experience is also not much of an obstacle as far as the boxing great is concerned.

Pacquiao explained that he spent much of his youth playing ball in streets and town squares, and he plays as much as he can when he's not in full training mode for a bout. He is also convinced his boxing experience will help him as a coach.

"You create strategies during the game," he said. "It is like boxing. When I am in a fight, my mind works and shifts faster. In a split second, I can decide on changing strategies."

Pacquiao may certainly be capable of becoming a star basketball player in the Philippines, but his decision to join an organized pro league and serve as a coach and player has to have trainer Freddy Roach concerned. Pacquiao's next bout is tentatively scheduled for November, so the October season start is obviously going to interfere with whatever Roach has planned for his most successful pupil.

A fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez seems imminent, and with Pacquiao coming off a KO loss in their last fight, he obviously can't afford to have any distractions going into training camp. It's hard to imagine a pro basketball career with coaching duties not hampering his boxing focus.

Critics may think Pacquiao's public basketball ambitions are just a marketing gimmick to help launch the new team, but Pacquiao's business manager tells a different story.

Asked about rumors that Pac-Man will not even take to the court and is just putting his name behind the team to generate more fan interest, Eric Pineda said, "This is not a publicity stunt. He doesn't do such things."

Based on that assessment, you can take the publicity out of this latest Pacquiao venture, but it's much harder to remove the stunt aspect of it all.

This effort might help Pacquiao become the president of his homeland someday, but it's hard to see any way it could actually help his boxing career.


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