Laker Girls coming to town for NBA Madness
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - August 12, 2004 - 12:00am
They’re known for their whistle-bait figures, drop-dead looks and skimpy two-piece suits.

In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the glamorous Laker Girls are at the top of their class. No other cheerdancing team is as popular, sexy and dynamic. When the Laker Girls take to the floor, eyeballs pop and hearts start pounding like a hammer on an anvil.

At the Staples Center, the Laker Girls are the queens of the court. If cheerdancers and not players decided the outcome of the last NBA Finals, the Lakers would’ve won convincingly. The Detroit Pistons cheerdancers rate a poor second–they don’t make you sweat like the Laker Girls.

Three of the 21 Laker Girls are Filipinas and two of them are coming to town to promote the NBA Madness on Sept. 2-5.

Carlo Singson, the NBA’s Hong Kong-based country manager for the Philippines, said six Laker Girls are flying in to spice up the interactive show that will be staged on over 8,000 square feet of space at the SM Megamall Parking Lot C in Pasig.

Singson wouldn’t disclose the identities of the six Laker Girls but an NBA source confided that two of them are Filipinas.

The three Filipina Laker Girls are Alexie Agdeppa, Shelby Rabara and Cheryl Aure. Last season, Alexie and Shelby made their Laker Girl debuts. Cheryl is entering her third year on the squad. Alexie and Shelby are both Dance, World Arts and Cultures majors at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Cheryl is a communications graduate of the University of Southern California.

NBA Asia senior director of business development Phil Hayes-Brown, who flew in from Hong Kong, confirmed the Laker Girls arrival in a press conference at the National Sports Grill in Makati yesterday.

Hayes-Brown said surveys repeatedly show that in Asia, the biggest NBA fan following is in the Philippines.

"Due to the success and warm reception received by NBA Madness last year, we are coming back again in September to stage a bigger, more exciting event," said Hayes-Brown. "The Laker Girls will arrive at the end of this month and give Manila a first-hand experience of NBA hoopla."

The NBA’s first interactive event in Manila was the McDonald’s 2-Ball tournament in 2000. The next year, the NBA brought its barnstorming basketball carnival tour to several Metro Manila malls, Cebu and Iloilo. The third edition took the NBA Madness to six Metro Manila malls last year.

Singson said the coming NBA Madness is destined to be the biggest ever.

First, there’s a Junior NBA and Junior WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) 3-on-3 tournament conducted by the Growee Hoops School of former Philippine Basketball League commissioner Charlie Favis and 7-time Philippine Basketball Association best import awardee Bobby Parks.

Singson said 48 teams are already signed up and they come from only two schools. At least 15 more schools will be tapped.

Pediatrica vice president Chet de Guia said Growee Vitamins’ participation is an offshoot of the vision of developing the first Filipino to play in the NBA.

Second, there’s a 3-on-3 tournament sponsored by Globe Gentxt. The target list is 150 teams from Metro Manila open to boys and girls from 14 to 22 years old. High school and varsity team players are eligible to participate.

Third, there’s the Mad Skillz test sponsored by Coca-Cola. Originated in Canada, the test is derived from the official NBA pre-draft camp designed to assess a player’s fundamental skills using spefici skill drills. Six drill stations will be set up to evaluate a player’s jumpshooting, dribbling, passing, free-throw shooting, rebounding and footwork abilities.

Coca-Cola brand manager Sharon Garcia said before the Madness opens, the leading soft drink company will embark on a huge promotions campaign where consumers can win NBA jerseys, basketballs, videos and P100 loads from Globe. Special edition Coke cans showing LeBron James in action are now out in the market to heat up the basketball fever.

Garcia said a raffle will be conducted to choose a lucky player from the Mad Skillz test for the P1 Million halfcourt shootout on Sept. 5.

Finally, Singson said for fans who prefer not to play the game, the NBA Madness has things in store, too. There’s the Club NBA where top Filipino musical acts will perform sponsored by the Myx music channel. There’s the NBA Theater where Solar Sports will air on a large screen the league’s greatest games and action highlights. And there’s the NBA Celebrity Challenge where local showbiz stars will play for fun to benefit charities.

The NBA Madness is a wild prelude to what promises to be the most exciting season in history.

The league’s 59th campaign opens on Nov. 2 with 30 teams vying for honors in a wide open race.

For the first time, the NBA will be split into three divisions of five teams in each conference. The Eastern Conference will consist of the Atlantic Division (Boston, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto), Central Division (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana,

Milwaukee) and Southeast Division (Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Washington). The Western Conference will be made up of the Northwest Division (Denver, Minnesota, Portland, Seattle, Utah), Pacific Division (Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix, Sacramento) and Southwest Division (Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio).

Major player transfers are dramatically tilting the league’s balance of power. Shaquille O’Neal has left the Lakers to bolster

Miami. Tracy McGrady is teaming up with Yao Ming at Houston. Gary Payton and Paul Pierce are playing together at Boston. Kenyon Martin has moved to Denver. Derek Fisher and Dale Davis are now at Golden State. Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley were shipped to Orlando. Steve Nash has returned to Phoenix. Antawn Jamison went to Washington and Jerry Stackhouse, to Dallas. Corliss Williamson transferred to Philadelphia and Memo Okur settled in Utah with Carlos Boozer. Lakers new coach Rudy Tomjanovich welcomes recruits Vlade Divac, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler. Derrick Coleman switched to Detroit. Dikeme Mutombo is extending his career at Chicago. Drew Gooden and Eric Snow will keep LeBron James company at Cleveland. Stephen Jackson slid to Indiana and Nick Van Exel to Portland. Kerry Kittles joined the Clippers. And those are only some of the transactions changing the NBA’s landscape.

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