James Yap on his relationship with Kris Aquino: ‘Okay na, sana tuluy-tuloy na’
10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2014 - 12:00am

He is called “King James,” “The Man with a Million Moves,” “Big Game” and many other sports monickers. My word count is not enough for the list of achievements and awards he has received. His team is only the second in PBA history to win a grand slam title. On top of that, his personal life has been tabloid fodder for over a decade now. Here are 10 things you should know about James Yap.

1. To earn extra cash growing up, he used to place bets with local trike drivers.

Kasi dati, mga Grade 2 ako, hindi ako binibigyan ng allowance ng dad ko,” the Escalante, Negros Occidental native shares. “After school, I would go straight to be ball boy for the tennis games. After two games, that’s around one hour, I would have two pesos. That time, malaki na yun,” he laughs recalling. “When I would get that money, I would go straight to the basketball court and we would place bets and go shooting. Malalaki na kalaban ko nun, mga tricycle at padyak drivers. Sometimes I would win P10, basta wag lang three-point shot kasi hindi ko pa abot noon.

“My first sport was actually baseball. My school, Mt. Carmel, had no basketball team for elementary level. So what I did, I played baseball, football, volleyball, sepaktakraw, high jump, long jump, sinalihan ko na lahat. After taking up all the sports in school, I would play basketball on the court near our house. To be honest, while my tutor would teach me, nasa basketball court na yung utak ko. Pero pasado naman ako sa school.”

He got to focus on basketball at Bacolod Tay Tung High School, then Iloilo Central Commercial High School, where he became a four-time MVP and three-time champion at PRISAA.

2. On his famous one-hand style of shooting: “Ganun na galaw ko dati pa, hindi ko rin alam bakit, malaki lang ang kamay ko siguro,” he laughs.

“I was discovered during the MBA. We were competing in the high school finals exhibition game before the main game. Fast break ata nun, nag dunk ako. We eventually became champions. After that, madami nang tumatawag sa amin,” he recalls.

“When I would have breaks in high school, I would fly to Manila and practice in DLSU. Nililigawan na ako ng La Salle noon. Pero, iba yung galing probinsya tapos sasabak ka sa ganun. Na-culture shock ako. I was worried I might fail in my subjects and not be able to play. If I went to La Salle, if there would be class reports, ayoko, mahihiya ako mag-report dun sa gitna,” he admits. “My tito was convincing me to go straight and play in the MBA, but good thing my other tita insisted that I go to college. Since UE was also recruiting me, we decided that I should go to UE instead.”

James never won a UAAP championship title for UE, but he did win an MVP award in 2003. “Na-frustrate talaga kami, almost all the outside leagues we would join, we would win the championship for UE. Pero pag dating sa UAAP, wala talaga.” After four playing years in college, he was drafted as second pick in the first round by the Purefoods (now San Mig Coffee) franchise.

3. James Yap in numbers:

18: His jersey number. “In high school, I wanted number 9 as in Samboy Lim, but someone was using 9 already. Swerte naman sa akin, so tuluy-tuloy ko na.”

3: Number of cans of sardines he won for his first MVP award. “When I was in grade school, sinali ako ng tito ko sa liga nila. I won MVP. My prize? Three cans of 555 Sardines!”

11: Number of times he has been part of the PBA All-Star lineup (which means every single year since he entered the PBA)

194,000-plus: Number of followers on his Instagram account, @jamesyap18

33: Average number of minutes per game in his whole career. He has a career average of 16 points, four rebounds, one assist per game. 

4. On the secret to his team’s success: “Kaya siguro kami naging successful kasi walang inggitan.”

“We all know the role we have to play. I think that is the best thing about our team. There is no star player, walang sapawan, pantay pantay lahat,” he shares.

On his relationship with teammates Marc Pingris and PJ Simon, who have been dubbed the “Big 3,” one of the very few lineups that have never had an issue of rivalry: “We are very close even off the court.”

Never nagkapikunan? “Never,” James says.

Not even once? “Never.”

What makes them click and work? “Siguro lahat kami galing sa probinsya, galing sa hirap? Si PJ taga-Makilala, Davao. Si Ping, taga-Poso Rubio, Pangasinan. Hindi ko alam, baka yun yon.”

On how he handles a bad game on a bad day: “Iisipin ko talaga yun. I will think about the things I have to improve and work on. Then I will forget about it. Kalimutan, move on, practice ulit. Ganun lang yun.”

5. On the most valuable advice he has received from any coach he’s been under: “Wag kang makampante.”

“Once nakakuha ka ng championships or awards, ‘wag ka mag-relax. Continue to work hard. Huwag makampante because there are so many other players who want to be in the position you are in. There are so many who can replace you. Yun yung pinaka-tumatak sa isip ko. The person who told me that was my high school coach in Iloilo, Nelson Go. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.” His parents Carlos and Annie have also been key in keeping him grounded despite all his success. “Mag-pray, always pray,” he says is their most constant reminder to him.

James would not pinpoint any specific false, malicious rumors about him, instead saying, “Ang daming nasusulat na hindi naman totoo. I just don’t mind it, I try not to be affected by it, at tinatawanan ko na lang.” He says he is used to fake stories being spread about him, but has never gone as far as getting into an argument with a reporter or a fan. “Hindi ako Boy Patol,” he says with a laugh.

6. James shares that the biggest lesson he learned from married life is “Don’t rush.”

His default answer now when asked about the possibility of getting married again is, “Hindi ko pa iniisip yan.” After his five-year marriage with Kris Aquino, a relationship that was constantly in the public eye, he shares: “Really get to know each other. Mahirap pumasok sa isang kasalan na hindi niyo talaga alam pa ang lahat sa isa’t isa. Take your time so that you know if kayo talaga ang para sa isa’t isa, if you are really compatible.”

On how his relationship with Kris became better after the legal episodes they dealt with: “Hindi ko alam, basta one time, we were both called to court, and bigla na lang nagbago ihip ng hangin pagpasok ko. ‘Hi, James! How are you?’ she said, smiling. That was the start of things being okay. That was really what I have been praying for, na maging okay na. Sana tuluy-tuloy na.”

7. On the kind of father he wants to be for his son Bimby: “A disciplinarian.”

Iba kasi yung disiplina ng nanay sa tatay, ‘di ba? Yung father figure talaga. Gusto ko mga larong lalaki, habulan, wrestling, basketball. Si Bimby ngayon, mahilig kasi sa video games,” he shares. “Hindi ako yung tatay na mag-iimpose. Whether Bimby would want to become an actor, or an athelete, or something else, I will support him.” Recently, James and his ex-wife Kris agreed on him being able to see and visit their son every Friday. James has also admitted to the public that he fathered another child before Bimby, but did not reveal if he has a son or daughter, as he chooses to respect their privacy. “Ever since, they have been very private, kaya ayoko na silang idamay sa mga ganito.”

On how he has remained close to Kris’s older son Josh: “Si Josh naman kasi, ang bilis mahalin. The moment I entered their lives, Kris and I had just met, sobrang sweet na niya na bata. Until now, he would say, ‘Tito James, you drive. Holding hands tayo.’ Ganun talaga, malambing.”

8. On Alvin Patrimonio being open to pass the throne as the face of Purefoods to James: Syempre nakaka-flatter. Pero hindi mo pa rin maco-compare. Alvin Patrimonio pa rin siya.”

Does he still have any fears on the basketball court? “Hindi mo iisipin yung fear sa loob ng court. You remain careful, but of course, wish for no injuries.” He is thankful he hasn’t had any major injury, except for a recurring back pain. “I have been doing therapy with Olympic doctor Filippo Mechelli in Italy.”

On what is he like when showing affection, and when he is mad: “Ako, malambing akong tao, eh. I like throwing little and big surprises for my partner. Medyo matagal naman ako bago magalit. But when I do get mad, grabe rin. I think quiet people are often like that.”

On being under the winningest-coach in the PBA, Tim Cone: “Grabe siya. His style is he really, really speaks well. Magaling mag-motivate, it’s all him. Win or lose, he keeps us motivated.”

9. In over two years that he and girlfriend Michela Cazzola have been seeing each other, they have been to Italy five times.

“The touristy cities are beautiful, but it’s the provinces in Italy that are really, really beautiful; that is why we keep going back,” he says of another upcoming trip together to Italy.

When asked what he likes most about Mic, as he fondly calls her, James says: “Unang una syempre, mabait. Marunong makisama sa lahat. Pwede mong dalhin kahit saan, kaya niya. Yun lang, pag gutom, masungit,” he laughs. The courtship started after they met through a common friend during separate dinners at a hotel. “Sa text talaga nagsimula. Then when we would have common free time, we would meet up. Kwentuhan. I’m not the type to give flowers or gifts kapag nanliligaw, it’s really more on texting and going out together,” he says of how he won the heart of the ADB-stunner. “Baliktad ‘ata ako, when I am courting the girl, I don’t really give any material things. But when I’m in a relationship, I really shower her with gifts and surprises.”

10. On reports that he is the highest paid player in the PBA, he laughs and shakes his head. “Happy na ako kung umabot ako ng 37. I’m 32 now, so maybe five or six more years.”

Syempre ang basketball hindi naman for life,” he says. “I’m looking at different business ventures now. But for me, if you will get into a business, it really has to be something that you love, and you have to give time for it, yung tutok ka talaga.” He currently is one of the partners of a dealership of Vespa in the Philippines, and of barbershop Razor Sports. “I do have investments in real estate, but they’re more on condominiums. Next year I am hoping to buy a house.”

Everyone who knows James knows he loves cars, shoes and watches, but after winning four consecutive championships, his gift to himself was a Rolex watch. “Ang problema kasi sa akin, kuripot ako. But at the same time, if there is something I really, really want, even if it is pricey, I will get it. Extremes talaga.

“To be honest, I am not yet thinking about what I will do after basketball,” he says. “I will probably travel. I’d want to rest. I can see myself coaching high school, maybe. We’ll see.”

* * *

James is an ironic mix of intense and calm, eager and self-assured, who truly knows how to live in the now. But many other athletes have his same story. What is it that makes him so different? This is what James thinks: “Para sa akin, disiplina lang talaga, hard work, and dedication. I’m the type of person that when I set my mind to something, nothing can distract me.”

* * *

Email the author at askiamsuperbianca@yahoo.com or message me on Twitter and Instagram @iamsuperbianca.

 

 

AKO BASKETBALL JAMES PERO REALLY SCHOOL TALAGA
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